ORLANDO // The Orlando Magic crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-90 on Saturday night to win the Eastern Conference championship and set up an NBA Finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers. Dwight Howard, who likes to be called Superman, played the role to perfection, scoring a play-off-career best 40 points and grabbing 14 rebounds as the Magic won the best-of-seven Eastern series in six games.
League MVP LeBron James notched 25 points for Cleveland, which posted the NBA's best regular-season record but could not overcome match-up problems with the outside-shooting Magic. The NBA Finals begin on Thursday at Los Angeles, where the Western Conference champions will make a record 30th Finals appearance. They lost to the Boston Celtics in six games in 2008. Orlando was swept aside by the Houston Rockets in four games in 1995 in their only previous finals appearance.
The Magic, who beat the Cavaliers in five consecutive games in Orlando this season, opened up a five-point first-quarter lead thanks to Howard's 13 points. The lead grew to 18 points by half-time as James was held scoreless in the second quarter. Cleveland scored the first eight points of the second half, but Orlando remained in control behind Howard and a strong defence. Rashard Lewis added 18 points and Mickael Pietrus contributed 14.
Cleveland got 22 points from Delonte West and 17 from Mo Williams. *Reuters