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Orlando Magic 104, Cleveland Cavaliers 90

Rashard Lewis of the Orlando Magic gives a high five to coach Stan Van Gundy after the Magic's 104-90 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 17th 2008.
Stan Van Gundy gives Rashard Lewis a high-five after the Orlando Magic defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 104-90, on Monday night. Lewis scored 21 points for Orlando.
Photo by Gary W. Green, the Orlando Sentinel

Noted NBA scribe Ira Winderman wrote this weekend that the Magic are "an  all-or-nothing jump-shooting team." In the first half of tonight's game against the Conference-rival Cleveland Cavaliers, they were "nothing." In the second half, they were "all," hitting 8 of their final 12 three-point tries to quickly erase a 10-point, third-quarter deficit. They went on to win by a final score of 104-90. Here's the boxscore.

I want to give our guys a lot of credit: they gutted out a tough win. We got of to a tough start on the offensive end -- how does 1-of-9 from the field sound to you? -- and were hampered by foul trouble on the defensive end. And when LeBron James slammed-down a Damon Jones airball towards the end of the first half to give the Cavaliers a five-point lead, I had the feeling that Cleveland was headed for an easy win.

Not so, however. Our six three-pointers in the third quarter -- including five in a three-minute span -- swung the momentum back our way. We started the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run, and after that I never doubted the outcome. When our guys are nailing their threes, especially at home, we're a tough team to beat.

But it wasn't just the three-ball that kept us afloat. The Cavaliers, even with the recently acquired Ben Wallace and Joe Smith, could not contain Dwight Howard down low. Dwight shot just 6-of-14 from the field -- due in large part to some hacks by Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas that went uncalled -- but made up for it with an 11-of-15 showing from the foul line. Howard also got Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao in foul trouble. In fact, the only negative in Dwight's game tonight was his tendency to goaltend: he was called for three illegal swats in tonight's game, and none of those shots had a prayer of going in anyway. Indeed, with some better shooting nights from Hedo Turkoglu (5-of-16) and Jameer Nelson (2-of-12), as well as some shot-blocking discretion from Howard, this win certainly could have been by a much wider margin.

Tonight's convincing, come-from-behind victory over a well-respected opponent puts the Magic 21 games over .500, makes them winners of 5 straight games, and owners of a 12-3 record since the All-Star break. Yes, many of the wins in that stretch have been over inferior teams -- New York, Atlanta, the L.A. Clippers, Miami, and Indiana, to name a few -- the Magic are at least taking care of business, which is something they failed to do earlier this season when they lost to Atlanta and to Indiana. They've also won some quality games in this most recent stretch, including the 18-point drubbing of Detroit and tonight's win over Cleveland.

The Magic have Tuesday off before playing the Wizards on Wednesday. Let's hope they don't rest on their laurels, though. The real season doesn't begin for another month.

Final notes:

  • Stan Van Gundy called upon Brian Cook when Rashard Lewis picked up his second foul in the first period. Cook played only a shade under 7 minutes, but that didn't stop him from taking 7 shots and committing 3 fouls...
  • ...which lead to significant playing time for Pat Garrity. The most-tenured current Magic player scored 5 points and grabbed 3 rebounds tonight, and worked his tail off on both ends of the floor. Hats-off to him, and hats-off to Stan Van Gundy for trusting him enough.
  • Cleveland is a very poor offensive team. For whatever reason, Delonte West brought the ball up on the majority of the Cavaliers' possessions, and frequently the shot-clock ran down to below 10 seconds before the offense really started moving. Luckily for them, they get plenty of second-chance opportunities, and they play stifling defense.
  • A Saint Patrick's Day prank? Both of the numeral 8s on Pat Garrity's jersey were upside-down tonight. Here's the front view from Gary W. Green and the back view from Fernando Medina. Notice how the larger "hole" in the 8 is on top in both instances? That's wrong.
  • Jameer Nelson was straight-up awful tonight. West, his college teammate at Saint Joseph's, got the best of him frequently, even managing to block two of his shots. And one of West's 2 offensive boards came after Nelson simply forgot to box him out. He ran the offense okay, I guess, but one of his three turnovers was an absolutely boneheaded outlet pass that he telegraphed. Cleveland's Sasha Pavlovic snatched it with ease, then threw the ball ahead to LeBron James for a three-pointer.