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Wed, Nov 11, 2009 - 8:00 PM ET
Game Recap
 

LeBron, Cavs smack Magic in Orlando

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)

LeBron James didn't storm off the court this time. Instead, he shook hands with teammates and anyone who offered, walking to the locker room slowly with an ever-so small grin. He also departed Orlando with the most important thing this time: a win. James scored 36 points, Shaquille O'Neal provided an inside presence and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic 102-93 on Wednesday night in a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals. Only this one had a different look. O'Neal battled boos and bruises to score 10 points and keep Dwight Howard in foul trouble for most of the night, giving James and Co. all the inside strength they sorely lacked last season. Mo Williams added 28 points to help the Cavs take a 15-point halftime lead, go ahead by 20 after three quarters and roll to an easy victory. "I think we just played with a sense of urgency," James said. "We're in attack mode. The whole game we put pressure on their defense. Shaq put pressure on (Howard). We were able to get him into some foul trouble." O'Neal did not speak with reporters after the game. Vince Carter had 29 points, and Howard had only 11 points for the Magic. Orlando was without suspended All-Star forward Rashard Lewis, and his replacement, Ryan Anderson, who missed the game with a sprained right ankle. The Magic didn't want to offer any excuses. "We're not playing great basketball right now," Carter said. "For us to win and be as good as we want to be, we have to want it. We have to go get it." Cleveland's Delonte West was inactive for the game for what coach Mike Brown said afterward was an "internal matter." West was indicted Tuesday on additional weapons and traffic charges stemming from his Sept. 17 arrest for speeding on a motorcycle and carrying multiple weapons. He also has been treated in the past for bipolar disorder But this one had all the muscle and tussle.
O'Neal and Howard were banging bodies on the inside, their 500 pounds of combined weight jostling, their powerful elbows swinging large with every move. Each team even went with two centers on the floor - Howard and Marcin Gortat, O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas - at the same time for stretches that crowded the paint and made rebounds a physical punishment. It was Superman vs. Superman. Past vs. Present. Showered with boos on every touch, O'Neal gave glimpses that he could be Cleveland's missing piece even though the 37-year-old is no longer the unstoppable force that put the Magic franchise on the map. But he helped put Howard in foul trouble for most of the first half, helping the Cavs build a 66-51 halftime lead. Howard took the loss particularly tough. He dressed slowly in the locker room and didn't speak with reporters until more than an hour after the game. "I feel better than I did an hour ago," he said. "It's tough," Howard said. "You want to go at a guy like Shaq. But I understand it's not all about individual stats. It's about getting my team going." The former Magic big man soaked up all the attention, too. He had amped-up Amway Arena at his pulse, even leaving his hand up a little longer after making free throws and scoffing at the Superman anthem played after Howard's dunks. "I think Shaq always plays a big game when he's matched up against one of the big centers," Williams said. Orlando fans have long considered O'Neal their biggest villain. O'Neal helped the Magic to the 1995 NBA finals, returned them to the conference finals in '96, then bolted for Los Angeles that offseason. He won three titles with the Lakers and another with the Miami Heat. Orlando was left in ruin. O'Neal's new team isn't so dependent. The Cavaliers made the move for O'Neal after the Magic eliminated them in six games in the conference finals last season. The loss was so demoralizing that James left without shaking hands with Orlando players and skipped his post-game news conference. While O'Neal is no longer an unstoppable force, his presence allows the Cavs to guard Howard one-on-one. That alone helps Cleveland avoid those matchup problems on the perimeter that was last season's downfall. After the Lakers defeated Orlando in the finals, the Magic felt they also needed help. So they acquired Carter from New Jersey and parted ways with Hedo Turkoglu. But this one was just a sneak preview. The Cavs and Magic don't play again until Feb. 11 in Cleveland, perhaps the first time both will be at full strength and in their groove. "It's just one game," James said. "We will see them later on this season."

Notes

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said he's planning to continue to play O'Neal for about 28 to 32 minutes a game, not wanting to wear out the aging center. ... Howard picked up his second foul with 9:42 remaining in the first quarter. After being fined $15,000 by the league a day earlier for comments critical of officials on his blog, Howard showed no signs of complaining about the call and walked quietly to the bench.
Tagged: Cavaliers, Magic

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