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Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 — The View from Orlando...

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(CORVALLIS, OR).— Southern California dreads the devastating rumble of earthquakes. Floridians fear of the howling wind and surging surf of deadly hurricanes. Here in Oregon, we live with the threat of doom of another sort. Indeed, a tremendous natural disaster swept Beaverton, Oregon last night, punctuated by its characteristic otherworldly shrieking wail: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

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The Orlando Magic handily dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday night, 103-90, winning their series 4 games to 2 and putting the kabosh to Nike CEO and Billionaire Sportsnut Phil Knight's dream of a Lebron-Kobe matchup in the 2008-09 NBA Finals.

Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle ordered the immediate shuttering of all grocery stores, bars, and restaurants with liquor licenses as an emergency precaution, fearing a repeat of the alcohol-fueled riots which nearly leveled the city following the announcement of Michael Jordan's first retirement from the NBA in October 1993. 

It was then, Beaverton residents recall, when some 1200 Nike employees virtually stopped all civilized activity in the Portland metro area with 3 days of drunken rage and mayhem known retrospectively as "Air Terror." Beaverton businesses were gutted to the studs, cars were flipped and burned, and an entire school bus of elementary school students went missing for over 3 hours after being surrounded by maddened shoe designers and packed away to the company's massive campus located just outside Beaverton city limits.

Asked for comment, Mayor Doyle said simply, "There is enough pain and suffering already in our community as a result of the bitter loss of our favorite son, King Lebron James. It seems to me far better that we follow the prudent course and immediately restrict the public sale of alcoholic beverages than to risk another catastrophe at the hands of our friends at Nike. Those bastards go crazy when they're on the piss."

There is as yet no word as to whether Nike's $1.7 Billion advertising campaign built around the so-called "MVP puppets" representing Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lebron James and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will be scrapped or altered in the wake of Cleveland's shocking loss in the playoffs.

Asked for comment on the Cavaliers' playoff debacle, University of Oregon Athletic Director and erstwhile Nike CEO Phil Knight made obscene gestures with both hands and drunkenly roared a series of aspersions about the character of the mother of an Oregon-based internet blogger. He declined all further comment .

For a graphic depiction of the Cleveland catastrophe, here's the Popcorn Machine LINK.

The Orlando Magic look to begin their 7 game series against the Western Conference Champion Lakers on Thursday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

We turn now to the Orlando media and fan community for additional commentary.

(More after the jump...)

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(1)

Orlando Magic Beat LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers to Reach NBA Finals: Magic reach NBA Finals for first time since 1995

by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel

They're back from the basketball dead.

Fourteen long and frustrating years since making their first NBA Finals appearance — just six years removed from posting the league's worst record — the Orlando Magic are returning for a shot at the championship.

The Magic earned a trip to face the Los Angeles Lakers for the title by winning the Eastern Conference finals, ousting the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-90 in Game 6 on Saturday night at Amway Arena.

The NBA Finals opens in L.A. at Staples Center on Thursday night.

"It would be so great to get a trophy for Rich," Magic President Bob Vander Weide said, speaking of team owner Rich DeVos, 82.

Orlando made it to the title round in 1995, but was swept by the Houston Rockets in four games.

The Magic were led by young superstar center Shaquille O'Neal back then.

And their return to those glory days is fueled now by young superstar center Dwight Howard, who scored 40 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to spare the Magic from playing a Game 7 in Cleveland on Monday night.

Two summers ago, Howard — the No. 1 draft pick in 2004 the Magic received after compiling a league-worst 21-61 record — predicted the Magic would win a title.

"Everybody laughed," Howard said. "I mean everyone." * * *

 

(2)

Magic task: Beat L.A.! Witness this: Magic top Cavs to win East

by Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

The NBA's greatest talent has been eliminated.

Maybe now — finally — the NBA's best team will be celebrated.

LeBron is LeGone and now the Orlando Magic — your Orlando Magic, our Orlando Magic, the entire sports world's Orlando Magic — are going to the NBA Finals.

You heard me: the Magic are going to the NBA Finals.

Say it one more time because this time you don 't have to dream it.

You can scream it:

THE MAGIC ARE GOING TO THE NBA FINALS!

A mentor of mine named Mick Elliott, a darn good sports writer who just lost his job to this stinking economy, gave me a piece of advice once about covering an important sporting event. "You can't write history," he said. "So don't even try."

So I'm not going to try to write history today; I'm going to write chemistry. I'm going to write about how this team — this inspiring, perspiring, amazing, curtain-raising team — shocked and showed the world that you really can do anything if you work together.

