Magic 115-106 for 13th straight victory
February 12, 2010
Magic guard Vince Carter, left, drives past Cleveland
Cavaliers' Shaquille O'Neal, right, in the first quarter.
CLEVELAND - When he arrived in Cleveland, Shaquille O'Neal
made it clear there would be no more double-teaming
Orlando's Dwight Howard.
He'd handle things himself, as he did Thursday night. Oh,
and he wants his cape back.
"I don't really consider it manning up until you play me
straight up," O'Neal said. "I've never doubled anybody. So
you tell me who the real Superman is."
LeBron James had 32 points and 13 assists as the Cavaliers —
with a big fourth-quarter defensive effort from O'Neal —
matched their franchise record by winning their 13th
straight game with a 115-106 victory over the Magic.
It was a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals,
and both teams are again on top of the East this year, but
O'Neal, who had 10 points and six rebounds on Thursday, has
made a huge difference for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers are 4-0 this season against the Lakers and
Magic, teams they struggled to beat a year ago.
"We swept San Antonio in the regular season (in 2007), then
got to the finals and they swept us in the finals," James
said. "You want to win those games, of course. What you do
in the regular season is good, but once the playoffs start,
everyone is 0-0."
O'Neal and Howard — both nicknamed "Superman" — were plagued
with foul trouble most of the night, taking some of the
luster off their physical battle in the post. But O'Neal
kept his word by taking care of Howard by himself, while the
Magic employed a consistent double team on O'Neal.
"It doesn't matter who's on the floor. Just to play the game
at a high level is always fun," Howard said, downplaying his
matchup with O'Neal. "It's entertaining for the crowd. I
know he caught the ball one time in the post and the crowd
erupted like he was about to do a Superman dunk or
Saddled with five fouls, O'Neal did not enter the fourth
quarter until 7:48 remained with the game tied at 94.
Howard, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds, immediately spun
around O'Neal for a dunk. The Magic didn't score again for
five minutes as James and the Cavaliers built a 105-98
advantage. O'Neal plugged up the middle during his 19
minutes on the floor, something the Cavaliers sorely needed
during their battles with Orlando last season.
Howard, who has struggled with fouls in both meetings
against Cleveland this season, overpowered the Cavaliers
during last season's finals, averaging 25.8 points and 13
rebounds during Orlando's series victory in six games. In
two games against O'Neal and the Cavaliers this season,
Howard has averaged 15 points and nine rebounds.
"Don't compare me to nobody," O'Neal said, borrowing a line
from Jay-Z. "I'd rather not be mentioned. I'm offended."
O'Neal might have really been offended by Howard's recent
commercial using the "Superman" moniker, something he takes
credit for creating upon entering the league. Even James
acknowledged the nickname battle has stung his teammate.
"The whole Superman thing kind of bothers him," James said.
"That's definitely his nickname."
While O'Neal handled Howard, James again closed out another
opponent late in the game, scoring seven points in the final
three minutes while Orlando struggled to find the basket.
James hit a deep jumper from just inside the 3-point line to
give the Cavaliers a 105-96 lead, then followed it up with a
3-pointer and another jumper to put the game out of reach.
James also had eight rebounds, falling two shy of his third
triple-double this season.
Orlando, playing for the fourth time in five nights, had won
nine of its last 11.
J.J. Hickson had 20 points, and Anderson Varejao had 16 off
"We took care of the basketball," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown
said. "I thought all our guys tried to attack and they did
not just settle for the 3-point shot."
The Cavaliers scored 52 points in the paint.
Orlando's Rashard Lewis added 19 points, Vince Carter had 14
and Jameer Nelson had 13.
When Howard picked up his fourth foul five minutes into the
third quarter, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy pulled him,
something he later regretted. Most of Howard's fouls came
when O'Neal was off the floor.
"In retrospect, I should have left (Howard) in the game and
played him straight through," Van Gundy said. "That was a
mistake. Down the stretch, I should have gone back to having
the ball in Dwight's hands and I didn't. I'll take the
responsibility for that."
Cleveland can set a record for consecutive wins next week
when it hosts Denver on Thursday following the All-Star
NOTES: Guard Delonte West returned to Cleveland's
lineup after missing nine games with a broken left ring
finger. West had eight points in 24 minutes. ... Cleveland's
Leon Powe passed a number of physical tests this week and
appears to be on pace to return shortly after the All-Star
break. Powe had microfracture and ACL surgery on his knee
over the summer. ... O'Neal's reality television show "Shaq
Vs." was picked up for another season.