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It's Magic: Orlando makes Kobe-LeBron disappear
Updated: 2009-05-31 13:24

Howard's one flaw has been his free-throw shooting, but he made 12 of 16 in Game 6.

The Magic's season hasn't been without its share of turmoil. Point guard Jameer Nelson sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in early February, a setback that at the time seemed as if it would prevent Orlando from doing anything special this year.

But general manager Otis Smith acquired guard Rafer Alston in a trade with Houston. Alston, a former playground legend, fit in perfectly. In the opening round against Philadelphia, the Magic lost the opener before rebounding and winning a close-out Game 6 on the road.

It's Magic: Orlando makes Kobe-LeBron disappear

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James leaves the floor after his team was defeated by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Finals NBA basketball playoff series in Orlando, Florida May 30, 2009. [Agencies]

Then, following Game 5 of the Boston series, Howard called out Van Gundy for not getting him the ball enough and challenged his substitution patterns. The Magic shook off that spat, too, winning two straight, including Game 7 on Boston's parquet.

In the conference finals, they beat Cleveland with a devastating mix of inside power and outside firepower.

All year, the Cavaliers ended their pregame huddle the same way, with James leading them in a cheer he used with his high school team.

"One, two, three," James said.

"Hard work," they replied.

"Four, five, six," he offered.

"Championship," they yelled.

But when the final horn sounded, James could only pull out his jersey and walk slowly off the floor just as he did last year after losing Game 7 in Boston. As great as James was, this wasn't his season, and once again Cleveland fans will feel nothing but heartache as they wait for a team to end the city's 45-year championship drought.

Everything that could go wrong did in the first half for the Cavaliers.

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They couldn't stop Howard in the paint and when Cleveland's defense focused its efforts on containing him, the Magic worked the ball around the arc and took turns launching 3-pointers.

Lewis and Alston drained 3s late in the second quarter as the shoot-first-ask-questions-later Magic built an 18-point halftime lead. On Cleveland's last possession before halftime, James, who didn't score in the period, drove the lane and missed a runner while being knocked to the floor.

He sat there in disbelief, looking for a call, looking for help, looking lost.

Cleveland's coaching staff stormed off barking at the officiating crew and coach Mike Brown was assessed a technical.

When the Cavs came back out after halftime, Howard was practicing his free throws. As he walked toward Cleveland's bench, injured forward Lorenzen Wright, dressed in a suit, jumped up and grabbed the net to try and knock out one of Howard's attempts.

The shot dropped in anyway, another symbolic moment.

A little more Magic.

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