ORLANDO, May 25 – The Orlando Magic withstood a 41-point performance from LeBron James to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-89 Sunday and take a two games to one lead in their NBA semi-final series.Dwight Howard had 24 points in just 28 minutes of playing time for the Magic who would have a 3-0 series lead if not for James’ three point buzzer beater in game two.
"We just kept fighting," Howard said. "That’s what we do. We fight to the end."
Howard, who sat most of the first half because of foul trouble, went 14-of-19 from the free throw line and had nine rebounds.
Orlando may not have been able to stop James on Sunday, but they controlled the rest of the Cavalier players.
Game four is Tuesday and in his dressing room speech immediately following the game, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy told the players to keep their celebrations to a minimum.
"Great win, enjoy it tonight, but tomorrow from the moment you get up we have got to go to work. We are going up 3-1 on Tuesday," Van Gundy said.
Rafer Alston added 18 and France’s Mickael Pietrus scored 16 for Orlando who have carried their regular season winning record against the Cavaliers into the playoffs.
"We have got to be able to stop everything to the basket," Howard said. "We will fight next Tuesday and get the job done."
James shot 11-of-28 from the field but he couldn’t do it by himself. He missed five free throws down the stretch.
"Tonight we gave ourselves a chance," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown. "We cut it to four and they just made some pretty good plays to get the win."
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Delonte West and Mo Williams combined to shoot 13-of-37 from the field for Cleveland who began the playoffs with eight straight wins and have now dropped two of their last three.
Williams needed four stitches to close a cut around his left eye.
Howard got into foul trouble early, receiving his fifth technical foul of the playoffs.
A player is automatically suspended one game after he receives his seventh technical of the post-season.
"I didn’t say anything to (ref) Joey Crawford," Howard said. "The response was to the other team. I didn’t say anything to Joey Crawford. I’m not stupid enough to get in his face and say anything, so I try to keep it to the other team."