Created on Saturday, 09 February 2013 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing better and having fun.
Cleveland Cavaliers' Dion Waiters goes in for a dunk against the Orlando Magic in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Things are quite different for the Orlando Magic.
Irving scored 24 points and Cleveland defeated Orlando 119-108 on Friday night, sending the Magic to their 12th straight loss.
The Cavaliers, who tied a season high with their third straight victory, have won six of eight and are 11-11 since Dec. 22.
Irving thinks the team's confidence has reached a season high.
"It's fun playing out there," he said. "It's fun being with all these guys every single day, simply put."
After watching the Cavaliers finish last season at 21-45 and begin this season with a 6-23 record, Irving is embracing Cleveland's recent success.
"I don't really think about those dark days," Irving said. "I don't remember them."
Orlando has seen plenty of dark days recently.
The Magic have lost 23 of 25 and haven't won since Jan. 16. The latest defeat tied them with Washington for the second-longest losing streak of the season in the NBA.
"Unfortunately, I'm not a psychic, so I can't predict the future, but we do continue to grow daily," said rookie forward Andrew Nicholson, who scored 21 points. "We'll definitely be better two or three years from now, if not two or three weeks from now."
Nikola Vucevic scored a career-high 25 points for Orlando while Arron Afflalo, playing for the first time since Jan. 27, added 23 points, but that wasn't enough for the Magic.
Marreese Speights scored 18 points and Tristan Thompson added 16 for Cleveland, which scored 13 straight points in a stretch that began late in the third period to take control of the game.
The Cavaliers scored the last eight points of the third quarter to go ahead 85-80. A basket by Shaun Livingston and a 3-pointer by Wayne Ellington put Cleveland ahead 90-80 early in the fourth. The Cavaliers scored 34 points in the final period.
Cleveland is 6-2 since acquiring Speights and Ellington from Memphis on Jan. 22. The added depth has played a key role in the winning ways.
"It makes my job easier," Irving said. "I can come out there and play my game. Our bench is doing a great job keeping the lead."
"We're making steps in the right direction," Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. "We're playing good basketball right now, but we can play better."
Speights, who was 12 for 12 at the foul line, scored 12 points in the stretch that helped Cleveland take over.
The win snapped Cleveland's 10-game losing streak against Orlando. The Cavaliers hadn't beaten the Magic since a 115-106 win on Feb. 11, 2010. Cleveland fell 108-104 in Orlando in November, a game Irving missed with a broken finger.
Cleveland's star point guard, who will compete in the All-Star game, the 3-point contest and the Rising Stars Challenge next weekend in Houston, scored seven points in the fourth quarter.
The game was tied at 24-24 after one quarter and again at 56-all at halftime. Cleveland has won six of seven at home.
The Magic had 11 players in uniform. Afflalo returned after missing six games, four with a calf injury and two for personal reasons J.J. Redick (sore right shoulder) missed his third straight game while Hedo Turkoglu (flu) sat out his second straight game.
Orlando, which hosts Portland on Sunday, hadn't lost 12 straight games since a 13-game run March 13-April 10, 2004.
"(Basketball) is a great game," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn. "It teaches you lessons every time out. We complicate the game when it doesn't need to be complicated, which is why we struggle."
NOTES: Cleveland is one of several teams interested in center Greg Oden, the former No. 1 overall pick who hasn't played since 2009 because of knee injuries. The Akron Beacon Journal reported Friday the Cavaliers are expected to offer him a two-year contract with a team option for a third year after the Feb. 21 trade deadline. Oden, a former Ohio State star, has undergone three microfracture knee surgeries — two on his left knee. ... Of his participation in the 3-point shooting contest at All-Star weekend, Irving said, "Hopefully, I don't come in last place like the Skills Competition last year." ... Redick worked out before the game, but was held out again and is listed day to day. ... C Glen Davis (broken left foot), and F Al Harrington (right knee surgery) continue to be sidelined for Orlando.