x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Howard puts history firmly on the Magic's side

Dwight Howard scores 10 points in overtime to lead Orlando to a surprise 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference finals series with the Cavaliers.

Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, right, goes to the basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half.
Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, right, goes to the basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half.

ORLANDO // Dwight Howard scored 10 points in overtime to lead a sharpshooting Orlando to a 116-114 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, giving the Magic a surprise 3-1 lead in their NBA Eastern Conference finals series. The Magic had to overcome 44 points and a last-second shot by the Cleveland star LeBron James to secure the win that puts them within a game of the NBA finals with Game Five in Cleveland. History is on the Magic's side heading into Thursday's game with teams with a 3-1 lead are a staggering 182-8 in series dating back to 1947.

Howard finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and seven of nine free throws for the Magic, who made a team record 17 three-pointers - 11 after half-time. "I had to get myself going," Howard said of his overtime effort, which included three dunks, a tip-in and two free throws. "My teammates found me in the right place to score and I kept scoring. I hate losing, especially on my home floor. We kept fighting for the win."

Orlando's Rafer Alston added 26 points and Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus had 17 each. James was spectacular again, adding 12 rebounds and seven assists, but he had eight turnovers for the Cavs, whose season is slipping away. A Lewis free throw with 3.2 secs left gave the Magic the 116-114 lead, and the Cavaliers one last chance. The League MVP James, who saved the Cavaliers with a three-pointer on the buzzer in Game Two, was double-teamed on the inbounds pass but still managed to get free. He got the ball, dribbled into the frontcourt and rose from 35 feet for his shot, which fell short.

James, who played the entire second half OT, has scored more than 40 in three games in the series. Cleveland is 0-3 in them. "He didn't look tired. He just nearly hit a 50-footer from half-court," Howard said of James, exaggerating the distance a bit. "I love playing against him." Cleveland's Mo Williams scored 18 points, none after the third quarter. Delonte West added 17 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 12.

In regulation time, Lewis' three-pointer with 4.1 secs left gave the Magic a 100-98 lead. Cleveland set up a clear-out play for James, who drove the right side and was tripped in the lane with half a second left. James swished his first free throw attempt, and then after a long delay, he made his second, which danced on the rim before going in. Orlando called a timeout and tried a lob play for Howard, who was ridden out under the basket. There was no whistle, and Howard yelled in protest, but they ended regulation squared at 100 points apiece.

Howard picked up his sixth technical foul for taunting an opponent in the fourth quarter. A seventh technical would earn him an automatic one-game suspension in the play-offs. "I was just so emotional because I made the basket, I was not taunting or talking at anyone," Howard said. "We get emotional on the court and they shouldn't give a technical for that. I hope they take a look at it." *AP