June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Cavs not finished yet

Rick Noland

The Gazette

CLEVELAND — LeBron James finally got some help from his teammates, then took matters into his own hands when it mattered most.

His team down one after the third period and having blown a 22-point lead, James scored or assisted on Cleveland’s first 29 points of the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers defeated the Orlando Magic 112-102 Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“It’s a big game for us,” James said. “You never want to disappoint the home crowd by not coming out and playing as hard as you can. It’s win or go home.”

James finished with 37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists for his fourth career playoff triple-double, but more importantly he helped the Cavaliers live another day.

Cleveland, which is attempting to become the ninth team in 183 series to rally from a 3-1 deficit, is within 3-2 heading into Game 6 Saturday night at Orlando’s Amway Arena.

“We don’t want to see Ernie (Johnson), Charles (Barkley) and Kenny (Smith) put on those fishing hats,” James said of the TNT crew that does that each time a team is eliminated from the playoffs.

“We’ve got to play the same way (in Game 6) that we played today,” James added. “We’ve got to play gritty. We’ve got to get the ball up court and play fast. We’ve got to try to do everything in our will to take that game away from them and bring it back here (for Game 7 on Monday).”

James did everything necessary to get the Cavaliers to Game 6, putting up 17 points, four rebounds and four assists in the crucial fourth period. His four assists led to 12 points — a pair of 3-pointers by Daniel Gibson, another by Mo Williams and a three-point play by Anderson Varejao.

As good as James was — he’s averaging 41.2 points in the series — he got a lot of help from his teammates.

Williams, who was 24-of-71 from the field overall and 6-of-27 from beyond the arc coming in, finished with 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-9 on 3-pointers.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 16 points, Delonte West had 13 and Gibson finished with 11 off the bench, including 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.

“That’s what we got all year from our complementary players,” James said.

The leader, meanwhile, continued to lead. James drew Dwight Howard’s fifth personal midway through the fourth quarter on what turned into a three-point play, then drove and drew Howard’s sixth foul on another three-point play with 2:22 to go.

“If he gets in the paint, it’s automatically a foul,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after watching James go 15-of-19 at the line.

The Cavaliers were also much better defensively, getting to Orlando’s shooters a lot quicker, which resulted in the Magic going 8-of-25 on 3-pointers. Orlando was shooting 42.9 percent from long range coming in (42-of-98).

Hedo Turkoglu led the Magic with 29 points, while Howard had 24 points and 10 rebounds. Rashard Lewis finished with 15 points and eight boards and Mickael Pietrus had 13 points off the bench.

Up 22 late in the first period and seemingly headed for a blowout win, the Cavaliers suddenly crumbled like stale bread.

Orlando went on an amazing 52-22 run — more remarkable still, it did so in just 16:07 — to take a 64-56 lead with 9:40 to go in the third period. The Magic outscored Cleveland 11-1 to end the first half and 9-0 to start the second, and it got those 20 points in 4:08.

Just when it looked like the Cavaliers were totally done, they came right back with a 12-3 run of their own. Both teams struggled to score the rest of the third period, which ended with Orlando in front 79-78.

With a star-laden crowd in attendance — Jay-Z, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Ben Roethlisberger, Shaun Rogers and Brady Quinn were among those on hand — the Cavaliers stormed out of the gate, just like they did in Games 1 and 2 at The Q, when they led by 16 and 23 points, respectively, in the first half.

Cleveland made 10 of its first 11 shots — the one miss was a Varejao drive that James tipped in — in jumping to a 26-8 lead with 6:20 still to play in the first period. Williams made four straight shots in the first 4:38 of the game, including three 3-pointers, and had 17 points at halftime.

The Cavaliers also changed their defensive assignments, taking James off point guard Rafer Alston and putting him on Courtney Lee, with Williams playing his counterpart at the point.

Everything was going perfectly for the Cavaliers, whose lead eventually grew to 34-12 on a Wally Szczerbiak 21-footer from the corner with 1:59 left in the first quarter.

Everything fell apart just as quickly, and by the time the half ended, Orlando was down just one.

After Szczerbiak’s shot, the Magic went on a 14-1 run to quickly pull within nine, then cut the deficit to six on a Turkoglu three with 5:02 left in the half. The Cavaliers pushed their lead back to 11 and were still up 10 with 2:08 left in the half, but Orlando closed on an 11-1 run that was capped by a Lewis 3-pointer with 0.7 on the clock, leaving Cleveland up 56-55 at intermission.

Orlando, which was 6-of-18 from the field and 4-of-9 from the line in the first period, outscored the Cavaliers 37-21 in the second quarter, when the Magic went 14-of-25 from the field.

Orlando actually would have led at intermission, but it went just 11-of-22 at the line and had Pietrus on the floor for only seven minutes due to foul trouble.

The Cavaliers, who moved the ball crisply in the first quarter and made open shots, were 14-of-21 from the field in that period. However, they started holding the ball and standing around in the second, when they went 6-of-16 from the floor and committed five turnovers.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rickn@ohio.net.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.