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Published: Friday, 1/30/2009

Cavaliers fall flat on big stage

BY MARY SCHMITT BOYER
(CLEVELAND) PLAIN DEALER
The Cavs' Daniel Gibson is swarmed by the Magic defense while driving to the basket. The Cavs' Daniel Gibson is swarmed by the Magic defense while driving to the basket.
JOHN RAOUX / AP Enlarge

ORLANDO, Fla. - If this was any kind of statement game, the Cavaliers had better look for a new speechwriter.

The evening started out with guard Mo Williams not being named an All-Star reserve by the Eastern Conference coaches and went straight downhill from there. The Cavs didn't look like the best team in the Eastern Conference, failed to clinch the All-Star coaching slot for Mike Brown, and pretty much stunk up the joint in a 99-88 loss to the Orlando Magic.

It was their second-biggest loss of the season, and it came in front of a national TNT audience and celebrities like Tiger Woods and NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

LeBron James made just 10 of 27 shots and finished with 23 points. His only support came from guard Wally Szczerbiak, who finished with 14 points. If things weren't bad enough, recent contributor Tarence Kin-sey suffered what looked to be a severe ankle injury with 1:21 left, prompting his teammates to rush all the way across the court to his assistance.

Meanwhile, the Magic looked as if they didn't have enough representatives on the All-Star team. Center Dwight Howard led the way with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis each had 19, and guard Jameer Nelson added 18.

Although much of the pregame talk focused on the fact Williams didn't make the All-Star team as a reserve while Nelson and Lewis did, Szczerbiak came out and reminded folks he was once an All-Star too.

Of course, his inspiration last night was more personal. His father, Walt, attended his first Cavs road game since having heart surgery in November.

"I feel great," Walt Szczerbiak told reporters before the game. Imagine how good he felt after watching his son's stellar performance.

The Cavs needed every one of those baskets too, since James made just 7 of 18 shots in a frantic first half.

Still playing without injured center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and guard Delonte West, the Cavs shot 58.3 percent (14-of-24) and pulled out to a 32-25 lead after the first quarter. They led by 10 points early in the second quarter and were still up 53-43 after James banked in a hook shot with 3:10 left. But Nelson scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, to fuel a 10-3 run that got the Magic within 56-55 at halftime.

James and the Cavs came out flat in the third quarter. James missed his first two shots, and the Cavs missed their first six as Orlando pulled out to a 62-56 lead. Brown took a timeout with 8:41 in an effort to regroup.

The Cavs responded with baskets by Williams and forward Anderson Varejao to close to 62-60. But after James turned the ball over while trying to make a play on the other end, Brown went absolutely ballistic on the sideline, screaming at referee Bob Delaney to call a foul. Stunned players had to hold him back, and when Williams complained about the officiating, Delaney gave him a technical too.

By the time all the free throws were over, the Magic were up 66-60.



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