Final score: Orlando Magic 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 90
Analysis: With Dwight Howard scoring a career playoff-high 40 points, the Magic ended Cleveland’s historic season by winning Game 6 in splendid fashion Saturday. Once Howard forced Cleveland to change the way it played defense, the Magic got their 3-point shooting going. Cleveland never cut the lead under 10 points in the second half.
The go-getter: Howard carried Orlando to the series-clinching win the Eastern Conference finals. Howard scored 40 points on 14-of-21 shooting, grabbed 14 boards and added four assists. Howard was also 12-of-16 from the line.
The brick-layer: Not only did Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Cleveland) shoot just 1-of-5 from the field, he couldn’t handle Howard. Z wasn’t up to that challenge.
The stunning stats: Once again, Orlando reserve forward Mickael Pietrus outscored the entire Cleveland bench. Pietrus finished with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting. The Cleveland bench had 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
The play: With the Magic leading late in the game, Howard made a spin move on Anderson Varejao and threw down a one-handed power dunk to give Orlando a 101-84 lead with two minutes and 12 seconds left.
What’s next: As Cleveland’s season concludes, the Magic and Lakers will play Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday in Los Angeles (ABC, 9 p.m.).
What to expect: For the Cavaliers, the question is how will this impact whether LeBron James stays or goes after the 2009-10 season when he becomes a free agent. However, the bigger question is what is Cleveland going to do to upgrade its roster to improve their chances to win a title to please James enough to influence him to stay. As for the finals, I’ll break the Los Angeles-Orlando series down.