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Magic Rally, Defeat LeBron-Less Cavs 98-92


With LeBron James sitting out to rest in preparation for the postseason, the Orlando Magic overcame a 16-point second quarter deficit, rallying to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 98-92, evening the season series at two games a piece. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 22 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks while Jameer Nelson added 17 points and eight assists. Delonte West lead the Cavs with 21 points off of the bench.

NBA Stats

NBA Stats

NBA Stats

Orlando got behind early in the game because of sloppy play, poor shot selection and a lack of effort and intensity. Orlando turned the ball over six times in the opening quarter. Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison gave the Magic fits during the first half. At the 7:18 mark with the Magic trialing by 16, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was called for a technical foul that seemingly woke the Magic up. Rashard Lewis re-entered the game at Small Forward while Brandon Bass checked in for ineffective Ryan Anderson at Power Forward. Those scored the next six points for the Magic and helped the Magic end the quarter on a 17-6 run. The Magic played with the lead for a majority of the second half, but couldn’t sustain it until late in the game. Cleveland continued to cut into the lead, even regaining it on a few occasions. The Cavs cut the lead back to five with 3:17 to play but Jameer Nelson answered with a three-pointer that put the game away.

Van Gundy turned to his twin towers look to close out the game, playing both Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat. The two successfully locked down the paint and helped hold the Cavaliers to just six points in the final five minutes and 43 seconds of the game. The lineup isn’t something the Magic go to regularly, in fact, they rarely give other teams this look, but it has been effective at times during the season.

Howard, as he nearly always does, played very well. He not only played tremendous defense, blocking six shots, but he shot 9-of-13 from the field and scored 22 points. Howard also continued to show off his improving passing skills by passing the ball out of the paint. He finished with three assists. He still shot just 4-of-9 from the free throw line but made up for it by turning the ball over only twice. Howard also grabbed 13 rebounds despite the Cavaliers holding a 42-38 edge on the glass.

The Magic also allowed Zydrunas Ilgauskas to grab 12 rebounds, with seven coming on the offensive glass. In fact, as a team, the Cavs were able to grab 14 offensive rebounds.

Orlando’s defense played pretty holding, the Cavaliers t an effective field percentage of just 44.5% and limiting the Cavaliers to just six three-pointers. The Magic also scored 21 points on 14 Cavs’ turnovers.

Jameer Nelson had some defensive lapses against Mo Williams and as he often does, took it personally when Williams scored on him. Nelson got his revenge on the other end of the floor. Nelson scored 17 points and his three of his five three-point attempts, including the late game dagger that sealed the deal. Nelson also was outstanding running the team. He found his teammates open good looks, finishing the game with eight assists. And he did all of this while turning the ball over just once.

Micakael Pietrus, who has been shooting the ball very well, gave the Magic a huge lift in the final period. Pietrus made back-to-back three-pointers after the Magic fell behind by two early in the fourth quarter. On the next offensive possession, he stepped up and hit a 17-foot jumper to help the Magic regain the lead again as they went up  85-84 with seven minutes and 37 seconds to play. With the Magic up just two at the 5:05 mark, Pietrus drew a foul, hit both free throws, then stole the ball from Delonte West, passed it off, ran the floor and got it back from J.J. Redick for a jam. Pietrus scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter.

J.J. Redick scored 10 points, dished out six assists and grabbed four rebounds off of the bench in 24 minutes. He made a key play down the stretch. Redick drew a foul and got off a one-handed shot that found the basket. He completed the three-point play that gave Orlando a four-point lead six minutes left in the game.

Game Notes:

  • Dwight Howard record his 62nd double-double.
  • Cleveland had 13 fast break points to Orlando’s two at halftime, but Orlando outscored the Cavs on fast breaks 13-2 in the second half.
  • The Magic did not lost a season series to any team this season.
  • Orlando had 46 points in the paint to Cleveland’s 32.

Next Up: The Magic will play in their final back-to-back and final road game of the season when they play the Pacers in Indiana on Monday night.

Final Thought: The Magic grinded out a win against the undermanned Cavs but the game not only lacked LeBron James but lacked intensity. It looked nothing like a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).