Straight to the micro-blog for the continuing saga of the best playoff year in the history of the Association...
I missed the first half as per usual for family obligations, but judging from the game trackers, Orlando came out fast in the first with threes, but the Cavs finally got some support for James.
Mo Williams managed twelve in the first half on multiple trips to the line, and Boobie Gibson emerged from utter irrelevance to make two triples, one to close out the half.
Add in a little Delonte West support, and the Cavs looked like themselves again, and the half ended at Cavs 58, Magic 50.
Looking at the numbers, it's hard to see how, but at this point in the series, the Cavs will take any lead they can get.
At the start of the third, Rafer Alston made three in a row on lax pressure from James to cut it to one, and in just 130 seconds, the lead was down to one, and the Magic fans were alive. After the timeout, James got to the rack and picked up Howard's second on the old-school three.
The Turk's next new-school three attempt was off, but the Cavs turned as James continued to look a little passive, at least in comparison to previous games. Lewis missed, leading to Williams scoring off the rebound, and Alston answered with his fourth three. West scored over Lee to make it five again, and then West found Vareajo alone at the rim for the flush.
Doug Collins correctly called out Dwight Howard, who was just not into this game defensively—at least not this half. The Magic's run was answered.
After the timeout, the Turk hit the Magic's ninth triple of the night, and Varejao missed a dunk. Lee missed the triple, and Williams tossed in a nice banked off side runner, adding in a Lee foul for the three-point play.
Z stripped Howard down low and got clocked for his trouble; incidental, but ye gads, and the big man is not pleased. Alston got a banked three to fall—everything was going in for him. Z missed from the corer, and Alston picked up a charge on James to boot.
Vareajo followd with a great steal on the Turk, but Williams couldn't get the three, and the Turk answered with a bank to get it back to two. West posted the Turk beautifully to stop the bleeding. Alston finally missed a three, and James drew Howard's third with a spin move—lazy, dumb foul on Howard, and this Magic fan didn't cover himself in glory by howling at the replay.
James made one, and Vareajo picked up a loose ball foul and some pain. Howard wrestled a loose ball away from the corner, and Vareajo tried to foul before the dunk to Howard's disgust. The refs want nothing of Howard's disgust, and that's his sixth technical of the playoffs—a major issue for the Magic. Patrick Ewing picks one up from the bench as well, and this Magic fan sung the Bulls*** Song very, very loudly. Hopefully, this won't lead to 18 minutes of free throws.
Once all that was over, it was 74-71 Cavs. West missed the corner three, but Howard continued his awkward play with a turnover rebound. James drains the three over Pietrus, and when he hits that, it's Crazy Time for his opponents.
Alston with a bad miss, but West couldn't add to the lead. Wallace battled Howard well down low, and the Turk took a foul to stop the break. Pietrus flops on James for a no-call, but Williams can't hit, and Pietrus answered with a three. Gibson couldn't make, and the Cavs are taking too many from distance right now. Two Turk makes cut it back to one.
Very physical defense from the Magic ends with Howard goaltending Wallace, and the Cavs are actually getting something from him tonight, as he follows up by taking a charge on Pietrus. James settles for a long three and misses, and Alston got the dish—he now has 15 in the quarter, and 21 for the game—to cut it back to one. James with another bad iso three, and Alston misses from 35 to close the quarter. It's a Magic win, but the Cavs still have the lead, 79-78.
Van Gundy hates his team in the TNT interview. Big surprise! Williams missed the jumper, and Pietrus gets Wallace in the air, but West goes hard for the block, and that's just playoff basketball, along with West's third foul. Pietrus misses both to add to West's karma. The Ghost of Wally Sczerbiak missed, and Howard gets hacked on the board.
Pietrus makes a go-ahead three on great ball movement. James can't finish at the rim, but Z can to tie it; Alston responds immediately, and so does Z with his jump shot. Much more balanced attack from the Cavs, but Alston hits again, his sixth three-pointer of the night. I'm not sure when Alston sold his soul, but this Magic fan isn't bemoaning the loss of Jameer Nelson right now.
The Magic got a ridiculous home-court call on the inbounds and that's a shot clock violation; I'm pretty sure the buzzer sounded before the ball was even touched. Lewis with the bank gave the Magic a five-point lead, and the Cavs were on the ropes. A Zerb miss and a Wallace board leads to a James miss; Pietrus can't sink the dagger, but Williams can't finish tin the trees.
Zerb flops on Howard before a dunk. With 8:05 left, the Magic lead by five, have the ball, and just look like the best team in basketball right now. Color me surprised.
The Turk and West return for Wallace and Lewis. The Turk misses from the baseline, but gets the O-board and finds Lee for the triple—the Magic's 14th—and the lead was eight. James to the rim in Determined Mode, and he gets to the line, but only makes one. The lead was seven. James blocks Howard from behind, but the MVP then missed Z with a pass for an unforced turnover. Pietrus to the tin, but can't finish, and the Cavs are sloppy but lucky with the ball. I don't like their game right now; it's all one on one, but at least its James doing it, and he gets the call on Pietrus, and two makes got it back to five. James with 27 now.
Howard walks and misses, just a sad move for a great player, and Z got the board. West hits from the post, but Lewis answered, and it's still five. James posts Pietrus and gets a layup; better offense from the Cavs now, and Howard continued his indifferent game with late weakside help. Lewis turns on decent defense from, of all people, the Zerb. It's a three-point game with the Cavs having the ball at 4:55, and Magic Fan has to feel more antsy now.
Howard and Vareajo each have four fouls; no one else has that many. James with a great drive and dish, but West can't make the tying three, and Lewis nails the Magic's 15th from 30 attempts. I don't know if any team can lose when they shoot 50 percent from the arc on this many attempts. James turns it. The Turk misses, but the Magic get the team board on good Howard effort.
