Magic advance to Finals

Orlando rode a strong first half performance to an 18-point halftime lead, and held off the Cavs’ late charge to win Game 6 (103-90) and clinch a date with the Lakers in the Finals.

Dwight Howard had arguably his best game of the series, posting 40 points (14-21 from the field, 12-16 from the free throw line), 14 rebounds and four assists. The Magic overcame substandard shooting from Hedo Turkoglu (3-12, 10 points) with fine play from Rashard Lewis (6-13, 18 points) and Mickael Pietrus (5-10, 14 points).

For the Cavs, Game 6 was more about their failure to have an answer for Howard than it was about getting poor play from LeBron’s sidekicks. Delonte West (9-19, 22 points) and Mo Williams (6-12, 17 points) both played pretty well and shot a combined 5 of 7 from long range. Anderson Varejao (7-12, 14 points) also had a solid game. However, the rest of the Cavs shot a combined 5 for 17 (29%) for 12 points.

James had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and shot just 40% from the field. Most players would be reasonably happy with a night like that, but the Cavs needed more from LeBron in an elimination game on the road. Still, he averaged 41.2 points (on 50% shooting), 8.6 rebounds and 8.2 assists in the series, so it’s hard to fault his play.

Looking ahead, the Lakers match up pretty well with the Magic in that they have a couple of big men in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol that will try to slow down Howard. Bynum in particular needs to play well and it’s not clear that his stamina is strong enough to play a ton of minutes. Gasol isn’t strong enough to handle Howard one-on-one, so when Bynum is on the bench, the Lakers will probably have to throw some double-teams at Orlando’s big man. Meanwhile, Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus will be asked to watch Kobe. If they can slow him down and the Magic continue to hit their threes, they’ll have a good shot to upset the Lakers.

Check back later in the day for a complete breakdown of the challenges that the Cavs face over the next year or so as they try to pick up the pieces and re-sign LeBron.

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