In the end, a loss is a loss. The Orlando Magic were beaten by the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 on Saturday night in Cleveland.
But without question, Magic players, fans and coaches can feel better about this one over the other two to start the season. With 1:30 left in the third quarter, the Magic trailed by 20 points.
To their credit they did not give up. After a furious fourth quarter rally, Orlando trailed by only 94-91.
The Cavaliers did what they had to do to earn the victory. LeBron James, Kyrie Erving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith combined for 78 points and other things champions do.
“They’ve grown into what everyone thought they would be when they were put together,” said Magic Coach Frank Vogel. “Obviously, they won the championship, and now Cleveland looks like a finished product.”
There were two big positives that emerged from this game; Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo.
Ibaka had 19 points, but he was the defensive presence he is supposed to be. In addition, he pulled down three offensive rebounds, including a huge put back and a foul to keep the Magic rally alive.
Biyombo scored only three points, but had seven offensive rebounds to keep possession that led to second chance points. Jeff Green and D.J. Augustin had strong performances off the bench to complement the consistent production from Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier.
“This is about us finding a way to play together,” said Biyombo. “This is a process.”
Coaches will consistently maintain there are no such thing as moral victories, but this may be the exception to that rule. The Magic did not seem to compete very well in their losses to Miami and Friday night in Detroit.
On Saturday, they took a series of punches and came back and delivered some of their own on the mighty Cavaliers. The record says they are 0-3 and a loss is a loss.
But from what they learned about themselves in this particular loss, there are some things that can certainly be built upon. The next test of what fans hope are the new and improved Magic comes on Tuesday when they head to Philadelphia to face the 76ers.