Instant reaction: Magic 99, Cavs 89


Here are some quick and random thoughts after Sunday night’s Game 3.

After two gut-wrenching, drama-filled games, the Magic took control and never let go in Sunday night’s victory over the Cavs. There was nothing flashy or spectacular about this game — the Magic simply stomped on the Cavs and never let up, letting the score remain close but squashing any semblance of a Cleveland comeback at every turn. The Magic led throughout the second half, never pulling away but not allowing the Cavs to come within a possession of the lead. This was the kind of victory the Magic might not complete a couple weeks ago. But it’s clear this team is learning how to win.

It was genuinely rowdy at Amway Arena tonight. I can count the empty seats I see on one hand, and this place is really, really loud. The Magic brought out some new tricks, such as the “Get Loud” tower and a huge “Go Magic flag” that covers the width of an entire section of seats. Without a doubt, the Magic have a legitimate home-court advantage in this arena. Still, I think it was a crazier atmosphere in Game 6 against Boston.

Celebrity watch: Lil’ Wayne, Usher, Tiger Woods, Stuart Scott, Carlos Boozer, Dwyane Wade, Ray Lewis, D.J. Augustin, Lawrence Frank, Kirk Speraw… and that’s not counting all the members of the Media such as Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller.

Dwight Howard came out in full force offensively, scoring six points in the first five minutes and throwing a nice pass to Rafer Alston. But two early fouls put him on the bench, and the Magic were able to build a nice first-quarter lead without the big guy.

Alston was unbelievable in the first quarter, hitting five of six field goals and scoring 11 points. A couple silly turnovers aside, he carried the team throughout the first quarter, hitting on a variety of mid-range jumpers and floaters.

When Zydrunas Ilgauskas posts up Marcin Gortat, it looks like Big Z is trying to score on his little brother.

LeBron James walks through the Magic Dancers’ routine, much to the dismay of everybody else in the arena. It’s LeBron’s world, we’re just living in it.

The game really slogged through the middle of the game… Neither team was ahead by more than six points for most of the second or third quarters, as both teams played solid defense and pretty conservative offense.

I’ve never seen a player so effortlessly and fluidly dominant as LeBron James. He gets his points in transition and in the flow of the offense — it’s not like other premier scorers who do most of their work through isolation sets only. You think the Magic are doing an OK job on him, but you look up and he has 23-4-6 early in the third quarter.

To guys like Charles Barkley and some others who have insulted Orlando’s crowd, cut Magic fans some slack — this is their third trip to the Conference finals ever, and first in more than a decade. While the crowd doesn’t always cheer at quite the right time, its youthfulness and exuberance provides plenty of potential for this city.

The score was stuck on 70-63 for several minutes in the third quarter. The Cavs wasted several stops that could’ve offered an early comeback, and Orlando missed out on an opportunity to get the lead into double-digits. Then again, LeBron James and Dwight Howard were both off the floor, so both teams were probably pretty content to keep the score even with their stars on the bench.

6 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Woody turns to me and asks, “Where’s Tony Battie been tonight?” On cue, Battie rips off his warm-up suit and marches on over the scorer’s table.

First three quarters: Hedo Turkoglu, zero field goals.

Somehow, Mickael Pietrus didn’t commit his first foul until there was 4:40 left in the fourth quarter. This is a guy who jumps at movement quicker than a horse-fly. For him to not get a single foul while defending LeBron for 20+ minutes is incredible.