Exiting the NBA All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers planned to gradually ramp things up before the start of the playoffs. With 29 games to go entering Thursday's action, it's understandable why the Cavs wanted to lean on their depth and ease Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, who only just returned from injury just a few games ago, back into the swing of things.

Unfortunately, despite some highlight plays from Mobley on offense, there wasn't much substance to Cleveland's 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Sure, not having Donovan Mitchell for Thursday's game threw a wrench into things for the Cavs before tipoff.

But as Cleveland swingman Max Strus noted postgame, Mitchell's absence is no excuse for the Cavs' loss to the Magic. Cleveland is too talented to come out flat against any team, Orlando included. Once the game got rolling, the Magic's physicality fed into the Cavs' carelessness, spelling downfall for the home team.

“I think tonight was a playoff-type of game where you have to kind of be tough on both ends of the floor,” Caris LeVert said. “Little things. Setting screens. Sprinting to your spot. Spacing. It’s the little things. We just got to lock in on those in these last 28 games going into the playoffs. Just continue to solidify our habits on both ends.”

Turnovers doom Cavs vs. Magic

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) throws a pass beside Orlando Magic guard Joe Ingles (7) in the third quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Keeping good habits going and ironing out the bad habits are vital, especially with turnovers. The Cavs turned the ball over on 20% of their possessions Thursday night, leading to 28 points for the Magic. Darius Garland and Max Strus led the Cavs with four turnovers each. Sure, Garland and Strus weren't the only culprits in Cleveland's careless play; Isaac Okoro, Jarrett Allen, Georges Niang and Caris LeVert were right behind them with two turnovers. It was careless basketball across the rubicon, which is always a recipe for failure.

“That’s unacceptable for what we’re trying to do,” Jarrett Allen added when asked about the uncharacteristic miscues. “Just mental errors. It was a lot of just throwing the ball out of bounds. I know I had a couple where I just lost the ball. It slipped. We were all making mistakes.”

Maybe it was Mitchell’s absence. Maybe it was being out of rhythm the first game after a break. Maybe it's Maybelline. Either way, Orlando’s feisty, physical defense played a part in dispelling Cleveland. The way the Magic attacked the Cavs kept Cleveland out of sync all night long. Orlando pushed players off their spots and outmuscled the Cavs’ frontline in the paint.

“It’s only one game,” Strus said. “First game back from the break, obviously we would’ve liked to play a little tougher and better on the defensive end, but I think there’s a lot of ways that we could have improved and played better tonight. Offensively and defensively. Can’t let this continue to be a thing. They’re a tough team. They play hard. They got a lot of talented guys. It was a good test for us first game out of All-Star break. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to. We’ll learn from it and watch the film tomorrow and be better.”

Cleveland doesn't have too long to lick their wounds since they're immediately facing the Philadelphia 76ers on the second game of a back-to-back on the road. Nevertheless, this loss was uncharacteristic for the Cavs and, perhaps, Cleveland looks for revenge in Philadelphia against the Sixers.

When the Cavs lost to the Magic, it threw off their groove. Friday's game could be the perfect chance to get it back.