Magic-Cavs: Howard Brings Down Shot Clock and Magic Take Homecourt

Kyle RichardsonCorrespondent IMay 21, 2009

BOSTON - MAY 17:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic dunks the ball against the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden on May 17, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orlando Magic defeated the Boston Celtics 101-82 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

If Dwight Howard would play as consistently like he did in game six and seven versus Boston, the Orlando Magic can win this series.

The dunk that tore down the shot clock, was Howard's 40th of this year's playoffs. In fact, 40 percent of Dwight Howard's field goals have been off dunks.

The dunk, and removal of shot clock, resulted in an eight-and-a-half minute delay in the early stages of the first quarter.

When the game finally resumed, Howard was spinning, making post moves, and finishing at the basket with hook shots. He does such a great job of clogging the paint because of his size and he guards the rim well.

LeBron James was consistently double teamed early, but he moved the ball well as the supporting cast of Mo Williams and Delonte West hit shots. The Cavs were up 28-14 with 2:36 left in the first after a 7-0 run.

LeBron would sit out at the three-point line and run a screen-and-shoot with Big Zeke, completely shutting the door on the Magic's small guys, and he'd let off from long range.

The Magic had no answer for LeBron on the defensive end all night. But that seemed to be their strategy as long as they could keep him shooting long jump shots. 

There were limited offensive rebounds for the Magic in the first, after several errant threes to try and get back in the game. Loose ball fouls were left uncalled by the ref's which kept Howard off of the offensive boards.

The Magic stayed in it as Rafer Alston started dropping shots, and they made several three-pointers in transition.

After an exceptional block on Howard by Joe Smith, the outlet to LeBron resulted in an emphatic dunk to gain the momentum. But that was just the beginning of a great end to the half.

They led 33-17 before LeBron clearly fouled Howard (yet left uncalled), and then ran the ball down the court, finishing with a three from top of the key to erupt the crowd.  

The Cavs put their reserves in and Magic took the lead down to 11 with 7:30 to play.

Howard stayed in until he got his third foul with three minutes left in the second. The Magic stayed with their strengths and didn't abandon the three especially without Howard in.

Still the lead was at 12, just before Hedo Turkoglu saw the opportunity to step up and hit a couple shots.

James scored 15 in the last five minutes before Williams' three-quarter lengths of the court shot ended the half, 63-48, Cleveland.

Orlando didn't have much help in the first two quarters as Turkoglu and Lewis had only taken five shots a piece at the half. LeBron scored 26 and Howard had 20.

They both shot 50 percent from the field, but the Magic went 2-for-7 on three pointers.

On a night when LeBron was on fire on both ends, the Magic had trouble cutting the deficit less than nine midway into the third.

That is, until their 8-0 run in the waning minutes of the third to bring the game within two, as they went shot-for-shot, LeBron vs. the starting five of Orlando, who were all making shots to keep it close.

The Cavs led 82-78 at the end of three. Orlando vowed to continue with the energy from the end of the first half as Anthony Johnson put them up 85-84, after a 7-0 run to erase what was an 18-point deficit.

Orlando kept playing great defense aside from some errant three-point shots here and there, they played great offensively, moving the ball inside to Howard. Turkoglu came through again scoring on back-to-back possessions in the final minutes.

It was a battle in the end as Lewis and Williams shared threes back-to-back as the game was 98-97 with less than two minutes left.

The Cavs went over the limit and instead of Orlando pushing the ball inside, Mickael Pietrus took an unnecessary three, with the Magic up two at that point.

Then the Cavs responded with a drive by LeBron and the kick out to Delonte West for the go-ahead three, 103-102.

Lewis hit a clutch shot to go up one until LeBron came and scored, and made an and-one, as Howard fouled out with 30 points.

Lewis hit another three to put them up 107-106 with 14 seconds left. He had 22 points on the night.

After a jump ball and a catch-and-shoot with a second left, time expired and the Magic took homecourt advantage from the Cavs.

"This is a resilient basketball team,” said Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy. "We're just going to have to keep going."

Notes: LeBron scored a franchise playoff high with 49 points.


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