Sunday, May 24, 2009

Orlando Magic wins game 3 over Cleveland Cavaliers

Sunday's Game 3, they unleashed Slap-a-Superman in an attempt to frustrate Howard and send him to the free-throw line where he's more mortal than elsewhere on the court.Dwight Howard had kept his emotions sealed for an unnerving 48 hours. Howard needed redemption for the Orlando Magic and for himself.

The answer eventually arrived when Howard was unleashed and he breathed a bit of life into the Magic’s own postseason desires with a 99-89 victory against the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. With the win, the Magic again wrested into the driver’s seat in the best-of-seven series, taking a 2-1 edge.

After a subpar Game 2, of which he refused to watch the mind-boggling replays of James’s game-winning 3-pointer, and a short-stint first half Sunday, Howard responded with 10 points during a critical third-quarter run. Brow furrowed and jaw clenched, Howard’s post position grew deeper and deeper in the second half. On several possessions, he had Zydrunas Ilgauskas virtually pinned as a planted sequoia beneath the basket.

Howard ended with 24 points and 9 rebounds. He was not the dominating Howard, but his presence was felt, especially as Hedo Turkoglu misfired on his first eight field goals.

Soon after Turkoglu made his first field goal late in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers’ Anderson Varejao fouled out, sending Howard to the line with 2 minutes and 43 seconds remaining in the game. Howard made 1 of 2 foul shots, finishing with a semi-respectable 14 of 19 from the line.

He was part of a Magic contingent that shot 51 free throws. The Cavaliers, by contrast, attempted 35 — 24 from James — a discrepancy that Cleveland Coach Mike Brown bemoaned.

“That’s a whole heck of a lot of free throws to get there 51 times in a 48-minute game,” Brown said.

Brown departed the postgame news conference and Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy picked up where Brown left off.

“LeBron James isn’t in foul trouble — which he never is — and Mo Williams isn’t in foul trouble,” Van Gundy said, adding that the Cavaliers were looking to send Howard to the line as part of their game plan. “Those 19 free throws, they wanted them to happen. We didn’t want any of his 24 free throws to happen.”

He meant James, who found himself at the line a lot, but missed two crucial free throws and committed a costly turnover down the stretch on an errant pass to Ilgauskas down the stretch, before Mickael Pietrus secured the game when he went up for an offensive rebound on a missed 3-pointer attempt by Turkoglu with a little more than a minute left.

James followed up his last-second dramatic shot in Game 2 with 41 hard-earned points. He found a lid over the basket from the outside and the long limbs of the Magic’s interior defenders as he drove. James had 18 of his points at the comfort of the free-throw line, and made only 2 of his 11 shots outside the paint.

It was neither poetic nor pretty. But its outcome was satisfying for the Magic and those of its fans in the crowd of 17,461 that alternated between hysteria and delirium as silver and blue confetti dropped from the rafters.

The elasticity of Howard and the Magic may prove to be their most redeeming asset.

With James’s last second 3-point shot in Game 2 seemingly on an endless loop through the mind and still on the tips of tongues, the Magic offered new food for thought.

Orlando is a rubber band team and on Sunday it snapped back.

“We were able to overcome the dagger from the other night,” Van Gundy said, with a tone of sarcasm.

While Howard helped secure the lead, it was the reserve Pietrus who helped Orlando keep it, hitting a couple of clutch buckets and draping himself around James on defense.

Pietrus scored 16 points off the bench, one of five Magic who finished in double digits.