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Magic doesn't fade after all, as Orlando beats Cleveland, 99-89

Orlando takes a 2-1 lead in the series with a home victory, a game after LeBron James hit a buzzer-beater people are still buzzing about.

May 25, 2009|Iliana Limon

ORLANDO, FLA. — It may have been the shot heard 'round the NBA, but the Orlando Magic refuse to let it define this series.

LeBron James made what many analysts were quick to call one of the greatest NBA postseason shots of all time, nailing a three-pointer with one second left in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals to give Cleveland a huge win over the Magic and tie the series, 1-1.

It didn't turn out to be a fatal blow.

Orlando relied on its depth, defense and deafening home crowd to bounce back from James' dagger, claiming a decisive 99-89 win over the Cavaliers in Game 3 on Sunday night at Amway Arena.

The Magic protected the home-court advantage it had earned by winning Game 1 in Cleveland. With Sunday's victory, Orlando took a 2-1 lead in the series. Game 4 is set for Tuesday night in Orlando.

Dwight Howard was hounded by foul trouble but still managed to finish with a team-high 24 points and nine rebounds. It was only the third time Howard has not posted a double-double in the playoffs.

Orlando point guard Rafer Alston was the latest perimeter player to come up big for the Magic in the playoffs, scoring 18 points in 36 minutes.

James finished with 41 points during the Cavaliers' second loss of the postseason, shooting 11 for 28 from the field to pace Cleveland.

Although Game 3 did not extend a trend of one-point victories, there were plenty of contentious plays during the matchup that saw 58 fouls called on both teams.

Cleveland Coach Mike Brown called it a physical contest. He said he was concerned about his team fouling often on the perimeter and implied there may have been some questionable calls against Cleveland, with the Magic shooting 51 free throws compared with 35 for the Cavaliers.

"It will be interesting to go back and look at the tape and look at the fouls," Brown said. "That's a whole heck of a lot of free throws, to get there 51 times in a 48-minute game."

There were several contentious plays, with the first big one coming at the 5:43 mark in the second quarter. Orlando's Anthony Johnson was fouled by Cleveland guard Mo Williams while driving to the basket and simultaneously managed to elbow Williams in the face.

The Cavaliers surrounded Williams as trainers held a towel over his face to stop the blood flowing from two gashes near his eye and nose. The Cleveland training staff applied four stitches, allowing Williams to quickly return to the game.

Johnson was called for a flagrant foul 1, and the incident will be reviewed by NBA officials.

Howard was clearly frustrated throughout the game as he racked up fouls, playing only 28 minutes. He managed to outlast Cleveland's Anderson Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Varejao fouled out with 2:43 remaining in the contest and Ilgauskas followed at the 1:08 mark.

Orlando's Mickael Pietrus made two free throws, giving the Magic a 94-86 lead, to the delight of the rowdy sellout crowd of 17,461.

Brown said the Game 3 loss would not torpedo the Cavaliers.

"We're confident, we feel like we can win and, like I said, it's one game," he said. "There's still a lot of basketball left."


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