Orlando steals Game 1

In a great back-and-forth second half, the Magic finally upended the Cavs, 107-106.

The Cavs jumped out early but the Magic settled down in the second quarter and kept the game reasonably close. They would have been down by 12 at halftime if not for a three-quarter-court heave by Mo Williams that put the Cavs up 15.

One thing that jumped out at me is the way that the Cavs matched up at the beginning of the game. They put Delonte West on Hedo Turkoglu, Mo Williams on Courtney Lee and LeBron on Rafer Alston. As good of defense as LeBron has played this season, the Cavs actually think West is their best perimeter defender. He’s smaller than Turkoglu, but that doesn’t really matter because Turkoglu doesn’t post up. West can hug him on the perimeter and contest his jumper and use his quickness to keep him from getting to the hole. Meanwhile, it’s highly unlikely that LeBron will get into foul trouble covering Alston.

Conversely, Stan Van Gundy should really think about switching his front court matchups by putting Howard on Anderson Varejao and Rashard Lewis on the more perimeter-oriented Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Lewis would be at a size disadvantage, but it would allow Howard to stay closer to the rim since Varejao doesn’t spend a lot of time on the perimeter.

For much of the first half, Dwight Howard couldn’t catch a break inside. The refs were letting the Cleveland bigs abuse him, but called him for a couple of ticky-tack offensive fouls, which kept him in foul trouble throughout the first half. If the refs are going to let defenders hack away, then they better let Howard use his strength when he has the ball.

The Magic proved during the Boston series that they are a resilient team. They are not easily rattled and they don’t get down on each other when things aren’t going well. Orlando went into Dwight Howard repeatedly in the third quarter and cut the Cleveland lead to four at the end of the quarter.

The final period was nip tuck the whole way. LeBron fouled Howard out of the game (undeservedly, I might add, as Howard jumped straight up) on a three point play that put the Cavs up two with 0:25 to play and then Lewis hit a huge three to put the Magic up one with 0:14 remaining. The Magic doubled LeBron right away and he gave the ball up. The possession ended with a missed corner three by West, a jump ball and then a Mo Williams attempt off the jump ball that was thisclose to going in.

The Magic continued to fight and took advantage of a Cleveland team that seemingly put it into cruise control at halftime. The Cavs tried to turn it on again in the fourth quarter but Orlando made enough plays to steal Game 1. LeBron finished with 49 points, eight assists, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Mo Williams chipped in with 17 points. Howard had 30 points and 13 boards before fouling out. Rashard Lewis went 9 of 13 from the field (including several clutch shots down the stretch) for 22 points and Hedo Turkoglu scored 15 points while dishing out 14 assists. The Cavs bench was thoroughly outplayed; they were outscored 25-5.

If tonight is any evidence, this is going to be an interesting series.

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