Cavaliers stay alive
James scores 37 to force Game 6
CLEVELAND - LeBron James made a new guarantee: Game 6.
With Cleveland's wondrous season on the line, James had 37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists, and Mo Williams, who boldly predicted his team would come back and win this tight-as-can-be series, added 24 points in the Cavaliers' 112-102 victory over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 last night.
It's back to Florida for Game 6 tomorrow night at amped-up Amway Arena.
You expected anything else?
"This was a big game for us," James said. "You never want to disappoint the home crowd by not coming out and play as hard as you can. It was win or go home."
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.
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.
James scored 21 points in the second half - 17 in the fourth quarter - and had a hand in 29 of Cleveland's 34 points in the final 12 minutes.
Hedo Turkoglu scored 29 for Orlando, and Dwight Howard had 24 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2:22 remaining when he was called for his sixth personal foul while trying to stop James on a drive.
Not even Superman was denying James.
And this time, Williams, his trusty sidekick all season, showed up to help him, as did Zydrunas Ilgauskas (16 points), Delonte West (13) and reserve Daniel Gibson (11), who made two huge 3-pointers in the fourth.
"We'll be back here for Game 7," Gibson told the crowd afterward.
The Magic have twice ended series on the road this postseason, winning a Game 6 in Philadelphia and a Game 7 in Boston to make the conference finals. 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 a 3-pointer by Williams and his second on a 3 by Gibson. Cleveland then turned to its superstar every time down on offense, 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.
"The game is basically all LeBron, all the time," said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, who was called for a technical in the second quarter. "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 3s and outscored the Cavs, 45-24, the remainder of the first half.
The Magic, who made just eight 3-pointers after hitting 17 in Game 4, then opened the third with 9 straight points as Turkoglu hit a 3-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 3 to make it 97-93.
Orlando missed on its next trip and James dropped a jumper. Mickael Pietrus missed the next time down and James was able to foul out Howard.
Williams made three 3s in the first 4:38, and the Cavaliers, playing perhaps their best quarter of the playoffs, started 10 of 11 from the field while opening a 22-point first-half lead.
Orlando whittled down the lead by capitalizing on Cleveland's offensive sloppiness and impatience and was within 56-55 at halftime.