"Let the naysayers rail, sing and shout, but let your play on the court dispel any doubt." —Lockdawg
Say what you will about Stan Van Gundy's teams of the past, but the 2009 Orlando Magic have done the unthinkable and put the NBA's No. 1 overall team, MVP, and Coach of the Year against the playoff wall.
LeBron James (44 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists) and the Cleveland Cavaliers went down in a humbling overtime defeat to a three-happy Orlando Magic team, 116-114, at the Amway Center in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Magic set a franchise playoff record with 17 makes from downtown, but it was Rashard Lewis' shot late in the waning seconds of the regulation period that all but sealed the win for Orlando.
With the Cavaliers clinging to a 98-97 lead with 4.1 seconds to go, Sweet Lew stepped and drilled a three-pointer on a catch-and-shoot play off an inbounds pass that put the Magic ahead by two, 100-98.
Not to be denied, King James would step up again and put his team on his back. On the next play, James took the ball hard to the rack and was fouled with 0.5 seconds on the clock.
James had his struggles from the line, going 14-for-18 for the game, but he calmly swished both to tie the game at 100. The Magic couldn't get the ball into Dwight Howard under the bucket because of Anderson Varejao's sticky defense.
In the overtime period, Howard (27 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three blocks) became Superman. He scored 10 of his points in the overtime period with two monstrous dunks and two clutch tosses from the stripe when his team needed them most.
Not to be denied, LeBron did his best to keep it close after the Magic pushed ahead by six with 1:11 to go in overtime. He scored seven of the Cavs' final nine points in the game, pushing the score to 115-114 with 3.2 seconds left.
Lewis was fouled on the inbounds play and missed one of two free throws, giving Cavs fans a sliver of hope with 3.2 ticks remaining.
The Magic learned their lesson in Game Two and doubled LeBron from the moment he touched the ball. He managed to get off a clean look at the basket, but unfortunately for Cavs fans, there would be no "The Shot Part Deux."
Do Or Die for Cleveland
After steamrolling through the regular season (66-16) and the first two rounds of the playoffs (8-0), the Cavaliers find themselves in a precarious situation.
Only the Orlando Magic and their fans could have envisioned the mighty Cavs heading home for Game Five, having to find a way to do what only eight teams in NBA history have ever done, come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the playoffs.
Barring LeBron's miracle shot with one second remaining in Game Two, the Magic would have swept Cleveland in four games.
A confident Mo Williams (18 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals) before the game predicted a Cleveland victory in the series, because the Cavs "are the best team in the league."
Now that the self-proclaimed "best team in the league" is down to its final game, they must now to stop talking and let their play on the court dispel any doubt, if they are to extend the series to a Game Six back in Orlando.
Too bad that goose is cooked.
See you next season No. 23. Hopefully you'll still be a Cavalier!