Witness this:

Orlando Magic 103, Cleveland LeBrons 90?

Dwight Howard 40 points, LeBron James 25 points.

Hey, Nike, you got a Dwight puppet?

I'm sorry, who was the MVP? * * *

 

(3)

Magic Never Felt Pressure

by George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel

The thunder started with the pyrotechnics just before tip-off. The bass drums followed.

Beating in unison to the beat of Queen's "We Will Rock You" they provided a booming soundtrack for the evening, with 17,461 Magic fans screaming in unison, waving luminous blue glow sticks.

Then came the real thunder and lightning.

Dwight Howard's donning the cape again and flying like Superman in the lane. Rashard Lewis' and Mickael Pietrus' bombs from the outside. A bouncy Skip to My Lou, Rafer Alston, dancing on the grave of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Orlando 103, Cleveland 90.

Pressure?

"This team showed an incredible amount of heart," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "This team just kept fighting back."

Van Gundy burned energy every day, plotting, scheming, doing whatever it took to get his team to the NBA Finals.

"This series started 11 days ago," he said, "and I've slept 11 hours."

Saturday, his team put Cleveland to sleep.

The Magic presumably had the luxury of another chance in the Eastern Conference finals. Honestly, I didn't think so.

Lose Saturday and they were looking at having to return to Cleveland for Game 7. Thanks, and please turn out the lights on the Magic season.

Orlando's task was no different than any of us staring at a big project. Would you relax?

For the Magic, it didn't get much bigger:

A chance to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995, taking on the No. 1 seed in the East, and laying siege to the conspiracy theories that the NBA was drooling over the anticipated dance party between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

Pressure?

"You guys like to talk about pressure," Pietrus said. "It's a game of basketball. They made the game to compete for the trophy. Every game is a dogfight.

"If you're telling me tomorrow I'm going to Iraq, I'd be under pressure. That's pressure. Basketball is what we like, what we share with 20,000 fans every night. It's fun." * * *

 

(4)

LeBron James Can't Meet Cavs', Fans' Hopes

by Andrea Adelson, Orlando Sentinel

Not even LeBron James can end the Cleveland heartache.

James couldn't lift his Cavs past the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals, falling 103-90 in Game 6 on Saturday night, breaking the hearts of Clevelanders desperate for a pro sports championship.

With the closing seconds ticking away, the crowd chanted, "Na Na Na Na, Hey, hey, hey Good-Bye." James was the first one off the floor when the final buzzer sounded, without shaking hands with anyone on the Magic, clearly angry and disappointed with their playoff exit.

James scored a very quiet 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting, his lowest point total of the series and tied for his lowest point total of the entire playoffs. He quickly dressed and left for the team bus without addressing the media.

As much as James tried, Cleveland must continue to wait for that elusive title. The Browns were the last pro team to win for the city of Cleveland, back in 1964. James tried to deliver a title in 2007, too, and came up short in the NBA finals against San Antonio.

"For us, going into these playoffs we were confident we were going to the NBA Finals and we were confident we were going to win it," point guard Mo Williams said. "Obviously you are going to be disappointed, and hurt inside. You know you're a great team, you know you had the team to get it done. At the end of the day LeBron is a great professional. This is motivation and drive for him. I'm 110 percent sure that he'll be all right.

"It's basically like at Christmas time. You want that remote control car you were begging your mom for. Christmas time comes, you never see that remote control car. You can have 10 presents, but you don't have that remote control car. You're going to be sad and disappointed anyway, but you'll get over it."

Cleveland fans everywhere thought this would be the year the streak would end. The Cavs came into the playoffs with the best record in the regular-season, winning a franchise-record 66 games. James won his first MVP, and Mike Brown won coach of the year honors.

They swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs, easily dispatching Detroit and Atlanta with sweeps in each series.

Then Orlando came along. * * *

 

(5)

Orlando Magic Mull Return of Jameer Nelson for NBA FinalsNelson return for Finals a possibility

by Andrea Adelson & Kyle Hightower, Orlando Sentinel

The Magic are encouraged by Jameer Nelson's rehabilitation so much that they will evaluate the possibility of the all-star playing in the NBA Finals against the Lakers, the Sentinel has learned.

Magic President Bob Vander Weide said the team is exploring whether Nelson can return after undergoing shoulder surgery Feb. 19. He hasn't played since he was injured Feb. 3 against the Dallas Mavericks.