Alston finally missed from the arc, and James finds Vareajo in the lane for the make and a Turk foul; his free throw cuts it back to three with three minutes left. The Turk walks baldly on a drive, and it's called. Just another classic game here; I don't root for either of these teams, and I'm totally into the game. I can't imagine how Cleveland Fan or Orlando Fan feels.
James elbows Pietrus hard on a spin and drive, and the Frenchman goes down for James' fourth foul and a bad turnover. Pietrus got up and stayed in the game. Vareajo turns a pass to Howard, but James turns it back, his second in a row. Pietrus with a three miss, and this time in transition James goes to the rack with killing speed for the flush. Vareajo has to foul Howard down low, his fifth, and Howard missed the first badly, and the second goes down; two-point game, 100 seconds left. Wow.
West drives on Howard and scores; just nice. Alston missed. James to the lane and draws Howard's fifth, and he can give Cleveland the lead—but he missed the first badly. The second goes down, and that's a one-point lead with one minute to go.
The Turk can't get the three, and it was an ugly possession. The Cavs match with James missing. No timeout. Pietrus can't get the three to fall, but West fell/was tripped on good hustle from Howard, and the Magic got the ball back with 6.4 seconds left. For every Association detractor who wants to talk about how the last minute takes forever, I give you this game—it just freaking breezed by, mostly because I think both of these teams were too exhausted to do anything else.
Will Cleveland contest the inbounds, unlike Game Two? The Cavs bring in Wallace, and James doesn't contest until the last second, when the Turk calls for time; no Magic player was close to clear on that. Hmm. Some ref issue delays things, and Lee comes in for Alston. The Turk finds Lewis unconscionably open on the uncontested inbounds, and he drains the Magic's 16th three of the night.
Wallace will wear goat horns for that and should, but give credit to Lewis for being that difficult a cover. The only problem is it might have happend too fast, as there is still 4.1 seconds left on the clock, and the Magic are only up two, but can LeBron James win two games in the same series with miracles?
Will the Magic guard the inbounds? It's Williams. He finds James, and with five tenths of a second left, James gets the block call on Pietrus. Conspiracy theorists will look askance at that call, but when the best player on the planet goes down in a tangle of limbs on a drive at the buzzer against a no-name defensive player... well, I'm sorry, Magic Fan, but that call will be made for the offense 100 times out of 100.
James had to make both to tie. The first is all cotton. The second just leaked in, and James knew he got away with something there. With half a second on the clock for the Magic to dodge overtime, Z guarded the Turk inbounds. A lob to Howard draws contact with Vareajo, and that's going to be a controversial no-call, especially after the James draw on Pietrus, but I'm not even sure that it shouldn't have been Howard to get the over the back call, or from hooking Vareajo's arm. Just an impossible situation for the refs; a no-call is probably their bet option. 100-all, and it's free basketball time.
The Turk is owned by Vareajo with a steal, and Gibson gets to the line in transition; he made both. Howard drove Vareajo into dust with an old-school Shaq dunk. James turns it. West and Vareajo fall, and Howard flushes for the lead. West missed, but Vareajo boards, and James hits the three to take the lead back. Howard again on Vareajo, too easy. James turns it, and Vareajo picks up his sixth by proximity; that's going to hurt, not that anyone is stopping Howard right now. Z replaces Sideshow.
Pietrus hits the three right away on the weak Cav pick and roll defense, which is the problem with Z. James misses from the arc at the clock, and the Magic now lead by four with he ball, and James looked tired on that miss. 100 seconds left. Alston's three front rims, but James turns it for the eight time in transition. The Turk walks and misses, but the first isn't called and the second is finished by the suddenly dominant Howard, and it's a six-point game with 72 seconds left. The Cavs look dead in the water. Again.
James scoops and scores; he has 39. The Turk misses on a bad drive, but James gets a call on Lewis on a drive, and he hits both to make it two points again. James just won't die. Howard gets it down low, and Wallace gives the foul; 21 seconds left. Howard makes both—huge, and he's got 27-14-4, 10 of the Magic's 13 points in overtime. The Magic let the Cavs back into this game with missed threes late; they've taken the lead in the overtime by forgetting about that shot.
James is blocked by Pietrus and Howard, and it's a jump ball call with 16.5 left. At this point, the Magic should really just win this game; Howard has the reach and height on James, and it's a two possession game with little time on the clock, really. James got the tip anyway, saving to West; James got Howard in the air at the arc, but the refs don't give the call.
Z to to the line on a whistle against Pietrus, his fifth. Z made both to cut it two, and West fouled Lewis on the inbounds, the man the Magic want to have the ball here. Lewis makes both, and that should be that—and Lewis had four points through the first three quarters, and ends with 16. James makes an insane three off the catch, and I can't imagine the human that can do that at the end of 53 minutes.
Lewis goes to the line and misses the first, and with 3.2 seconds left, it's, amazingly, still a game. He makes the second, and Cleveland has to inbound from their own basket. The inbounds gets to James, and from 40 feet, moving left to right against seemingly the entire Magic team...James finally misses. Magic 3, Cavs 1, 116-114, and what a game, what a series, what a year.
The most meaningful thing to take out of tonight's game is that the Magic took Cleveland's best shot—balanced scoring from West, Williams, some support from Gibson and Z and Wallace, another 44-12-7 from James—and won. They made 17 three pointers, got a 27-14-4 from Howard, and took the game they had to have, mostly because they limited Cleveland's assists and, well, rained down threes like a Biblical plague.
I still think Cleveland wins this series, because I've just never seen a team depend so much on three-pointers go all the way—but the Magic are just a game away from making believers out of all of us.
Or should I say "witnesses"?