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LeBron James' three-pointer at buzzer lifts Cavaliers

NBA PLAYOFFS

Facing a potential 0-2 deficit to the Magic, Cleveland star comes through when he's most needed in a 96-95 win to even the Eastern Conference series.

May 23, 2009|Lisa Dillman

CLEVELAND — The newly minted author of The Shot, Part II, proclaimed that a certain painful shot, a dagger in the heart of Cleveland fans, made here 20 years ago, was dead and buried.

And after what LeBron James did on Friday night against the Orlando Magic, who could doubt anything that the Cavaliers star said about anything?

James, an amazing player blessed with amazing grace, made a simply amazing game-winning shot at the buzzer, leading the Cavaliers to a 96-95 victory over the Magic in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

There was one second left on the clock when Mo Williams launched the in-bounds pass to James, who was under pressure from Hedo Turkoglu but still made the three-pointer.

James raised his arm in the air and was immediately mobbed by his teammates, Williams dropped to a knee, saying he was "punch drunk," and Quicken Loans Arena turned into a wall of sound.

"Biggest shot I've made in my career," James said.

And, of course, there is plenty in that James' mega memory bank to sort through.

"I just took my time," James said, not joking. "For me, a second is a long time. For others, it's very short.

"As a kid you practice. . . . Those are the moments that as kids, you don't have to be in the NBA to know what I'm talking about.

"To hit a shot like that at the buzzer at home, 'Wow.' "

James was reminded of the famous shot Michael Jordan made 20 years ago against the Cavaliers. Not that he needed to be reminded, since he is more than familiar with local lore.

"That guy's not in the league anymore," James said, smiling.

In a larger sense, not only did James' rescue mission save Cleveland's playoff life in this series, but it prevented a devastating weekend of second-guessing among Cavaliers fans.

Now the Magic is doing the second-guessing, knowing it could have returned to Orlando up 2-0. Game 3 is on Sunday in Orlando.

"It's tough when you've got to go home and watch it on TV over and over again," said Orlando's Dwight Howard, who was held to 10 points.

"I know I won't be able to sleep and the rest of my teammates won't be able to sleep. We've got to get over it."

Howard praised Turkoglu's defense on the play. Turkoglu had put the Magic ahead, 95-93, with an 11-foot jumper in the lane before James worked his magic.

But it was all about the final shot.

"It was crazy watching the ball when he threw it up," Howard said. "It was like watching a movie. The ball was just spinning."

Cleveland Coach Mike Brown said, joking: "That's how we drew the play up. . . . Just off the top of my head, it's probably the biggest shot I've seen him make since I've been with him in the playoffs."

If Game 1 was such a thriller, the Cavaliers and Magic seemed determined to scale the same dramatic heights in their second meeting -- a massive blown lead, a furious comeback and a riveting finish.

James finished with 35 points and Williams had 19. For the Magic, Rashard Lewis, the hero of Game 1, scored 23 points.

Talk about quickened pulses around here. The Cavaliers bounced back after 48 hours of relative civic angst and soul-searching in the wake of a stunning loss in Game 1.

It seemed unthinkable the Cavaliers could not only lose a game on their home court but also lose when the greatness of James and his 49 points in Game 1 had gone unrewarded.

Friday's win offered relief but still did not erase lingering questions about the Cavaliers' ability to close out games after building big leads.

There were definitely loud echoes of Game 1.

Once again, Howard got into foul trouble and once again the Magic refused to go quietly, and once again the Cavaliers' bench underachieved in a big way.

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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