Although Nelson wouldn't be in prime condition, Vander Weide said, "the chance to get an all-star point guard on the floor for 15 minutes a game ... you'd have to look at that."

The Magic had ruled him out for the season and the playoffs, and as late as a week and a half ago General Manager Otis Smith said there was no chance of Nelson making a return. "That was a week and a half ago," said Vander Weide, who said he wanted Nelson to take another MRI and consult with doctors. * * *

 

(6)

Magic PG Rafer Alston Finds Focus, Excels in Game 6

by Kyle Hightower, Orlando Sentinel

The first hug that Rafer Alston got was from Jameer Nelson.

With confetti fluttering around them and the Amway Arena crowd's screams providing the joyful soundtrack, the Orlando Magic's injured floor leader and his understudy savored a mission accomplished.

It's been just over three months since Alston arrived in Orlando with the task of helping hold the Magic's season together.

There were bumps and stumbles along the way, but Alston's performance in the Magic's Game 6 win over Cleveland on Saturday night was a testament to the savior he's been over the last half of the season.

He finished with 13 points and four rebounds, but did a lot more than his stat line showed.

"I may not take this hat off for three days," he said of his Eastern Conference championship cap. "This is by far one of the best moments in basketball for me."

Not a score-first point guard like Nelson, Alston's assignment in his 29 regular-season games this season and throughout the playoffs had been mainly to keep things on track.

After dropping in a career playoff-high 26 points in Orlando's Game 4 win to put the Magic up 2-1, that mission got a little sidetracked. In Game 5 he scored three points and was an abysmal 1-for-10 shooting in Orlando's loss that gave the Cavs some life.

"I talked to him a little bit [about that game] Saturday [morning] and I just [thought] that his mind-set is really key," Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "What's made his career is he's a good defender as a point guard, he has good energy and he pushes the pace.

"I think what's happened, is he had two really good games — especially Game 4 with 20 points in the second half - and he came into Game 5 with a scorer's mentality instead of a point guard's mentality." * * *

 

(7)

Orlando Magic 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 90

by Ben Q Rock, Third Quarter Collapse (SBN)

With their trademark inside/outside offensive attack working to perfection, the Orlando Magic easily dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers, 103-90, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, a game in which they never trailed. The Magic advance to the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dwight Howard, the "inside" part of the offense, played the game of his life and was unstoppable underneath, beasting his way toward 40 points on 14-of-21 shooting, with 14 rebounds. Meanwhile, on the "outside," the Magic connected on 12 three-pointers in 29 attempts; Mickael Pietrus led the way with 4 treys in 7 attempts.

For the first time in this series, the Magic made LeBron James (25 points on 8-of-20 shooting) look human. He mostly did what he had been doing earlier this series, namely by driving to the basket and jumping into defenders as he tried to finish. Tonight, he rarely got the benefit of the whistle, attempting a mere 11 free throws. * * *

Dwight was not the only Magic player doing damage, though. They all came through, in some way or another. Rashard Lewis' 8 rebounds, Turkoglu's 7 rebounds and 5 assists... the team's 11 offensive rebounds in 37 opportunities... they just had more than the Cavs did tonight, as has been the case for the entire series, a fact which seems to disprove the popular argument made before the series started that Cleveland would have more energy due to its breezing through the first two rounds of the playoffs. * * *

Howard is clearly the MVP of this game, but let us not give Lewis short shrift either. He's a matchup nightmare for Cleveland, which has nobody outside of James who can hope to guard him. Forced into early action after Anderson Varejao got himself in foul trouble, Ben Wallace had the unenviable task of guarding Lewis for most of the first quarter. Wallace played him for the shot, so Lewis uncharacteristically put the ball on the floor and drove to the basket, either for the shot or for the kick-out. Wallace later sagged off him, so Lewis elevated for the straightaway three-pointer which rattled in. The stat sheet shows only 2 assists for him, but his passing on the interior (as a driver against Wallace) or around the perimeter (against anyone) helped keep the offense moving.

Nobody held the ball too long for Orlando tonight, which forced the Cavs back on their heels. On some scores, it wasn't that the Magic caught the Cavs napping and got an easy bucket, but rather that they worked the ball around so quickly and so well that the Cavs couldn't catch up. That's a rather long-winded way of saying that Cleveland gave a decent effort defensively, and the Magic still tuned it up for 103 points on 87 possessions. * * *

 

(8)

NBA Fans Unite!

posted by "RussL" to Third Quarter Collapse

Its time to Beat LA!

