Magic triumph in chippy Game 3

The so-called “shot that saved Cleveland” didn’t seem to affect the Magic in Game 3. The heartbreaking Game 2 loss would have sent most teams into a tailspin, but Orlando has been resilient all season long, and like any championship-caliber team, the Magic look forward not backward.

Game 3 was the most physical of the series thus far. The officials called 58 fouls and the teams shot a combined 86 free throws. Dwight Howard shot 19 of the Magic’s 51 attempts, and made 14. That’s a 74% clip for a guy who shot 59% on the season.

Free throws also had an impact on the Cavs. LeBron James made 18 of 24 attempts (75%), but missed five attempts in a six-minute stretch in the fourth quarter that, had he made them all, would have had his team trailing by one instead of six with two minutes to play. Even the most diehard Cleveland fan would admit that LeBron was getting to the line more than he ought to be in the final quarter. He got just about every call when he went to the hole, drawing a questionable blocking foul on Mickael Pietrus, and drew a foul on the retreating Howard at the rim. Then Howard fouled out after cleanly blocking LeBron’s three-point attempt with 0:36 to play. In short, LeBron is getting Jordan-esque treatment from the refs, even on the road.

He posted 41 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, two steals and an amazing block, but shot just 1 of 8 from three-point range. The Magic’s plan is to encourage LeBron to shoot the long ball. If he happens to get hot, then they’ll just have to live with it. The Cavs didn’t have much else going offensively. Mo Williams scored 15 points on 5 of 16 shooting and Delonte West pitched in with 12 points. The rest of the Cavs combined for 21 of the team’s 89 points.

The Magic had a more balanced attack with five players in double figures, led by Howard’s 24 points.

With the loss, the Cavs find themselves in a hole once again. They do not want to go down 3-1 in the series, so while Game 4 isn’t quite a “must-win,” it’s damn close.

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