With win, Orlando Magic prove they’re legitimate NBA title contenders


Tony Dejak, Associated Press To me, this win wasn’t about the Cavaliers not being tested, the crowd being taken out of it or LeBron James running out of gas. All those things are true, yes — but this game was all about the Magic proving they know how to win. Proving they have the mental fortitude, the team cohesion and the resiliency to win under any circumstance. You can never count the Magic out. Ever. And that’s amazing to say, because you’ve never been able to trust this Magic team to close out a win, no matter what the circumstance. Ever. A week ago, when the Magic allowed the Celtics to rattle off a 13-0 run and steal Game 5 away from Orlando, did you ever think we’d be here? Did you think a team that suffered one of the worst collapses in NBA playoff history would mount an implausible comeback on the road, against the NBA’s No. 1 team and No. 1 player, just eight days later? The Magic are legitimate NBA title contenders. That feels good to say. Magic fans have been saying it all season, but did you really believe it until now? Did you really think this team could play at the highest level on the biggest stage under the most pressure, and win? We knew the players had enough talent, yeah — but was the team capable of it? The Magic are learning how to win on the fly. It’s amazing to see. Everything Orlando has been through has made them so much stronger. They went through all this…

LeBron James scored a playoff career-high 49 points.

Dwight Howard fouled out.

The Cavaliers led by 16 in an arena where they are 43-2 this season.

… but were never fazed. Now, for the scary part: I don’t believe the Magic can defend LeBron James much better than they did tonight. The Magic would help with two and three defenders, yet LeBron would still be able to infiltrate the paint and sneak himself a lay-up. The Magic forced him into 18 jumpers, but he made 11 of them and forced Orlando to respect his jump shot. “The one thing I don’t leave this game with is any idea whatsoever what to do with him,” Stan Van Gundy said after the game. “As a coach, I should have some idea. I don’t have a clue.” Mickael Pietrus did the best job of anyone on James, playing 30 minutes and matching up with LeBron down the stretch. He hardly did a good job, by normal NBA standards. But with LeBron, you take what you can get. The Magic did a nice job limiting the rest of the Cavs, as Mo Williams was second on the team with 17 points on 6-of-19 shooting (that includes his 65-foot heave that found the bottom of the net). It’s difficult to say how much of Williams’ poor night had to do with Orlando’s defense and how much had to do with his own personal struggles (didn’t we say the same thing about Ray Allen?), but the Magic will take it. Rashard Lewis was absolutely cold-blooded, scoring the last five points of the game on must-have, pressure-filled outside jumpers. He didn’t blink. With Howard on the bench, Lewis stepped in filled the role of the superstar. Hedo Turkoglu played great, as well, finishing with 15 points and 14 assists while hitting several shots in the fourth quarter. He hit a nice 3-pointer to put the Magic up three with 5 minutes to play, and he hit all of the free-throws down the stretch. Lewis and Turkoglu scored Orlando’s last 16 points. How’s that for closers? What we’ve got here is a case of closer-by-committee. It’s only fitting that the game ended with LeBron and several Magic players scrumming for the ball on the baseline. That’s how the rest of this series is going to be.