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15-year Orlandoversary: Howard’s OT free throws lift Magic past LeBron and Cavs, 117-116

Orlando Magic Dwight Howard... SetNumber: X79091 TK1 R1 F88

During the late-2000s, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James were arguably the best two players in the NBA at their respective positions. The two put on a show during the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, but the two also played a contest worth remembering on this day 15 years ago.

In an early-season matchup at Quicken Loans Arena, both superstars put up big numbers, but Howard came up big late and in uncharacteristic fashion – at the free throw line. Two late foul shots ultimately lifted the Magic past the Cavaliers in overtime, 117-116.

The Magic were off to a stellar 6-2 start as they arrived in Cleveland on Nov. 14, 2007. Fresh off an NBA Finals appearance, Cleveland was an even 4-4.

In a contest that was close for most of the evening, the Magic led by seven midway through the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers refused to go quietly. A 14-7 run tied the game, but four straight points from Orlando’s Jameer Nelson gave the Magic a 107-103 lead with just 20 seconds remaining.

Howard’s free throws in overtime would decide the game, but it was James who got Cleveland to the extra period with his foul shooting. After a quick basket by James with 17 seconds left, Howard split a pair of free throws.

Down 108-105, James was able to draw contact from Hedo Turkoglu on a three-point attempt. He knocked down all three foul shots to force overtime.

The overtime period featured three ties and six lead changes. Twice, Orlando trailed by two, but Keith Bogans’ three-pointer with more than two minutes remaining put the Magic ahead, 115-114. That score would remain until James’ jumper put Cleveland back in front with 13 seconds left, 116-115.

Unstoppable near the rim for the evening, Howard was where the Magic went on the decisive possession. With 5.8 seconds left, Howard was fouled and forced to go to the line where he shot just 57% for his career. Howard knocked down both shots to give Orlando the lead.

After committing a costly foul late in regulation on James, Turkoglu made the biggest defensive play of the game. The driving James made his way toward the rim, but Turkoglu was able to tie him up for the jumpball with just 2.4 seconds left. The Cavaliers controlled the tip but were unable to get a shot up.

James finished with 39 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists in the loss. Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 23 and 18 points, respectively, in the defeat. Daniel Gibson finished with 16 points off the bench.

Howard tied a career-high with 35 points to go with 16 rebounds and four blocks. Nelson tallied 21 points and 11 assists. Rashard Lewis added 20 points. Turkoglu, Bogans and Carlos Arroyo also all scored in double figures in the victory.

The Magic would take three of the four meetings between the teams during a 2007-08 season in which both teams fell in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The closest meeting between the teams that season came in an overtime contest where two superstars put on a show. It also came on this day 15 years ago.