December 22, 2014

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Cavaliers Playoffs: Overtime loss leaves Cavs in need of a miracle

ORLANDO, Fla. – Superman swooped in just in time.
And the Cavaliers are just about out of time.
Dwight Howard scored 10 points in overtime and the Orlando Magic, raining down 3-pointers like a Florida thunderstorm, withstood 44 points and a last-second shot by LeBron James for a 116-114 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Howard finished with 27 points,
14 rebounds and again made his free throws – 7 of 9 – for the resilient Magic, which made a team-record 17 3-pointers, including 11 after halftime.
Orlando can earn its first trip to the NBA Finals since 1995 with a win in Game 5 on Thursday night in Cleveland.
Rafer Alston added 26 points and Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus had 17 each for the Magic.
James was spectacular again, adding 12 rebounds and seven assists, but he had eight turnovers for the Cavs, whose season of seasons is slipping away.
“Move on to the next game,” he said. “We had our chances and we didn`t execute. Move on to the next game. Try to get the game on Thursday back home and come down here and try to get Game 6. I`m looking forward to the challenge.
“I`ll be ready and I think our guys will be ready also.”
Howard has been a huge challenge for the Cavs in this series.
“I had to get myself going. My teammates found me in the right place to score and I kept scoring,” he said of his overtime effort that included three dunks, a tip-in and two free throws. “I hate losing, especially on my home floor. We kept fighting for the win.”
After Lewis made one of two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to give the Magic the
116-114 lead, the Cavs had one final chance.
And every person inside Amway Arena and millions watching on TV knew who was going to get it – James.
The league MVP, who saved the Cavaliers with a 3-pointer at the final horn in Game 2, was double-teamed on the inbounds pass but still managed to get free. He came back and got the ball before dribbling into the frontcourt as Magic fans held their collective breath.
James then rose from 35 feet and, with a clean look at the basket, sent his shot toward the rim.
It fell short, and Cleveland`s dream season may be next.
“It`s a shot I can definitely make,” James said. “It just didn`t go.”
James, who played the entire second half and OT, has scored more than 40 in three games in the series. Cleveland is 0-3 in them.
“He didn`t look tired. He just nearly hit a 50-footer from halfcourt,” Howard said of James, exaggerating the distance a bit. “I love playing against him.”
Cleveland`s Mo Williams, who guaranteed the Cavs would win Game 4 and the series, scored 18 points, none after the third quarter. Delonte West added 17 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 12 for the Cavaliers.
Following the game, Magic fans chanted “One more win.”
History is on the Magic`s side heading into Game 5. Teams with a 3-1 lead are a staggering 182-8 in series dating to 1947.
Lewis` catch-and-shoot three on an inbounds play with 4.1 seconds left in regulation gave the Magic, which attempted 38 threes, a 100-98 lead.
Cleveland set up a clear-out play for James, who drove the right side and was tripped in the lane by Pietrus with .5 seconds to play.
James swished his first free throw attempt, and then after a long delay, he made his second, which danced delicately on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before finally falling through.
Orlando called a timeout and tried a lob play for Howard, who was ridden out under the basket by Anderson Varejao. Both players tumbled out of bounds, and although there was enough contact for the officials to call two or three fouls, there was no whistle.
Howard screamed in protest, pleading his case to anyone who would listen.
“Are you serious?” Howard said, turning to the media section. “If that was LeBron …”
Cleveland`s Daniel Gibson made two free throws to open overtime, and then it was Howard`s turn.
He dunked the first two times he touched it, shaking the backboard each time and Orlando opened what looked to be an insurmountable six-point lead with 1:11 left on Howard`s tip-in.
James wasn`t done, though.
He made a left-handed scoop, two free throws and an are-you-kidding-me? three while falling into Orlando`s bench with 4.6 seconds to go.
However, James couldn`t repeat his Game 2 miracle and must now hope he and the Cavs can regroup at home, where they are 43-3 this season.