Magic give Cavs third straight loss

LeBron James posted 33 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and Antawn Jamison bounced back from a dreadful Cav debut with a nice 19-point, eight-rebound effort, but the Magic supporting cast came up big in the fourth quarter to give Orlando a 101-95 win.

Jameer Nelson (18-4-5) and Vince Carter (11-1-3) hit several big shots in the final period, and Rashard Lewis (15-4-2) hit a corner three that sealed the win for the Magic. Dwight Howard (22-16, 4 blks) did his usual damage early on, but Orlando went away from him in the fourth quarter, using a series of Nelson-Carter pick-and-rolls to free Carter up on the block.

Shaq (20-5, 2 blks) had a nice game and was seemingly energized by his feud with Howard about who deserves to have the nickname “Superman.” But with both big men such poor foul shooters, neither team threw the ball inside much in the fourth quarter.

Jamison proved his worth with a nine-point spurt to start the third quarter that gave the Cavs the lead. He’s going to be fine in Cleveland’s offense once he gets comfortable. He’s a tough cover for most power forwards, but as Jeff Van Gundy noted, he’s not nearly as tough to defend when he’s playing small forward. (The same goes for Rashard Lewis, who is far more productive at PF.)

LeBron, coming off of back-to-back losses, seemed especially grumpy today, and was complaining just about every time he took the ball to the hoop and didn’t get the call. I think he has entered what I call the “Kobe Zone,” the convergence of talent and ego where a player thinks he can’t be stopped without a foul, so every failed drive to the basket finishes with some signal to the officials that they missed the call. LeBron took the ball into Dwight Howard twice — once in the first half and once in the fourth quarter — and both times he lit into the refs. On the first play, Howard was planted in the middle of the lane and LeBron clipped him as he went by, and it was a good no-call. The fourth quarter no-call consisted of LeBron taking it directly into Howard’s body and raised arms as Howard retreated towards the basket. The ball got knocked out of bounds and LeBron made his sour pickle face and screamed at the refs.

But if the Cavs want an answer for what went wrong today, they need to look at their backcourt. Mo Williams (1-9), Anthony Parker (1-4) and Delonte West (2-9) combined to go 4-22 (18%) from the field, and that’s not going to get it done.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

LeBron stands by his decision not to shake hands with the Magic

Per ESPN…

“The media, your … job don’t start until ours’ finish. You guys can’t report and write you guys’ story until we take a shower, until we come out and sit on the podium. That’s the only thing I apologize for. As far as shaking hands, it’s something that is not done in the NBA. If it was something like tennis, after tennis, you play, you win, you lose, you go to the center and shake hands, it happens every game in tennis.”

“In basketball, you look at 82 regular-season games, it’s easy, guys are gonna shake hands, the fact that [I didn’t] do the media [session], I think that’s why [the story] was all blown up, and I apologize for that, but I will not apologize for shaking nobody’s hand,” he said. “You never accept losing, ever.”

When the reporter reminded James that most players usually shake hands at the end of a playoff series, James bristled again. “No you don’t, no you don’t,” he responded.

After a few more seconds of back and forth, James continued to try to explain his position. “Teamwork has nothing to do with shaking hands,” James said. “I’m not a poor sport at all. You can ask anyone that knows me, I’m not a poor sport at all. Who brought up the rule that shaking hands, that’s what you’re supposed to do? No one shakes hands at the end of series all the time. No one does that. No one does that at all.”

Sigh.

Related content: What LeBron really meant in his first post-playoff interview

Backs against the wall, Cavs win Game 5

Facing elimination, the Cleveland Cavaliers did what they needed to do tonight by winning Game 5, 112-102. It wasn’t always pretty, but a quick start put the Magic in the hole and a brilliant fourth quarter from LeBron James put Orlando away. He posted 37 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists, and was directly responsible (either by making the bucket or the assist) for 32 straight points spanning from the late third quarter to the late fourth.

