Cleveland Rocks! Cavaliers Bring Down Magic

Two seconds, two amazing last second shots and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Orlando Magic Friday night, with Lebron James at the buzzer. But Orlando might have magic left, too. Host Scott Simon checks in with NPR sports guy Tom Goldman about the NBA playoffs.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Hey, Burke, strike up the band.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Cleveland rocks. Two seconds, two amazing last-second shots, as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Orlando Magic last night with Lebron James at the buzzer. But Orlando might have some magic left too. I'm almost still too breathless to talk, so let's get NPR's Tom Goldman in here. Tom, morning.

TOM GOLDMAN: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: You and I have seen some hoops. This was like the most amazing two seconds I've ever seen.

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, I anticipated your question and I realized that silent awe is the only (unintelligible) justice to what Lebron did.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: So Scott, can we just do three seconds of silence here?

SIMON: Yeah.

Now, in that time, in that time, I mean, because Turkoglu hit what looked like the last-second shot…

GOLDMAN: He did, but, you know, it's Lebron James. I mean, it's one of those amazing sports moments when a superstar knows he has to deliver and he does. Now, Lebron talked before the game about the pressure he felt in Cleveland. The city's - you know, the city is - sports fans are famished for a major sports championship after a 45-year drought. The NBA obviously wants Lebron in the finals. And with all this on his shoulders, he still rose effortlessly - better than me - and nailed this three-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

Now, not to rain on this parade, but he made this shot thanks to Orlando's one major gaffe down the stretch. The Magic let Lebron catch the ball, they let him catch it beyond the three-point arc when a three-pointer was the only thing that could beat them, and it did.

SIMON: Yeah, traditionally it would have been to foul him, right?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, or let someone else catch the ball and catch it within two-point range.

SIMON: The series is tied at one and one, and amazing as last night's win was, the Cavs squirted away a 23-point lead, I believe, and of course they leave Cleveland with a split. Now, champions usually have to win at home. So Orlando has reason not only to be proud but even a little confident.

GOLDMAN: Oh, very much so. You know, the Magic was a good team this season. In the playoffs they've become really good. Orlando is a potent mix of an outstanding big man - Dwight Howard - who commands a lot of attention near the basket, and deadly long-range shooters like Turkoglu and like Rashard Lewis. And it's tough to defend everyone, and Cleveland hasn't been able to do that.

Amidst his joy last night - it was very interesting - Lebron said the Cavs need to figure out how to do that and if they don't, they're not going to win this series, despite having the best player on the planet.

SIMON: And let me ask about, of course, the Lakers-Denver Nuggets series, 'cause there's been obviously so much anticipation and attention, always is, focused on Kobe Bryant. But the Nuggets have a couple of pretty good players too, including the guy nicknamed Melo.

GOLDMAN: Oh, absolutely. Carmelo Anthony is having a breakout playoffs. And again, we talked about not being able to guard people. The Lakers don't have anyone to stop him. Denver also has the best point guard in the playoffs, the great Chauncey Billups, who transformed this team since being traded from Detroit this year.

And the Nuggets are pounding, just pounding L.A.'s rather soft big man. So Denver really is in the catbird seat heading back to Denver for game three tonight having stolen a game in L.A. Kobe's been great but his teammates, just like Lebron's teammates, have to ramp up their games.

And the last thing I'll say, Scott, about this is we now have four really good teams left. It's all even. It would not be a surprise, although it would make the NBA cringe a little bit, at this point to have a Denver versus Orlando final.

SIMON: I am compelled to tell you, Tom, that by the estate of Red Barber that he has still a patent on that phrase the catbird seat. So you owe a payment, okay? I'll take your Visa number as soon as we're off the air, Tom. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIMON: And, by the way, Michael Vick, former NFL quarterback convicted for his role in a dog fighting ring, has a new role with the Humane Society of the United States. And you can read my remarks on that on our blog, npr.org/SoapBox.

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