Had anyone judged from the first quarter, this thing had all the makings of a shootout. It wasn't until the second that the Cavs put forth much in the way of defense and their defensive efforts in that quarter won the game for them.
Consider that the Magic shot just 29 percent from the floor in that span. In the meantime the Cavs capitalized on the effort and built on what was a 15-point lead. Some might say the game was over after the first half. It's the Magic. The Cavs have been up against them by double digits before only to have them come back on them and smack them.
The Cavs beat the Magic because they attacked Dwight Howard from the get go, making a conscious effort to get Shaquille O'Neal the ball in the paint. Plenty of readers have written me with the refrain that O'Neal is washed up, over the hill. By all means insert your favorite analogy here. You're not going to get 20 and 10 from O'Neal on a consistent basis. He hasn't even come close this season, but he showed what he could still do tonight. That was draw Howard's attention and Howard took the bait. The result: the Orlando center got his third personal foul at 9:32 in the second quarter. On the night, he scored just 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
The Cavs beat the Magic at what was supposed to be their game - outside. They came into Wednesday night's contest hitting 44 percent from the three-point line. They did nothing to hurt that percentage as they connected on 10-14 shots fromt he arc for an astounding 71 percent. Mo Williams led the charge hitting 4-of-
What remains annoying is willingness to ease up in the fourth quarter when they think the game is in hand. Opening the fourth, the Cavs led 88-68. The Magic got that down to nine as the Cavs let up.
Don't forget LeBron James and Mo Williams combining for 64 points.
First half: The Cavs make a consious move to get their inside game and Shaquille O'Neal going early as O'Neal scores eight points in the half, but it's LeBron James and Mo Williams who play as if they're the only two players on the court. James has 23 points in the first half. Williams is perfect - literally - hitting every shot from the field and free throw line thus far. He's also 4-of-4 from the three-point line.
One thing you can fault coach Mike Brown for: having Dwight Howard in foul trouble early in the quarter and not going right at him trying to get O'Neal back in the game to draw No. 4.
Game: Cavs (4-3) at Orlando Magic (6-2)
Broadcast: TV: TNT, FSOhio; Radio: WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Starting lineup: Cavs: LeBron James (F); J.J. Hickson (F); Shaquille O'Neal (C); Anthony Parker (G); Delonte West (G); Magic: Matt Barnes (F); Brandon Bass (F); Dwight Howard (C); Vince Carter (G); Jameer Nelson (G).
Injuries: Vince Carter (ankle) is probably and Ryan Anderson is doubtful. Forward Rashard Lewis is still serving a suspension for violating the league's rules on performance enhancing drugs.
Officials: Dan Crawford, Gary Zielinski, Courtney Kirkland
Streaking: The Cavs have lost one. The Magic have won one.
What to watch: These are two vastly different teams than the ones that faced off against one another in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs added O'Neal, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker and the Magic traded for Vince Carter, allowed Hedo Turkoglu to leave via free agency. Additionally point guard Jameer Nelson will play inthis game and he wasn't available to the Magic when they last met.
The big question of the night: does O'Neal have enough left to keep Dwight Howard contained defensively? Here's a key that some gloss over in this matchup. As far as I can tell, Howard still hasn't developed any moves around the basket. He dunks, when he's fouled he shoots free throws with the medicrity of O'Neal. The key is O'Neal's ability to keep Howard in front of him.
Everyone is hyping this as some sort of litmus test for the Cavaliers. Not bloody likely considering the injuries to the Magic (Anderson and Carter) and the fact that Lewis isn't playing at all. The reality is the Cavs have lost eight of the last 11 games to the Magic and are 38-35 overall against them. It's a team that's always given them trouble.