Magic have Cavs on their heels?
|05.21.09 at 11:08 am ET|
So the Magic beat the Cavs in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals? In Cleveland? (Almost as unexpected as Big Papi’s first home run of the season last night against the Blue Jays.) Predictions have run wild that Cleveland would dominate the series after sweeping both Atlanta and Detroit, and then resting for eight days while the Magic took care of the Celtics (*tear*). Is there panic in the streets of Cleveland? Will King James not get to face Kobe in the ultimate showdown? Will we cease to see the Kobe-LeBron matchup in person instead of surreal puppet theatre?
Don’t panic just yet — not that you were. The Cavs merely fell apart in the second half of last night’s game waiting for LeBron to save the day. Orlando erased a 15-point deficit entering the second half thanks to a solid performance from Dwight Howard (30 points, 13 rebounds) and the reemergence of Rashard Lewis, who scored 17 of his 22 points in the final two quarters. Lewis turned the heat on the Cavs in the second half, going 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, while Hedo Turkoglu added 15 points and 14 assists in addition to 25 points from the Magic bench.
LeBron came out with a franchise playoff record 49 points on 20-of-30 shooting, including eight assists and six rebounds — but the Cavs remained dormant, with Mo Williams’ 17 points the most help James received on the floor. Cleveland’s top-notch defense allowed the Magic to shoot 55 percent from the floor — 59 percent in the second half — while letting the game slip away. Lewis’ go-ahead 3-pointer with 15 seconds left sealed the deal 107-106 for Orlando deflating what was left of the Quicken Loans Arena fans.
Instead of looking forward to the arrival of the Lakers, the Cavs are now forced to focus on the present threat of the Magic. LeBron consoled himself with the fact that it was only the first game of the series, but if the NBA wants its fantasy Lakers-Cavs, Kobe-LeBron matchup Cleveland needs to step up its game, because this series will not just be another sweep for the Cavs.
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