Magic Steal Game 1 From Cavs at the Q
Posted by r1zzo23 on May 21, 2009
The Cavaliers were 8-0 to start this playoff season and were on nine days of rest. The Magic were coming off an emotional seven game series against the defending champion Boston Celtics, where they did the nearly impossible of winning a Game 7 in Boston. No way they could walk into Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavaliers were 39-2 on the season, and steal the first game of the series.
If I told you before the game started that LeBron James would finish with 49 points (20-30 FGs, 3-6 from deep), six rebounds, eight assists, two steals and three blocks, would you think the Magic had a chance at winning the game or would you immediately think blow out? I, personally, would have thought the latter.
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The Magic came out pretty flat to start, getting down by double-digits very early in the game and the commentators for TNT and their halftime crew started to believe that this was going to be another pushover series for Cleveland. Even Tony Reali (via Twitter) thought Orlando had no chance, saying the series would be “over in 3”, joking that Cleveland was so good that they wouldn’t even need a fourth win in the series. Someone forgot to tell the Magic they weren’t supposed to compete against the NBA’s posterboy.
Orlando entered the half trailing by 15 points and Stan Van Gundy told his team they were playing like “Witnesses”, playing on the Nike slogan “We Are All Witnesses”, by standing around watching LeBron nail jumpers and throw down dunks. The third quarter was what got the Magic rolling. Dwight Howard caught two beautiful lob passes from Hedo Turkoglu to spark his offense, finishing the game with 30 points. Hedo Turkoglu, who had 14 assists in the game, must have had at least half of those in the third quarter on alley-oops to Dwight and pick-and-pops with Rashard Lewis. Rashard started finding his stroke after struggling in the first hallf, ending the game with 22 points on nine of 13 shooting. Anthony Johnson came on in relief of Rafer Alston and did a great job defensively and hit a huge three from the corner. Last, but not least, Mickeal Pietrus hit three jumpers in a row, all of which were contested, to make it a two possession game for the Magic.
The fourth quarter was much more competetive as there were plenty of ties and lead changes throughout. LeBron James was doing everything he could do win the game. He started to miss his long two-point jumpshots that were falling earlier, so he decided to start taking it to the rack. He was either finishing at the rim, getting fouled or kicking it to his three-point assassins in the corner. On two seperate occassions late in the game, he got both Mo Williams and Delonte West wide open threes, both of which hit nothing but net. When LeBron got fouled, though, he did what you would expect him to do in crunch time and missed. He finished the night six of ten from the charity stripe with three of his four misses coming in the final quarter.
Fast forward to 30 seconds remaining in the game. The Magic are winning 104-103, Cleveland has the ball. LeBron drives down the right side of the lane. Dwight Howard, mind you is the Defensive Player of the Year, is waiting for him outside the restricted area, jumps straight up and never swats his hands down. LeBron draws the contact, finishes the layup and, of course, gets the foul call. Oh yeah, did I mention that was Howard’s sixth and final foul. LeBron actually hit this free throw, making it 106-104. On their ensuing possession, Turkoglu and Lewis began frantically passing the ball back and forth, clearly looking for a three. After both have already touched the ball twice, Hedo finally gives it back to Rashard who calmly locked and loaded and drained a three in the face of Anderson Varejao.
Down 107-106 with 14 seconds left, the ball is clearly put in LeBron’s hands. He drives, kicks to the corner to Delonte West, but this time he misses. After the ball bounces off a few hands, LeBron and Rashard end up both clutching to it, drawing a jump ball with just one second remaining. LeBron steals the tip back to Mo Williams, who jumps, catches and fires all before landing on the ground. This was as close as possible as it hits the back of the rim and goes begging. Game over.
For Orlando to steal Game 1 is huge and was exactly what they needed because I think most of us would assume that Cleveland would take one in Orlando at some point in this series. God forbid the Magic somehow get a 2-0 lead in the series going back home to Florida, this could be a quick series, just not in favor of the team everyone thought. But would the NBA allow that to happen?