Sunday, May 24, 2009

Eastern Conference Finals Game 3

The difference for the Cavs this year has been the improved play of the supporting cast around LeBron. Sunday it seemed as though Cleveland was stuck in a time warp, as LeBron nearly outscored all of his teammates put together in a 99-89 loss to Orlando that gives the Magic a 2-1 series lead. LeBron scored 41 to go with nine assists and seven rebounds, but the Cavs made just nine field goals that he neither scored nor assisted upon. Cleveland shot just 5-for-26 from behind the arc, and even LeBron was ice cold from long distance, going 1-for-8. The Magic wasn't stellar from the outside either, shooting just 35 percent from three-point range, but surprisingly attempted just 16 treys to Cleveland's 25. Orlando did much of its damage at the line, draining 39 of a strikingly high 51 free throws attempted. Dwight Howard had his own foul trouble, playing just 28 minutes, but made the most of them thanks to plenty of free throw attempts, going 14-for-19 at the line for a team-high 24 points. It was the first time Howard failed to pull down double-digit rebounds in the entire postseason, but his teammates pitched in to keep the Cavs' edge on the glass to just 42-40. Hedo Turkoglu had 10 boards, helping making up for atrocious 1-for-11 shooting from the floor. Rashard Lewis had a relatively quiet night, scoring 15 points, his lowest offensive output since the first round, and still the Magic came away with victory. Rafer Alston and Mickael Pietrus filled the offensive void, as Alston had the hot shooting hand early en route to 18 points while Pietrus scored 11 of his 16 in the second half. The real masterstroke was by Orlando's defense, which allowed Cleveland to shoot just 37 percent and were content to let LeBron try to play one-on-five. Mo Williams was the second leading scorer for the Cavs, with 15, and he shot just 5-for-16 from the floor. Delonte West, with 12, was the only other double-figure scorer. The Cleveland bench continued its struggles on the road, failing to score 10 points for the fourth straight game away from home. The Magic have taken the Cavs completely out of their offensive rhythm in a magnificient defensive display. Cleveland would have been down 0-3 if not for LeBron's buzzer-beater. They'll need a lot more than off-balance three-pointers to right themselves in a series that's been owned by the Magic.

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