The NBA didn't want them to win the game.
The Cavs, especially on their home court, game out with a 20-point lead fast.
And then the game was played—and for three quarters or more, the home team was good and terrified.
Cleveland came out like a house on fire, building a 22-point lead in the first nine minutes with scoring from just about everyone wearing the laundry. Anthony Johnson and Michael Pietrus cut into the lead a little at the close of the quarter, which ended as Cavs 35, Magic 18.
In the second, the Magic started chipping, as everyone in Cleveland knew they would, completing an 11-1 and then starting another, which is where my family obligations ended.
The lead got down to eight on a Rashard Lewis free throw make off transition. Delonte West made an old-school three on very nice use of continuation, but Hedo Turkoglu answered with a make, and then Martin Gortat got a flat-footed O-board, leading to a Turk turnover in traffic.
Rather than get back, the Turk and van Gundy went nuts, leading to a van Gundy technical. Mo Williams made it to push it back to 10.
I'm been trying to avoid talking about the zebras, because it's such a chalk argument to make. It's like going to a baseball or football game and bitching about the weather; it won't make you happy, and it will distract you from the game.
And as bad as basketball officiating has been, I'm not sure what kind of golden standard we are comparing it to. I don't remember NBA officiating ever being good; it is what it is. I'm also not sure how it ever gets better. So, moving on.
After the Cleveland celeb crawl, Craig Sager talks to CC Sabathia, who gets to talk as a Cleveland fan despite, well, being a Yankee now. How the hell is that okay for Cleveland fans?
Back to the micro-blog. The Turk hits a three to cut the lead to six, and the pick-and-roll has just murdered the Cavs; the run was 27-11 before Mo Williams connected on his fourth three of the night. James penetrated like a knife through butter, finding Joe Smith for an uncontested layup—and this is the Cavs team I picked to win the series. The lead went back to 11 with four minutes left in the half.
In the timeout, we hear Mike Brown telling his bigs that fouling Dwight Howard is better than giving him dunks. And to think, some people wonder about Brown. Not surprisingly, Rafer Alston left his jumper in Orlando, along with Dwight Howard's free-throw stroke.
The Cavs offense went stagnant in James' hands, and the Magic started to feed Howard with success—but Z rolled to the hoop for a slam, only a small respite before Howard owns him at the other end; Z can't even foul Howard right. Yeesh.
The Magic then makes another run as James can't avoid turnovers, the Cavs can't get back on defense, and Howard is just alone in the world as a big man with hops in this series. Howard with 14 and four at this point, 11 in the second quarter, and the Magic are doing everything but shooting threes.
The Cavs just can't defend this team at all—the Magic are shooting 44% from the field, and yet they are in the game. Two LeBron buckets stops the bleeding until Lewis makes another easy runner. James can't follow, and Lewis drains the three to close it to one at the half. Right now, I really don't think the Cavs think they can win this series. Cavs 56, Magic 55.
The third quarter began with a miss trade, and then the Magic took the lead with Howard owning Z. Lewis then stole from Z, and the Turk nailed a three, and it's a four point game and a dead, dead, dead building. Z should just fake a blown hammy at this point; he's putting up Maginot Line-level resistance to Howard.
A quick Brown timeout gets them a West turn and a Lee make, and that's a 7-0 run. After matching turnovers, the Turk hits a runner, and the Magic are up eight. West gets a make out of a stagnant set, but the Cavs are dead team playing right now, and Reggie Miller is openly begging for James to do everything.
Williams makes his fifth three pointer, and he has 20 to cut it to three. The Turk drove around Sideshow with ease, but can't finish. James gets a steal and Alston picked up a very iffy clear path foul call; James makes both and it's back to one. West missed the corner three, Lee doesn't, and that's the series in microcosm—instead of a Cavs lead, it's the Magic by four.
Z gets an old-school three with Alston doing the honors; kind of lucky there, but they'll take it. Z is 5 for 5 from the floor, and yet a crippling problem. Alston misses, James doesn't, and the Cavs take the lead back halfway through the quarter. That was fast.
The Turk misses a quick three, and Lewis drew his third. Z makes again, and the Cavs lead is three. Howard walks trying to punish Z, on his awful cross-court hook thing. Lewis missed at the rim,and James take it a million miles an hour at the Turk, who puts him on the line in self-preservation. James missed both to stop the momentum, and the Turk scored, now has 18, to really kill it.
Reasonable ball movement ends with West not wanting the shot, but then taking and missing it. The Magic remember that they have Howard, and used him; fouls on consecutive plays puts him on the line, and he gets a ridiculous hop and roll to give his team the lead back. Z finally missed, a foul line shot that was easier than many. After a Williams miss and a Sideshow board, Z makes a good move to the hoop and draws Howard's third foul; one make ties it again.
Lewis with all day for the three, but couldn't get it. Z missed from the elbow, too much going through him now. Sideshow flops to no effect, and Howard slams for the fresh lead. Williams has to go to the dressing room with a cut. James found Sideshow for a runner and Howard's fourth foul, and maybe the Cavs can finally take advantage of his absence, given that the Magic haven't been hitting their threes (yet). The Sideshow miss kept it tied.
