- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

— LeBron James had no shot.

Dwight Howard scored 24 points - 14 on free throws - and Rafer Alston added 18 as the Orlando Magic, sick of seeing replays of James’ dramatic Game 2 buzzer-beater, downed the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-89 on Sunday night to take a 2-1 lead in an Eastern Conference finals getting nastier by the minute.

James scored 41 on just 11-for-26 shooting and missed five free throws in the fourth quarter. But Cleveland’s superstar again didn’t get enough help from his teammates. Mo Williams, who needed four stitches to close two gashes around his left eye after being elbowed in the first half, Delonte West and Zydrunas Ilgauskas shot a combined 13-for-37

The first two games of the series in Cleveland were each decided by one point. This one was resolved by elbows, shoves and hard fouls.

Howard, Ilgauskas and Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao all fouled out as the officials called 58 personals, handed out two technicals and a flagrant and spent half the night stepping between players on both sides as tempers flared inside an overheated Amway Arena.

“We just kept fighting. That’s what we got to do: We fight to the end,” Howard said. “We can’t worry about nothing. We can’t worry about the calls, can’t worry about nobody else. We just got to get out there and play.”

When the referees weren’t making peace, they were sending players to the free throw line.

Unlike Games 1 and 2, the Magic didn’t fall behind by double digits and need to rally. They got out fast, stayed close despite Howard’s early foul trouble and put the Cavaliers away at the line.

Howard, a notoriously poor foul shooter, went 14-for-19 from the line, and the Magic made 39 of 51 attempts. In the fourth quarter alone, Orlando made 19 of 23 to hold off the top-seeded Cavaliers, who began the playoffs with eight straight wins and have now dropped two of their last three.

Cleveland better figure out a way to win in steamy Florida fast. The Cavaliers, who were thumped here by 29 on April 3, have lost six of their last seven in Orlando.

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