Hardly any fan outside of the greater Los Angeles area wants to see the Yankees of basketball win the title. It even seems like most fans of Boston and Cleveland, bitter over losses to the Magic, want to see Orlando continue its run all the way to a title.

This Magic team is a rare breed, one where the team truly comes before the individual. The offense clicks because all five players on the court are involved. The defense clicks for the same reason. A comment from Bill Simmons, who has traditionally criticized the Magic, caught my eye. He was discussing how the various remaining playoff teams play towards the end of games when he said this:

Only the Magic (God bless them) seem interested in playing a style that doesn't revolve around the same guy hoisting 3s or barrelling toward the basket again and again.

The Magic know how and when to change it up. They adapt. Quickly. It was disconcerting to see 20+ point deficits to the Cavs in multiple games of that series, but both times the Magic rallied back to take leads at some point in those games. They cannot, will not die. The type of resilience we've seen is almost unheard of. Its the type of trait found only in championship contenders. * * *

 

(9)

Orlando Magic Put LeBron James Out of his Misery, Move on to Kobe

by Zach McCann, Orlando Magic Daily (TrueHoop)

Magic fans often refer to the mid-1990s as the good old days; a time when the Magic were relevant, when the team offered something the entire city could rally around. Back then, Magic games were commonly shown at sports bars and it wouldn't be rare to see a Magic bumper sticker or a flag waving from someone's car.

The good old days are back, my friends. For the first time since 1995, the Magic are headed to the NBA Finals. So put on your Magic hat, put on the old Magic theme song, and party like it's 1995.

Forgive me if I'm getting a bit hyperbolic, but I know the Magic fans are with me.

The NBA Finals never seemed possible. Too much went wrong this season. But this team grew up in the playoffs and evolved into an elite team that won't quit, that won't go down without a fight under any circumstance.

Not all championship teams are that way at the beginning of the season. It takes some tough times (struggling against Philadelphia in round one). It takes adversity (Jameer Nelson's injury). It takes inner-conflict (Dwight Howard's touches). It takes growth (Courtney Lee's emergence). It takes seemingly insurmountable odds (down 3-2 to Boston). It takes adjustments (Rafer Alston). It takes unity. It takes teamwork.

Now, the Magic are right there. The ultimate dream is no longer a dream. It's now a goal.

Led by a career performance from Dwight Howard, the Magic put LeBron James out of his misery by defeating the Cavaliers 103-90. * * *

 

(10)

Superman Forecasts Divine Intervention For NBA Finals

by Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com

ORLANDO -- One singular moment that Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard might cherish most from this night happened quite apart from his numerous dunks, his timely passes and the dozen free throws he knocked down with a confidence he rarely has shown before.

It happened so quickly, was done with such subtlety, that it's possible only a handful of people witnessed it. With 41 seconds left, Howard had the ball in the low post and was turning toward the basket, and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James grabbed him with both arms and wrapped him up with an intentional foul. Both players dropped their arms, and a quick low-five was discreetly exchanged -- a gesture that seemed congratulatory on James' part, conciliatory on Howard's.

"It was all love, no bad blood there," Howard said of his Team USA pal. Howard one-upped the superstar by playing the game of his career, a 40-point, 14-rebound offensive masterpiece that put the Magic into the NBA Finals as they defeated the Cavs 103-90 on Saturday night.

They don't call him Superman for nothing. Especially on a night when he shot 14-for-21 from the field and 12-for-16 from the line, handed out four assists when the Cavs were forced into triple-teaming him and sacrificed some of his defensive intensity for the good of the team, realizing that aggression in the paint would lead him into foul trouble.

Yes, he finished with five personals. But Howard was never in foul trouble when the game was still relatively tight. That allowed him to channel his energy toward being a dominant scorer who became deserving of his touches because he kept converting them. In Game 6, Howard had 52 touches, 40 of them in the paint, compared to 18 total touches in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston. In the entire Eastern Conference finals against Cleveland, he made only one shot from outside the paint while attempting only four. * * *

 

(11)

Orlando Magic: 2008-'09 Eastern Conference Champions! ECF Game 6: Magic 103 Cavaliers 90

by Mike from Illinois, Orlando Magic Blog

The Magic led the game from start to finish in a resounding victory, as Cleveland could only get as close as ten points in the second half. The Magic were led by a playoff career-game from Dwight Howard with 40 points and 14 rebounds, while LeBron James had his worst game of the series scoring just 25 points.

