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Magic, Howard strong enough to pull upset over the Cavs

The Canadian Press

5/21/2009 12:19:09 AM

CLEVELAND -- First he took down the backboard. Then Dwight Howard helped quiet the red-hot Cleveland Cavaliers.

Howard scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds before fouling out in leading the Orlando Magic to a 107-106 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, giving the Magic a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

It was just Cleveland's third home defeat this season, and came against a Magic team that has been criticized for showing a lack of mental toughness.

That has changed over the past 72 hours, when Orlando won in Boston in Game 7 to win its semifinal series, then followed it up with a stunning victory over a Cavaliers team that sailed through their first two post-season series.

Howard paced Orlando until its shooters got going in the second half. He scored the team's first eight points and had 18 of Orlando's 48 at the half, when the Magic trailed by 15.

Orlando's shooters heated up in the second half, knocking down 7 of 13 3-pointers to help swing the momentum.

Rashard Lewis' three-pointer with 14.7 seconds left was the go-ahead score, but Orlando would not have been in that position without a strong first half from Howard, who fouled out with 25.7 seconds left.

Play was stopped for eight minutes early in the first quarter when Howard's dunk loosened the 24-second shot clock from the backboard.

Howard played the second half in foul trouble after picking up three fouls -- two offensive -- in the first half.

At the other end, he was harassed by James, who guarded Magic point guard Rafer Alston much of the night so he could sneak over and help double-team Howard.

James caught Howard for three blocks in the game, frustrating Orlando's star, who felt he was fouled each time.

Howard was whistled for a technical after complaining about a James block in the third quarter.

"He has to understand that a lot of the things that might be called fouls in the regular season are not in the playoffs," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said before the game. "The game is called a little bit differently.

"It's always a bit more physical."

Game 2 is Friday night in Cleveland.