ORLANDO, May 27 – Dwight Howard scored 10 points in overtime as Orlando defeated Cleveland 116-114 Tuesday to push the mighty Cavaliers to the brink of elimination in the National Basketball Association playoffs.The Magic survived a 44-point performance from NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of seven Eastern Conference finals.
Howard scored 27 points – including seven of nine from the free-throw line – with 14 rebounds.
"I had to get myself going. My teammates found me in the right place to score and I kept scoring," Howard said of his performance in overtime, which included three dunks.
"I hate losing," Howard added, "especially on my home floor."
The Magic also made a team record 17 3-pointers, including 11 in the second half and overtime.
Rafer Alston added 26 points and Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus had 17 each for the Magic, who can punch their ticket to the NBA finals with a victory in game five on Thursday in Cleveland.
James had 12 rebounds and seven assists. But Cleveland’s superstar also had eight turnovers.
The defeat left Cleveland fighting for their playoff lives – in a season that featured 66 regular-season wins and four-game sweeps in their first two playoff series.
Lewis made one of two free throws with 3.2 seconds left in overtime to put the Magic up 116-114, but Cleveland had one more opportunity.
James, whose buzzer-beating three-pointer gave Cleveland the game-two victory, managed to evade the double-team on the inbounds pass.
But his shot fell short – sparking chants of "One more win" from Magic fans.
"He didn’t look tired," Howard said of James. "I love playing against him."
Howard picked up his sixth technical foul for taunting Anderson Varejao after making a basket in the fourth period. A seventh technical would draw an automatic one-game suspension.
"I was just so emotional because I made the basket, I was not taunting or talking at anyone," Howard said. "We get emotional on the court and they shouldn’t give a technical for that. I hope they take a look at it."
Cleveland’s Mo Williams, who boldly guaranteed the Cavaliers would win the game and the series, scored 18 points but none after the third quarter.
Delonte West added 17 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas chipped in 12 for Cleveland.
The Magic trailed 98-97 with 4.1 seconds left in regulation when Lewis drained a 3-pointer to give Orlando a 100-98 lead.
James then took the ball but tangled with Pietrus and went down. He made both ensuing free-throws to send the game into overtime.
The Cavaliers head home knowing they are 43-3 at home this season, but history is on Orlando’s side. Teams that go up 3-1 in seven-game series have advanced 95.6 percent of the time.