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James hits dramatic three at buzzer to even series with Magic

The Sports Network

5/23/2009 1:32:09 AM

Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - LeBron James atoned for a traveling violation and hit an incredible three-pointer at the buzzer, and the Cavaliers avoided a stunning deficit in the Eastern Conference finals with a 96-95 win over Orlando in Game 2.

Hedo Turkoglu drained a pull-up jumper with one second left to give Orlando the lead after the Magic overcame a 23-point deficit. But after a timeout, the league MVP received the inbounds pass from Mo Williams, rose up from beyond the top of the arc and hit the winning fadeaway shot over Turkoglu.

Williams fell to his knees in disbelief and James jumped up in jubilation, was grabbed at midcourt by teammate Sasha Pavlovic as the sellout crowd of 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena roared.

"I was punch drunk," said Williams. "I couldn't move. The whole time I was walking before he (referee) handed me the ball I was praying. I was saying, 'Please, please God.' It just took so long for it to get to the rim. It felt like a 10-minute prayer."

Just before Turkoglu hit the go-ahead shot for the Magic, James was whistled for traveling with 30.9 seconds left, but he canned the biggest shot of the playoffs for his team and maybe in Cleveland's history.

"To be able to take that on and have that type of confidence to take that shot, not many people can do it," said Cavs coach Mike Brown. "An amazing shot by an amazing player. That's what great players do."

After the game, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and Brown acknowledged the Cavaliers were going for the lob to the basket, but Brown said because Turkoglu defended it so well, James came back on his own past the three-point line to receive the pass.

"Stan was in our huddle," said Brown. "We were going for the lob, Hedo took it away so LeBron said 'I'm going to win it.' He popped out for the three. That's where he created the separation."

Van Gundy was visibly upset at himself for not calling the right defensive play at the end, although he wouldn't elaborate since he said it might come up in the series again.

"Turk played the play perfectly," said Van Gundy. "He took away the option that would have tied the game, and let him into the option that won the game. That kind of thing happens sometimes."

James, who poured in 35 points, left the court to chants of "MVP! MVP!" with the Cavs tying the series, after the Magic's dramatic 107-106 win on Wednesday. He had a career playoff-high 49 points on 20-of-30 shooting that night, but it wasn't. Two nights later he got a miracle shot to fall.

"I just took my time," said James. "For me a second is a long time. For others it's very short. As a kid you practice those type of moments. Everybody knows those type of moments. To hit a shot like that at the buzzer, at home, wow."

James has made Cavalier fans forget about Michael Jordan's tormenting shot over Craig Ehlo 20 years ago.

"That guy's not in the league anymore," said James. "The other 23 is on the good side. The other 23 is gone so we don't have to worry about that any more."

Williams had 19 points, while Zydrunas Ilgauskas tallied 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. Delonte West also scored 12 for Cleveland, which had convincingly swept Detroit and Atlanta in the first two rounds of the playoffs, all eight games being double-digit decisions, before Rashard Lewis sank a three-ball with 14.7 seconds left to suffer a loss Wednesday.

The Cavs nearly fell into a huge series hole, but James pulled it out in dramatic fashion, sending the best-of-seven set to Sunday's Game 3 in Orlando even.

Lewis scored 23 and Turkoglu ended with 21 for the Magic, who also received 10 points and 18 boards from Dwight Howard.

Orlando shot 11-of-16 from the field in the fourth quarter and appeared ready to steal the victory after playing from behind in a big way during the first half.

Courtney Lee's runner in the lane gave the Magic their first lead of the night, 86-84, with 5 1/2 minutes left.

Williams came back with a jumper and a three-ball, and the Cavs held the lead until Turkoglu sank a three-pointer with 48.7 seconds left, tying the score at 93, setting up the thrilling finish.

The Cavs essentially gave the Magic a chance at the game's final shot as Turkoglu was fouled in a non-shooting situation with 13.6 seconds left. He then drove on Pavlovic before pulling up for a shot to give Orlando the lead, but jubilation turned to disbelief at the end for the Magic.

A slam by James opened a 17-7 lead for the Cavs, and they ended the opening quarter on a 10-1 spurt for a 30-16 lead. West and Pavlovic hit three-pointers late in the period.

"I think we really have to come out better in the first half," said Howard. "We can't let a team like Cleveland get off to a good start, get out to a big lead and we have to fight our way back. If we want to win the series we have to come out better, we have to be mentally tough from the beginning of the game until the end of the game."

Joe Smith hit an unlikely three-pointer from the left corner, opening a 43-20 Cleveland lead with nearly seven minutes remaining in the half. The Magic trimmed the deficit to 56-44 at the break.

Consecutive three-balls from Lewis had Orlando within 64-58 midway through the third and that six-point margin stood at the end of the period, 75-69.

Game Notes:

The Cavs were 5-of-19 from three-point range...Lee had 11 points and Mickael Pietrus 10 for the Magic...James finished 12-of-23 from the field...Rafer Alston struggled to a 1-for-7 shooting performance and had four points for Orlando, which went 10-of-23 from three-point range.