Howard, Lewis power Magic to finals
Dwight Howard's points in the paint and Rashard Lewis's hot hand from beyond the arc pushed the Orlando Magic past the Cleveland Cavaliers and into the NBA finals with a 103-90 Game 6 win on Saturday night in Orlando.
Howard finished with a personal playoff best 40 points and 14 rebounds, while Lewis dropped in 18 points of his own to seal the Eastern Conference championship for Orlando.
"Total domination," Lewis said of Howard's performance. "He totally dominated the game. He carried us on his back tonight."
LeBron James, who was held pointless in the second quarter, provided 25 points for the Cavaliers, who dropped the Eastern Conference final four games to two.
The Magic now move on to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, which begin on Thursday.
"I just think this team all year long has shown an incredible amount of heart," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "This team just keeps fighting back. They deserve it."
Howard sets tone early
After a slow start offensively by both teams, a combined five points in the first 2½ minutes of the game, Dwight Howard's monster jam off a pick-and-roll seemed to jump-start the Magic.
LeBron James ran down the court to reply with a jump shot of his own but the Magic's Rashard Lewis hit a three to re-take the lead.
The Cavaliers had a scare near the halfway mark of the first quarter when their star was put to the hardcourt after getting a finger in the eye.
Guarded by Hedo Turkoglu, James made a spin move to cut under the Orlando basket but was double-teamed by Lewis, who came from the weak side and inadvertently poked James in the eye as he attempted the block.
James would take a few seconds to recover but would stay in the game and make both of his free throws to make it 13-10 Magic.
Superman vs. King James
Howard and James would pace their respective teams with 13 points apiece through the first quarter with the Magic up by five but it was a very different story in the second — the Magic pounded the Cavaliers 28-15.
James was held off the score sheet while the tandem of Howard and Lewis, who notched 21 and 14 first-half points respectively, pushed their team to a 58-40 lead at halftime.
A technical foul to Cleveland coach Mike Brown gave the Magic another point to start the second half with a 19-point lead, but the Cavaliers would find their feet and go on an 8-0 run in the first minute of the third quarter.
Cleveland would outscore the Magic 30-28 in the that frame but couldn't get any closer than 10 points as Orlando cruised to the win and their first finals appearance since 1995.