CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving isn’t the only second-year player turning in big performances for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Forward Tristan Thompson, following up on a career night Friday, had 15 points and 16 rebounds as the Cavaliers defeated Orlando 91-85 on Sunday night, leading Cleveland to its second straight win for the first time since Feb. 26-27.
Thompson put a stop to the Cavaliers’ season-high, 10-game losing streak Friday against Boston with 29 points and 17 rebounds – both career highs. He hit two free throws and a hook shot in the final three minutes Sunday to help Cleveland maintain its lead after the Cavaliers rallied from an eight-point deficit late in the third quarter.
Alonzo Gee scored 19 points, while Wayne Ellington’s jumper gave the Cavaliers the lead for good at 72-70 with 7:57 remaining in the game.
Tobias Harris scored 26 points, while Nikola Vucevic added 21 points and 21 rebounds for Orlando, which has lost five in a row and 13 of 14. The Magic have dropped 11 straight away from home – the second-longest road losing streak in franchise history.
”You’ve just got to be more selfish (than we were), and want more than a six-point lead going into the fourth,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn. ”Defensively, we were pretty solid in giving ourselves a chance, even though we were 1-for-13 on threes. But you’ve got to defend without fouling in the fourth quarter, and that’s what the game came down to.”
Cleveland began its rebuilding process in the post-LeBron James era by taking Irving with the first pick in the 2011 draft. The Cavaliers surprised many observers by selecting Thompson, who played one season at the University of Texas, with the fourth pick.
After struggling to be consistent as a rookie, Thompson has been a bright spot in another difficult season for the Cavaliers, who have been plagued by injuries and are facing speculation that coach Byron Scott might not return next season. Not only is Thompson averaging 11.5 points and 9.4 rebounds, he’s become a player the Cavaliers can count on late in games.
”You look at from the beginning of the season until now, it’s big-time improvement,” Scott said. ”He’s gotten better. He put in a lot of work this summer and it’s starting to pay off.”
”I’m just playing with energy,” Thompson said. ”That’s what I did the last two nights. I’m going to try to keep doing it the rest of the year.”
Scott is pleased with what he’s seen from his team the last two games.
”They haven’t quit,” he said. ”They are going to play it out. We are going to keep playing as hard as we can.”
Orlando was winless on a five-game, nine-day trip. The Magic haven’t won away from home since March 4.
”It’s not easy because we’re all competitors, but we understand this is part of the process,” said Vucevic, who has recorded three 20-point, 20-rebound games this season. ”We have been competing all year in games – not getting blown out a lot – and we know our future is bright.”
Irving, the Cavaliers’ All-Star point guard, scored nine points on 3-of-15 shooting. Irving, who had 10 assists, is 12 for 51 from the field in three games since returning from a shoulder injury. Following the game he gave all the credit to Thompson.
”He’s been awesome,” Irving said. ”We’re going to keep feeding him and he’s rebounding his butt off right now.”
Cavaliers guard C.J. Miles left the game in the second quarter after being hit in the forehead with an elbow from Vucevic while the two were going for a rebound. Miles was down on one knee for a couple of minutes and walked to the locker room with a towel to his face. He received six stitches and didn’t return.
”I wasn’t sure what happened,” Miles said. ”I heard a guy in the front row say something. I looked down and saw a puddle of blood. I was about three or four seconds from passing out.”
Orlando forward Kyle O’Quinn also received six stitches on his lip after being struck in the mouth during a second-quarter scrum under the basket. O’Quinn said a tooth went through his lip.
The Magic had 10 players in uniform. Point guard Jameer Nelson (sprained ankle) missed his fifth straight game. Swingman Maurice Harkless started at shooting guard despite sustaining a knee injury in the first quarter Friday against Chicago. Harkless scored seven points in 39 minutes.
Shaun Livingston added 12 points for Cleveland.
NOTES: Two busloads of fans from St. Bonaventure – the alma mater of rookie forward Andrew Nicholson – made the three-hour trip to attend the game. Nicholson scored eight points and had four rebounds. … Cavaliers F Luke Walton (sprained ankle) didn’t dress. He was injured Friday against Boston. … G Daniel Gibson (elbow) missed his second straight game.
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