CLEVELAND -- No matter how long J.R. Smith's contract dispute dragged on, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue never went there. He never allowed himself to think about what life would be like without his top 3-point shooter.
"I didn't look at (life) without him. Nope," Lue said. "I knew he was coming back."
Smith paid his first dividends following his lucrative offseason contract with three 3-pointers in the final 3 1/2 minutes Saturday and the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled out a 105-99 win over the Orlando Magic after squandering the bulk of an 18-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
LeBron James had 23 points, nine assists and six rebounds, Kyrie Irving scored 20 points and Smith shook off another slow start to score 16 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Kevin Love fouled out in the final minute with 19 points and five rebounds for the Cavaliers, who are 3-0 to begin the season.
The Cavaliers were in control most of the night, but began the fourth quarter shooting just 2 of 12. After they went more than five minutes without a field goal, a driving basket by Orlando's D.J. Augustin pulled the Magic within 86-80. A jumper by Elfrid Payton made it 88-85 with four minutes left.
"I just thought there was a stretch in the game where we messed around, took some bad shots," Lue said. "I thought we let our guards down because of their record (0-3) and not playing them as a good team."
Smith missed most of the preseason due to a contract dispute that culminated in a four-year deal that could be worth as much as $72 million. Lue believes Smith is still trying to play his way back into shape after missing all but one preseason game. He began the night just 4 of 15 from 3-point range in the Cavaliers' first two games and he missed six of his first seven 3-pointers on Saturday.
But James found Smith in the corner for a big 3-pointer following Payton's jumper to squelch some of the Magic's momentum. He added another 3-pointer on the Cavaliers' next trip down and capped his big quarter with another 3-pointer in the final minute to extend the lead to 101-95.
"The guys just set the table for me," Smith said. "It was just time for me to eat."
Evan Fournier scored 22 points and Serge Ibaka had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Magic. Augustin scored 13 points off the bench, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
"We're remaining confident, whether we're looking at being 0-3 or having a 17-point deficit at the half against the world champions," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "We held the world champions to (41) percent shooting. That was good. But LeBron is a pick-your-poison type of player, so you try and do your best with it."
James was in midseason form in just the third game of the season. He crushed Magic center Nikola Vucevic on a dunk within the game's first three minutes, then skipped a pass down the baseline to Mike Dunleavy, even though the odds are high he never even saw Dunleavy in the corner.
James capped his ridiculousness with a four-point play in the second quarter when he caught Aaron Gordon swiping at the ball and baited him into a foul while banking in an off-balanced 3-pointer.
The Cavaliers have now won their last 15 games against the Magic.
"We played the NBA champions and they're playing great ball," Fournier said. "Hat's off to them."
NOTES: F LeBron James became the franchise's all-time leader in defensive rebounds (4,021), passing former C Brad Daugherty (4,020). ... It's only two games, but the Cavaliers and Magic entered at opposite ends of the standings in defensive field-goal percentage. The Cavaliers lead the league at 37.9 percent, while the Magic were ranked 28th at 49.5. ... Magic coach Frank Vogel saw plenty of the Cavs' "Big Three" during his time coaching the Indiana Pacers. "They've grown into what everyone thought they would be when they were put together," he said. "Cleveland looks like a finished product." ... Cleveland F/C Channing Frye remains away from the team following the death of his mother. ... The Magic conclude their three-game road trip Tuesday at Philadelphia. The Cavaliers remain home to host the Rockets on Tuesday.