The Turk drew Vareajo's fourth, and that's a problem for the Cavs. Two makes send the lead back their way. Wally Sczerbiak missed, then fouled, putting Lewis on the line; the Zerb is not a part of a balanced champion's breakfast right now. Two makes and it was four. West with a nice make on a hesitation jumper. The Turk can do anything he wants to West on the other end, and he makes the jumper. James finds Gibson for the corner three, and that helped. Gortat can't finish, and James feeds the Zerb for a miss to end the quarter. It's Magic 79, Cavs 78, twelve minutes to close this.
Williams starts the fourth with a three for the lead on James' ninth assist. Gibson dominates Johnson on defesen, and van Gundy would have his first tech if he didn't already have one. James missed over the Turk, and he's just 5-of-14 tonight; the MVP then picked up his third on Pietrus. If James is going to win this game, he'll have to do it with penetration. Pietrus got one of two, keeping the Cavs in front.
Williams moving nicely tonight, fed James who got blocked by Gortat, but Wallace board and gor the Turk's fourth. James gets his triple double in assists with Gibson's second triple, and West then turns the Magic; transition ends with James collecting the Gortat foul and two makes. The Cavs are suddenly up six, and van Gundy has seen enough; Cavs Fan was getting loud.
I love the Association, but after 40 days of this, I've really heard quite enough of how Dylan McDermott is dumping the body! I mean, do I share my personal problems with him?
Better Cavs defense is spiked by Howard over Wallace. Gibson missed a three, Wallace board, West missed—and Pietrus connects. Series in microcosm again, and it's 86-85 Cavs, with Brown going for the insta-call timeout. James goes by Pietrus for the half-court layup. Johnson's three stayed out. James drove on Lewis for no call.
In transition, Z gives Howard his fourth, rather than a monster dunk, and hit both. The Cavs got stagnant, but James picked up Pietrus' fourth late in the clock. van Gundy continuing to hyperventilate, and James missed the second. Cavs by two, seven minutes to play.
Z with a touch foul, his fifth, on a push to Howard's back. The end of this game is not promising to be having a ton of flow. Pietrus makes a high degree of difficulty three for the lead. James has to force and missed, but Williams gets it back, missed another three, then made a great hustle play to save the possession. James then with the make of the night, getting Howard's fifth on a drive and scoop layup for the old-school three.
With six minutes left, van Gundy leaves Howard out there. The Turk missed a quick and not very good three. James missed a runner, no call. Alston missed another three, and he's 1-of-9 tonight. James in stagnation over Alston to mak it four. West buys a Turk fake and puts him on the line for three; wow, that's not a good play. The Turk makes three, and it's a one-point Cavs lead.
LeBron drives on Pietrus, hits Sideshow in the hands, gets the stone deflection, then fed Gibson for another three. Wow. Sideshow with a block on the Turk after the Turk walked. A bad Williams three and miss goes off Howard for the Cavs team board. James runs clock on an iso, then makes over Pietrus to push it to six, and while it's not exactly pretty to put the ball in LeBron's hands and hope, it's also effective, at least tonight.
All series long, the Cavs have not gotten stops. Can they start here? Pietrus missed the three badly, and the Cavs run iso clock with LeBron.
A great pass to Sideshow, who missed the dunk; LeBron wisely ran clock, then owns Pietrus, fouls out Howard, scores the runner, drains the free throw and cures cancer. I think we're getting Game Six, folks. Play of the day there, so start your highlight reels. Nine point game with 2:22 left, and Howard's gone.
Of course, the Magic will not die. Pietrus gets Vareajo's fifth and the old-school three with an awkward drive that could have been a charge, but it's not and it's six. James simly runs iso clock and nails the jumper over Pietrus; huge. Alston's nightmare continues, and the Zerb gets the board. James runs iso clock, but mixes it up with a supreme bullet to Sideshow on the back door, who hits the layup and the free throw.
The lead is 11, there's 67 seconds left, and Orlando can start the bus. For the first time this series, the Cavs will win a game and deserve to. James with 17 in the fourth, and his line reads 37-14-12 right now, and he's got the most points ever for someone playing five games in a conference final. Ye. Gads.
The Zerb makes a bonehead foul, but Lewis misses the tech. Lewis fouls out Sideshow, the second straight game he's given all six; his 7-8-2 line tonight was useful. Lewis makes both to get it to nine, but with 62 seconds to go, they'd need to reach deep into the George Karl playbook to blow this one. Z converts on a Gortat foul; it's an 11-point lead with 60 seconds to go.
The Turk gets a call on Z, and now he's fouled out as well, and the game will take three hours. Ow. Williams gets the inbounds and is able to run some clock, blissfully. Williams makes two, and those are the first points in the last 32 (!) that James wasn't involved in. The Turk with a layup, and the Orlando press requires a Cav timeout. 31.2 left, and Just. End. It. Already.
And so it goes: Cavs 112, Magic 102.