Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Magic Ride 3-Point Barrage to Victory

ORLANDO -- There is a popular basketball game played at parks across the country called ‘Around the World.’ The goal of the game is to make a series of shots at various spots around the perimeter before any of your opponents do. For those playing at the ‘higher level,’ generally these shots are taken from behind the 3-point line. It looked like the Orlando Magic were playing an entertaining game of ‘Around the World’ in Game 4 as they set a franchise playoff record with 17 made 3-pointers to help them win a Game 4 thriller, 116-114, in overtime over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night at Amway Arena. They, as a result, took a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. Rafer Alston, who finished with a playoff career-best 26 points, buried six triples and Mickael Pietrus, who continues to be extraordinary during the 2009 playoffs, drilled five of them. Rashard Lewis, nonetheless, sank the most significant one when he drained a go-ahead catch-and-shoot 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds remaining in regulation. It had appeared to be Lewis’ second game-winning 3-ball of the series, but LeBron James connected on a pair of free throws in the final second to send the game into an extra session. Orlando, which is one triumph away from advancing to The Finals for the first time since 1995, also set a club postseason record for most 3-pointers attempted with 38. The Magic’s resourceful ball movement and execution allowed them to break down the Cavaliers’ defense for many good looks from downtown. “Hedo Turkoglu made some fantastic passes out of the double team, which frees us up,” said Alston, who shot 10-for-17 from the field. “We have the guys that are capable of making them and make a lot of them.” Nearly half of their shots came from beyond the arc. It was clearly a very different plan of attack from how they played in Game 3 when they attempted just 17 3-pointers. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Orlando took as many 3s as it did in Game 4. The Magic led the NBA in both 3-pointers made and attempted during the regular season, even setting a league record when they hit 23 of them against the Sacramento Kings in early January. “Their team as a whole from the 3-point line was huge,” Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown said. “And going in we knew that was a problem with that team because they are a good team from that line.” There is a familiar saying in basketball at any level that successful 3-point shooting teams tend to live and die by their craft. It’s always been debated whether teams that survive off their 3-point arsenal can be championship-caliber squads. So far during this season’s playoffs, the Magic have proven that they can be. At this point, nobody should be surprised if Dwight Howard, who exploded for 10 of his team-high 27 points in OT, or even Marcin Gortat starts draining 3s soon. When you talk about ‘magic,’ anything is possible!!

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