LeBron James scores 37 as Cavs narrow Magic's lead in East final to 3-2
The message was quickly scribbled on the dry-erase board in Cleveland's locker room. It said little and said it all: 1:00 AM FLY.
CLEVELAND - The message was quickly scribbled on the dry-erase board in Cleveland's locker room. It said little and said it all: 1:00 AM FLY.
The Cavaliers are heading back to Florida, their wondrous season still alive. LeBron James wouldn't let it end. James, showing off every dimension of his unstoppable game, had 37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists, and Mo Williams, who boldly predicted the Cavs would come back and win this tight series, added 24 points in a 112-102 victory over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 on Thursday night.
"It was win or go home," James said.
Instead, it's back to amped-up Amway Arena for Game 6 on Saturday night.
The Magic overcame a 22-point deficit but missed their first opportunity to close out the Cavaliers, who are trying to become just the ninth team since 1947 to rally and win a series after being down 3-1. Orlando will have two more tries to reach the NBA finals for the first time since 1995.
"They deserved to get this one," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of the Cavs. "As poorly as I thought we played, we still were there with chances to win and didn't get it done. We have to get ready to go on Saturday."
For Cleveland, a city banking on James to deliver a championship after a 45-year drought, the MVP was again in a league of his own.
"His intensity and his passion are out of this world," Cavs guard Daniel Gibson said. "We will follow him. When he gets it going, there is nothing you can do."
James scored 21 points in the second half - 17 in the fourth quarter - and had a hand in Cleveland's first 29 points in the final 12 minutes. The last player to post at least 37-14-12 in a playoff game was Oscar Robertson in 1963.
Hedo Turkoglu scored 29 for Orlando, and Dwight Howard had 24 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2:22 remaining while trying to stop James on a drive.
Not even Superman was denying James.
"I was attacking anyone in the way, no matter who it was," James said. "There's always a sense of urgency when you are on the brink of elimination."
And this time James got plenty of help. Williams, his trusty sidekick all season but a near no-show in this series, made six three-pointers. Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 16 points, Delonte West 13 and Gibson made two huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter - both on assists from James.
"He got his teammates involved and then took over," Orlando's Mickael Pietrus said. "That's what great players do."
The Magic have twice ended series on the road this post-season, winning a Game 6 in Philadelphia and a Game 7 in Boston. For a while it looked like Orlando might do it again, taking a 79-78 lead into the fourth quarter.
James, though, had other plans.
He picked up his first assist of the period on three-pointer by Williams and his second on a three by Gibson. Cleveland then turned to its superstar every time on offence, spreading the floor and forcing the Magic to defend him. If he wasn't backing down the lane, he was getting to the line or setting his teammates up from the perimeter.
James also had four rebounds and four assists in the final quarter.
"The game is basically all LeBron, all the time," Van Gundy said. "If he gets in the paint, it's automatically a foul. One of the things we have to do, we can't keep putting him on the line 20 times a game. We have to find a way to stop that."
Down 32-10 with 3:40 left in the first quarter, the Magic started knocking down threes and outscored the Cavs 45-24 the remainder of the first half.
The Magic, who made just eight threes after hitting 17 in Game 4, then opened the third with nine straight points as Turkoglu hit a three-pointer - of course - and Orlando was within 94-93 after Turkoglu made three free throws with 4:46 left. James then whipped a pass to Gibson for a three to make it 97-93.
Orlando missed on its next trip and James dropped a jumper. Pietrus missed the next time down and James was able to foul out Howard, who smiled as he headed to the bench knowing he and his teammates are still in control of the series.
Williams, who came in shooting just 32 per cent from the floor and 22 per cent on three-pointers, set the tone early. He made three threes in the first 4:38, and the Cavaliers, playing perhaps their best quarter of the entire playoffs, started 10-of-11 from the field while opening a 22-point lead.
But the never-say-die Magic made it go poof!
Orlando, which overcame 16-and 23-point deficits, respectively, in Games 1 and 2, whittled away by capitalizing on Cleveland's offensive sloppiness and impatience, and were within 56-55 at halftime.
Notes: The Cavs, hoping to host Game 7, improved to 44-3 at home. ... Celebrity row included New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia, rap mogul Jay-Z, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Browns QB Brady Quinn. ... James said playoff pressure doesn't rival playing for an Olympic gold medal. "You're playing for Cleveland and Los Angeles and Denver and every other city in this country," said James. "That was way more pressure than what's going on here." ... Van Gundy was pleased Howard's Game 4 technical was rescinded. It would have been his sixth of the post-season with one more earning him an automatic one-game suspension. "I thought it was a very tough call anyway," said Van Gundy. "He's sort of a marked man right now when it comes to stuff like that."