LeBron, Shaq help Cavs to 102-93 win over Magic
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- LeBron 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."
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.
Cleveland's Delonte West was inactive for the game for what coach Mike Brown said afterward was an "internal matter."
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.
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.
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.