The Magic, feeding off a great home crowd, jumped out to a 30-20 lead before settling for a 30-25 lead after one quarter. The Magic steadily built on that lead in the second quarter and went into the half with a commanding 58-40 lead.

The Cavaliers started quickly in the third, scoring eight points in the opening minute to get within 59-48. They eventually got to within 66-56, but could get no closer as the Magic led 86-70 going into the fourth quarter. The Magic, who were notorious earlier in the playoffs for blowing big leads, would not blow this one. The Magic's largest lead was 91-70 with under ten minutes remaining, and they still led 99-79 with just over three minutes left before cruising to the final. * * *

 

(12)

Game Six: Orlando Magic 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 90

by Philip Rossman-Reich, The Curse of the Big Aristotle

There is no other way to lead this.

After a 14-year absence, the Orlando Magic are returning to the NBA Finals.

The ticket was punched emphatically by Dwight Howard. Howard scored a career playoff high 40 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. He was dominant from the beginning, and for the first time all series looked like he was the best player on the court.

LeBron James was non-existent, seemingly running out of gas after carrying the load and averaging more than 40 points per game thus far. James did not score in a tell-tale second quarter and only 25 points on eight of 20 shooting.

But as the rest of the series went, it was more about what the star's supporting cast could do.

Rashard Lewis supported Howard with 18 points and eight rebounds. He was aggressive attacking the hole and not settling for 3-point shots. Mickael Pietrus was also aggressive and Courtney Lee was a nice surprise, finally breaking out with eight points.

Offensively though, this game was ultimately about Howard. He was finally the center of the offense Magic fans have imagined him to be. He got anything he wanted in the post. When the double team came, he dished out to the perimeter.

This was Orlando's most complete effort of the series — and maybe even the playoffs. The offense was flowing. The 3-point shots were generally falling (12 of 29) but they were coming off of the post ups, or drive and kicks. * * *

 

(13)

I am, I am, I am Superman, and I can do anything

by The Nickel Steak, The Puns Are Starting to Bore Me (Bloguin)

* * *

The most important thing a superstar player can do in a game, any game, is set the tone. Tonight, more than any other game in his career, Dwight Howard set the tone: early, middle and late.

It starts where it always starts: the beginning. In the first quarter, Dwight came out playing like he should always play; like no player ever could play every game, but that we ask them to anyways. Tonight, Dwight rose to the occasion, to the tune of 13/5 at the end of the first. He did not let up. At all.

This was probably the closest to a one man show the Magic have come all season, but it never compared to what Lebron did in Game 5. Dwight, as ridiculous as he was tonight (and make no mistake: even desensitized by Lebron this series, 40 pts, 14 rebs, and 4 assists is really goddamn ridiculous), he never had to do it alone.

With Dwight on the bench in the second quarter, Rashard took over, shooting repeatedly over Anderson Varejao's outreached arms. Rafer Alston hit a few timely jumpers. Courtney Lee was active, and repeatedly buried the 16 foot jumper, which he's become completely money on and I can't wait to see him shooting it next year.

And I don't know what else to write about Mickael Pietrus at this point. Stellar defensive effort against the best in the world. Stellar offensive effort, just doing what he was supposed to do. A ridiculous 17/36 in the series from downtown, 4/7 tonight. 14 pts, 5 rebounds and 2 assists over all. But that doesn't even tell the whole story, for Pietrus or the team.

The story was confidence. The media constantly beats to death tired cliches about "PRESSURE", and about how pressure can make this, that or the other thing happen. Role players are supposed to choke under pressure.

But there were the Magic's players rising again and again. Rising up to shoot long 3s and drilling them. R ising to go up and get offensive rebounds that wouldn't have otherwise gone their way. Rising up to contest shots. Rising up to contest. Rising up to make sure nothing came easy for Cleveland. Rising up to support their star. * * *

 

(14)

Awesome Game

posted by "The Falcon" to Magic Madness message board

That was an awesome game. LeBron should get out of Cleveland, he's never going to get the help he needs there. A little dissapointed in his decision to skip the press conference, but I think the media is making a bigger deal of it than it should be. Not congratulating the Magic players is a bigger sin, though. Don't think Dwight will forget about that.

Anyways, enjoy the win everybody. Dwight stepped up and dominated, Rashard put on his big boy pants, and Pietrus continued his strong play.

Magic in the finals — I can't believe it happened so soon.

 

The Bottom Line:

1. We Win! We Win! We Win!

2. Did we mention that We Win?

3. (posted by "Adamosthegreek" to Magic Madness message board)

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