In what may be a prelude to the NBA playoffs, the Orlando Magic forced the Cleveland Cavaliers to put the broom back in their closet. In a game that could have gone either way until the final minute of play, Orlando stood their ground by winning 101 to 95.
With a sellout crowd in attendance, 17, 461 thumping fans found themselves witnessing a grudge match between two of the best. Though the Magic lost two out of two, today Howard, Nelson, Carter, and the gang would not be denied.
Concentrating on points in the paint, first quarter statistics favored Orlando as they made 12 out of 20 shots (10 shots in the paint). Putting any thoughts of a personal battle between the two towers, Dwight Howard showed the world just what the power of agility, aggression, and control can do. On the flip side, Cleveland made only 8 shots out of 20, capitalizing mostly inside the paint as well (making 6 of 8).
From the beginning, this was not a game for the weak of heart or for those who bruise easily. This war was to be fought on the battle field.
Throughout the first quarter, Lebron James confirmed his claim to be recognized as the king of this hill. Not to be denied, Howard carried forth his own agenda by dominating both ends of the court. Moving to the other side of the coin and into the realm of those who appeared not to play a role, one name comes to the forefront: Vince Carter.
Vince (for the first three quarters) perfected his rendition of the invisible man, perhaps he heard a Hollywood producer happened to be in need of an actor for a Ralph Emerson play. Though he did score 2 points in the quarter, his presence was minimal and, at times, not in the best interest of the overall game plan. The supporting cast of Lewis, Nelson, and Howard led the charge and patiently waited for Carter’s true self to appear.
First quarter final score, Magic 25, Cleveland Cavaliers 18.
Second quarter found much the same as the first though the level of intensity numbed halfway through. In this quarter, Howard’s quickness proved too much for the “Big Machine;” Carter sat out a chunk of the second, no one seemed to notice.
Second half began with the same intensity as the first. Cavaliers came out strong, took the lead quickly and decided to sit a spell. Finding themselves suddenly down by two, the Magic called time at the 10:21 point for a face-to-face…Van Gundy did not seem pleased.
Nelson received the inbounds, came to the top of the arc, shot a bullet and found nothing but air…unfortunately no net was included. With neither team committed to the cause of running the score up, Carter found himself on the wrong end of a foul with 4:21 left to go. Though points for the Cavaliers were the result, a heavy dose of adrenal made its way onto the court and into the packed audience.
By the end of the third, we had ourselves a game. Watching with pen in hand, I couldn’t help but ask, “What took so long?”
For trial pursuit lovers, O’Neal recorded his 3,000 career assist; a great accomplishment needing to be recognized.
Start of the fourth witnessed the Magic’s bench taking over the court (with the exception of Howard who was the only remaining starter in action). The bench played with emotion and focus, obviously fearing the thought of sweep and ridicule.
Carter returned to the court and form, coming alive at the 5:30 mark with an “in-your-face” slam, bringing the Magic to within one.
Determined to make sure Cleveland had no second-wind intention of bringing out a broom, Nelson and Carter delivered multiple one-two punches. With a standing packed house, the Magic played as though a loss meant tomorrow would never come. Thinking of Garth Brooks and a deafening sound echoing four walls, the balance was about to become committed and an old country song would not have to be revisited.
Holding the lead with 58.5 seconds to go, Howard stood at the free-throw line, looking to increase the lead and prove once and for all he is not the one to foul when times get tough. His first shot up, all net. Second shot up, the ball danced around the rim and into the hands of the opposing team. Trailing by four and time running from itself, Cleveland was unable to connect; a biased crowd breathed a little more easily.
Orlando’s Lewis iced the game with a 3-pointer while 20 ticks waited their turn.
In a game filled with implications, the Orlando Magic made their case as the world witnessed what may be one of two who will be playing in the NBA Finals.
In search of a good game, I am taking my pen and paper to the floor.
See you next time,