CLEVELAND — The Orlando Magic realize they have a long road ahead of them, but they chose to enjoy a moment of celebration Sunday night.
Orlando clinched a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a 100-84 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, a win that allowed coach Stan Van Gundy and his players to briefly forget about their team’s growing injury list, which seems to expand by the day.
“A lot of these guys have been in the playoffs every year and you can take it for granted, but it’s nice to have it done with six games left,” Van Gundy said. “This was a really, really, really good win for us. Tonight was very satisfying.”
Jameer Nelson scored 21 points and Orlando led from wire-to-wire despite the continued absence of Dwight Howard, who missed his fourth straight game with a herniated disk in his back. Van Gundy said before the game he’s preparing to play the rest of the regular season and the playoffs without his star center, who is averaging 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds.
Forward Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture) has missed the last five games, leading Van Gundy to say he would consider it a bonus if the two players are available for the postseason.
Orlando took another injury hit in the first quarter when Glen Davis, who had played well at center with Howard sidelined, sustained a sprained right knee and didn’t return. He will undergo a further examination Monday prior to the Magic’s home game with Philadelphia.
“He hyperextended his knee, so my guess would be that he’d not play,” Van Gundy said. “I haven’t been told anything officially, though.”
“Nobody got discouraged or rattled when “Big Baby” went down,” Nelson said. “We just executed well, and when we take care of the basketball, we get good shots.”
While Orlando could go into the playoffs without several key weapons, its players chose to feel good about themselves Sunday.
“We haven’t had the best of luck with injuries, so this is great tonight,” said forward Ryan Anderson. “Making the playoffs is big for us, but the way we did it was even better. Everybody stepped up and we played team basketball.”
Jason Richardson added 16 points for Orlando, which had five players in double figures. J.J. Redick scored 13.
Antawn Jamison led the Cavaliers with 21 points. Donald Sloan scored a career-high 15.
Cleveland completed its only set of back-to-back-to-back games this season. The Cavaliers lost in Indiana on Friday and picked up a road win in Washington on Saturday. Cleveland coach Byron Scott admitted his team, which committed 18 turnovers, was dragging.
“I thought so, which is understandable,” he said. “Our guys tried to fight through it and keep playing hard. You, all of a sudden, have a little bit of a lack of focus when you’re tired. We don’t use that as an excuse.”
The Cavaliers again played without rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, who missed his 10th straight game with a sprained right shoulder. Scott ruled Irving out for Tuesday’s game in Detroit, but added it’s possible he’ll return Wednesday night when Cleveland hosts Philadelphia.
Scott said there’s “a chance that Kyrie doesn’t come back this season, but I think there is a better chance that he plays.”
It’s uncertain if center Anderson Varejao will return this season. He hasn’t played since sustaining a fractured right wrist on Feb. 10. Varejao’s possible return remains up in the air because the coach said his wrist was “still sore, so we’re going to have our doctors take a look at it in the next few days.”
Orlando was in control throughout in the battle of short-handed teams in extending its winning streak over Cleveland to nine games. The Cavaliers scored 15 points in each of the first two quarters and shot 28.9 percent in the first half.
The Magic originally said Howard had back spasms, but an examination in Los Angeles revealed the disk injury. He will rest the injury for 10 days and will then be re-evaluated. Howard joined his teammates in Cleveland, but remained at the Magic’s hotel during the game. He accompanied the team back to Orlando, where the Magic host Philadelphia on Monday.
Davis was injured when he went up for a shot and came down awkwardly on his right leg. He crumpled to the floor and was down for a couple of minutes. Davis walked with a noticeable limp to the locker room. He had six points and two rebounds in seven minutes.
Earl Clark and Daniel Orton filled in at center when Davis left the game. Clark scored a season-high 13 points while Orton added a career-high 11. Orton had appeared in only nine career games going into Sunday, playing 45 minutes with six points and 10 rebounds. He was Orlando’s No. 1 pick in 2010, but didn’t appear in a game last season and is technically a rookie.
Orton’s performance was rewarded when Davis dumped water over his head in the locker room following the game.
“I got a little winded at times, but the adrenalin kept me going,” Orton said.
NOTES: Anderson had a game-high 13 rebounds. … The Magic haven’t lost to the Cavaliers since Feb. 11, 2010, a 115-106 defeat in Cleveland. … Moondog, the Cavaliers’ floppy-eared mascot returned to the court. He sustained an eye injury after being accidentially punched in the mask by Indiana’s David West on Wednesday.