The Cavs started out the game on fire, scoring 26 points in the first six minutes, while holding the Magic to just eight points during the same time frame. To put that lead into perspective, at that point the Cavs were on pace to win the game by a score of 208-64. Wow.

But the Magic are nothing if not resilient, and a terrific second quarter trimmed the lead to one at halftime. It looked like the Magic would once again take the game down to the wire, but Lebron’s wonderful performance in the fourth quarter gave control back to the Cavs.

Mo Williams’ fine play in the first half (18 points) allowed LeBron to conserve his energy somewhat for the stretch run. He broke out of his shooting slump, hitting 6 of 9 three pointers and finishing with 24 points. The Cavs also enjoyed some good play from Zydrunas Ilgauskas (6-8, 16 points), Delonte West (6-13, 13 points) and Daniel Gibson (3-5, 11 points). The Cavs shot 50% from the field and 50% from long range.

What’s scary for the Cavs is that it took this kind of performance from LeBron and most of his supporting cast and the game was still close late in the fourth quarter. Dwight Howard (24 points) and Hedo Turkoglu (29 points) played well, but Rashard Lewis (15 points) and Rafer Alston (3 points) combined to shoot just 5 of 23 from the field.

With the win, the pressure is back on the Magic. Nobody really expects the Cavs to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series (that’s not to say it can’t be done), but with a potential Game 7 back in Cleveland, the Magic will definitely want to wrap things up in Orlando.

Game 6 is Saturday at 5:30 PM ET.

NBA officials out of control? Not so much.

John Hollinger writes that the uptick in free throws this postseason is nothing new.

This phenomenon has gone on since prehistoric times as clubs enforce the no-layups policy with greater zeal, and garbage-time situations become fewer and farther between. These playoffs’ free-throw rates have increased over the regular-season rates similar to past seasons’ rates, even though high-foul teams are overrepresented this time around.

Denver led the NBA in free-throw attempts per field goal attempt this season by a wide margin.

Orlando averaged .351, good for third in the league, with center Dwight Howard leading the league in free-throw attempts.

Sum it up, and that’s six conference finals games with an above-average number of fouls, but we also have a far greater sampling of 67 games from the first two rounds of the playoffs. And in those two rounds, we had no deviation from the historic trend whatsoever. The only noteworthy development is a phenomenal increase in the frequency of technical fouls, with 1½ being called a game in this postseason, compared to less than one per night just here years ago.

But as far as live-ball action goes, the evidence for the “refs gone wild” theory is skimpy at best. Basically, we’re getting all bent out of shape over a six-game sample when a sample of 10 times as many games shows the opposite conclusion.

The bottom line is that teams and players don’t care if the refs call it close or loose, they just want consistency throughout the game. Officials can’t “let guys play” in the first quarter and then start calling ticky-tack fouls late in the game. The players adjust based on how the game is being called early on, but if that changes throughout the course of the game, all hell breaks loose.

Cavs/Magic Game 4 reaction

Brian Windhorst of Cleveland.com

What you have here is a team playing at its peak playing against a team on its heels. It is a rather classic situation. The Magic are not a team of destiny, they are a loaded team hitting on all cylinders. It is rather impressive you have to admit. The Cavs were going to have their hands full beating the Magic just playing to their season averages. Playing the way they are now, it isn’t happening. Remember that 4-1 Pistons series victory over the favored Lakers in the 2004 Finals. When Kobe Bryant hit a miracle shot to win Game 2? That is what this feels like watching.

Michael White of the Magic Basketblog.

MJ himself could not win a title with the stiffs LeBron is carrying.

The Cavs might come back and win this series, but how in the world have they gotten this far with such a laughable supporting cast?

Imagine if Van Halen was just Eddie and 3 Michael Anthonys? You might still get “Eruption,” but you’d never hear anything close to “Hot for Teacher.”

The refs are better friends to him than the schlubs who share his uniform.

Think about the players Jordan, Bird and Magic ran with. DJ. James Worthy. Pippen. McHale. Even Horace Grant. If James had just one player of that caliber, he’d probably already have a ring and be working on another.

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