During Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Magic head coach Stand Van Gundy said, in a sideline interview, that he was proud of his team’s resilience and ability to come from behind, but he thought they had proven their never-say-die spirit enough.
He didn’t want his team to have to erase a 20 point lead in the second quarter every night.
And in Game 6, Van Gundy got his wish.
At their home court, Orlando took the first lead of the game off of a strong dunk from Dwight Howard, and they never looked back.
The Cavs kept the game reasonably close in the first quarter with LeBron James, Mo Williams, and even Wally Szczerbiak creating some offensive production.
But the Magic three-point-sharp-shooters were out in full force, and they scored too often and too fast for the Cavaliers to keep up.
Lee, Lewis, Alston, and Turkoglu all turned in strong performances. While Lee would finish the game with eight points, Lewis, Alston, and Turkoglu all finished in double figures, scoring 18, 13, and 10 respectively.
But the Magic sharp-shooters were not the X-factor in this game. That title belongs to Superman Dwight Howard.
Though he has turned in solid efforts this season, he never dominated inside the way he did in Game 6. He played aggressively on the offensive and defensive boards, ending the game with 14 rebounds and 40 points.
In the past, Dwight Howard’s desire to win and “killer instinct” have been questioned, but he answered those questions in Game 6 with rim rattling dunks and smart defense. Howard has been plagued by foul trouble throughout this series, but this time he would enter the second half with only one personal foul.
With Dwight Howard elevating his game to a whole new level, the Magic had the Cavaliers on the ropes early on in the second quarter, and they knew it.
Smelling blood in the water, the Magic put on a burst of energy and orchestrated a 16-5 run, pushing their lead to 13 with a little over three minutes to go in the half.
The Magic scoring spurt could not have come at a worse time for the struggling Cavaliers, whose main offensive weapon LeBron James went the entire second quarter without scoring a single basket.
In the second half, Cleveland managed to cut the lead down to ten, but they never came close to overtaking Orlando.
The Magic were simply too good, possessing multiple players that could score at will from anywhere on the court. In an effort to contain Howard and Lewis, the Cavaliers left Pietrus, who finished with 14 points, with wide open looks.
Orlando had too many hot hands, and the Cavaliers simply could not put out all the flames.
With six minutes left in the game, desperation began to set in for the Cavaliers as they saw their amazing season coming to an end.
LeBron James continued to throw up shots, but most of them clanged off the rim or backboard and into the hands of a Magic player.
With three minutes left to go, the Magic victory was imminent, the score reading 98-79 in favor of Orlando.
It was a somber Cleveland team that played out the final minutes as the former favorites for the NBA Championship were serenaded by the Orlando fans, who sang “Na na na na, hey hey hey, good bye!”
Also rising from the stands at Amway Arena were chants of MVP, but for Dwight Howard, not the actual league MVP LeBron James.
Overall, the Orlando Magic outplayed the Cleveland Cavaliers in this series, and they deserved the 103-90 win they got in Game 6.
Now they will have to try and work their magic in The City of Angels as they travel to Staples Center to take on the LA Lakers, who are hungry to redeem themselves after last year’s loss in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals will tip off in LA on Thursday, June 4th. Both teams possess multiple players that can score from outside, play at a fast pace, and come on strong defensively. While the Magic beat the Lakers twice in the regular season, this is the NBA Finals and LA has taken their game to a higher level.
Whatever the outcome, it’s going to be an exciting Game 1.