CLEVELAND, May 21 – The Orlando Magic stunned LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday, rallying for a 107-106 victory in game one of the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference finals.The Magic defied a 49-point performance from NBA Most Valuable Player James, and ended what had been Cleveland’s unbeaten run through two best-of-seven series in these playoffs.
With 30 points from Dwight Howard and 22 from Rashard Lewis, the Magic erased a 15-point halftime deficit and stole home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series from which one team will advance to the NBA finals.
"It’s a big victory," said Howard, who also grabbed 13 rebounds. "We kept fighting the whole game. We kept believing we could win."
James’s 49 points improved on his previous playoff high of 48. He also had eight assists and six rebounds in a performance that left Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy scratching his head.
"The one thing I don’t leave this game with is any idea what to do with him," Van Gundy admitted. "He’s unbelievable, and he was incredible tonight. But our guys fought really hard."
James’s heroics weren’t enough to carry the Cavaliers to victory, in part because Orlando’s bench outscored Cleveland’s reserves 25-5.
The MVP limped off the court exhausted and aching after Cleveland suffered just their third defeat in 46 home games. They host game two on Friday.
James was still on the court, doubled over in pain as fans exited the arena. After some assistance from Cavs staff he made his way to the locker room.
Lewis drained a 3-pointer with 14.7 seconds left and the Magic, who needed seven games to dethrone defending champions Boston in the previous round, survived two shots by Cleveland in the final seconds.
Cleveland’s Mo Williams missed a catch-and-shoot jump shot off a jump ball at the buzzer.
"One thing about our team – this is a resilient basketball team," Van Gundy said. "We’ll keep playing. We’ll keep fighting. The second half, we just continued to fight."
Howard, Orlando’s self-described Superman, showed that the Magic weren’t going to be cowed by Cleveland early on, knocking down the 24-second shot clock above the basket with a thunderous dunk the first time he touched the ball.
He seized a rebound, then leapt and shoved the ball through the hoop with both hands.
When he grabbed the rim, the shot-clock toppled backwards. Immediate attempts to repair it failed, and the shot clocks at both ends were replaced by temporary portable clocks until halftime, when the regular clocks were restored to service.
The Magic took the lead for the first time with 10:06 remaining, when Anthony Johnson’s 3-pointer gave them an 85-84 edge.
Lewis’s jump shot with 31.6 seconds left gave Orlando a 104-103 lead.
James then scored on a drive to the basket, drawing a sixth foul on Howard.
He completed a 3-point play to give Cleveland a 106-104 lead, but Lewis responded by nailing his 3-pointer over Anderson Varejao.
"You’ve got to play 48 minutes," Lewis said. "The most important thing is to play 48 minutes. We played only one half – but it was the second half."