Magic Classic Wins: Games 1 & 3 of 2009 Eastern Conference Finals

Fox Sports Florida will broadcast these wins on Tuesday, May 26 at 6:30 & 8:30 p.m.
by John Denton

ORLANDO - Though they entered the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals as prohibitive underdogs and almost crushed under the basketball world’s anticipation of a potential Kobe Bryant/LeBron James NBA Finals matchup, the Orlando Magic also came into that series like someone more than happy to keep a secret all to themselves.

The Magic’s secret: They matched up exceptionally well with the Cavaliers, they had success against them in the past and they confidently felt all along that they would win the series.

Ultimately, the Magic did just that by outlasting every offensive onslaught by James, exposing mismatches on Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu and whipping the heavily favored Cavaliers in six games. Orlando set the tone for the series in Game 1 by rallying back from a 15-point halftime deficit and getting a game-winning 3-pointer from Lewis in a 107-106 victory in Cleveland.

``We kept fighting the whole game. We kept believing we could win,’’ said Howard, who 30 points and 13 rebounds in that Game 1 victory and averaged 25.9 points, 13 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots in the six-game series.

After James dramatically sank a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 2, the Magic reasserted their dominance in Game 3. Playing before a noisy, sellout crowd at Amway Arena, Orlando got 24 points from Howard and 18 off the bench from Mickael Pietrus to win Game 3 99-89 to take a 2-1 series lead. James scored 41 points in that Game 3, but he had little help from a supporting cast that had nowhere near the amount of firepower or depth as the stacked Magic’s roster.

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, Fox Sports Florida has used much of April and May to show select classic games from the Magic’s glorious, 31-year history. After showing Orlando’s defeats of Philadelphia and Boston in the first two rounds of the 2009 playoffs, Fox Sports Florida is re-airing Orlando’s six-game demolition of Cleveland in the East Finals this week. Games 1 and 3 will be televised tonight at 6:30 and 8:30, while Game 4 will be televised on Thursday.

Orlando entered the East Finals having struggled to beat Philadelphia in the first round and needing seven games to outlast the defending champion Boston Celtics in the East Semifinals. Top-seeded Cleveland, meanwhile, came into the East Finals with eight days of rest after having swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs with an 8-0 record. However, the Magic entered knowing that they had gone 2-1 against Cleveland in the regular season and the Cavaliers likely had no counter inside for Howard or for the diverse talents of Lewis and Turkoglu on the perimeter.

As it turns out, all of those factors proved true in Game 1. Lewis not only made all five of his fourth-quarter shots and scored 12 of his 22 points in the final period, but he bailed out the Magic after Howard fouled out of the game in the final minute.

After James appeared to have rescued Cleveland with a driving layup and free throw that sent Howard to the bench, Lewis took a feed from Turkoglu and drilled a clutch 3-pointer from the right wing. That shot with 14.7 seconds to play to put Orlando into the lead for good. Seconds earlier, Lewis had another jumper that had put Orlando ahead 104-103.

Delonte West missed an open 3-point shot with five seconds to play and Mo Williams’ catch-and-shoot try at the horn missed, giving the Magic just the positive start that they needed in the series.

``You got to play 48 minutes,’’ said Lewis, who made nine of 13 shots and three of four 3-pointers against the defense of Cleveland big man Anderson Varejao. ``The important thing is to play 48 minutes. We played only one half (well), but it was the second half.’’

James battered the Magic for 49 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three blocked shots, but it wasn’t enough on this night as Orlando shot 55.1 percent from the floor with nine 3-pointers. Mickael Pietrus, who drew most of the minutes on James, had 13 points and two 3-pointers off the Magic bench. In addition to Orlando’s reserves outscoring Cleveland’s bench 25-5, back-up point guard Anthony Johnson gave the Magic their first lead of the night at 85-84 with 10:06 to play in the fourth quarter.

James had 10 points in the first quarter and 26 by halftime to put Orlando into a 63-48 hole by intermission. However, the Magic started their rally back into the game in the third period, outscoring Cleveland 30-19 in the 12-minute stretch just after halftime.

Turkoglu, who had 25 points and 12 assists in Orlando’s Game 7 defeat of the Celtics in Boston just three nights earlier, dominated play in the fourth quarter once again. Just as in the Game 7 against Boston when he had 10 points and five assists in the final quarter, Turkoglu produced nine points and seven assists in the fourth period of the Game 1 rally past Cleveland.

Turkoglu finished with 15 points, 14 assists and six rebounds. Rafer Alston chipped in 11 points, eight assists and two 3-pointers. In addition to making 14 of 20 shots in the game, Howard broke one of the shot clocks at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena with a particularly violent dunk in the first quarter.

Cleveland lost despite James making 20 of 30 shots and three of six 3-pointers against a Magic defense that ranked first in the NBA that season in points allowed per 100 possessions.

Game 1 ended with James doubled over in pain because of cramping that he struggled with throughout the fourth quarter. Or, maybe, James was hurt knowing that his Cavaliers would struggle mightily in trying to slow down a Magic team that seemed to be on a mission to reach the NBA Finals.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

FOX SPORTS FLORIDA MAGIC CLASSIC WINS SCHEDULE

DAY

DATE

TIME

MATCHUP

REPLAY

Tue

5/26/20

6:30 PM

Magic at Cavs (2009 Game 1)

Sat, May 30 at 12:30 PM

Tue

5/26/20

8:30 PM

Magic vs. Cavs (2009 Game 3)

Sat, May 30 at 2:30 PM

Thu

5/28/20

8 PM

Magic vs Cavs (2009 Game 4)

Sat, May 30 at 5 PM

Sat

5/30/20

7:30 PM

Magic vs. Cavs (2009 Game 6)

Sun, May 31 at 6:30 PM

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