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MAGIC ON BRINK OF REACHING FINALS

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ORLANDO, Fla. - -The Orlando Magic is one win away from reaching the NBA Finals, and the Cleveland Cavaliers and their superstar, LeBron James, are one loss from having their dream season end in nightmarish fashion.

Dwight Howard scored 27 points - including 10 in the game's extra period - and Rafer Alston added a career playoff-high 26 points Tuesday night as the Magic beat the Cavaliers, 116-114, in overtime to take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

"This thing is a long, long, long way from over," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "When you've got a guy as great as him on the other side, you're a long way from done."

James, who finished with 44 points, had one last chance to win the game in overtime, but his three-point attempt from about 40 feet as time expired clanged off the left side of the rim.

The Magic made 17 of 38 of their three-point attempts - 44.7 percent - including one from Rashard Lewis in the left corner with 4.1 seconds left in regulation that gave Orlando a 100-98 lead.

After a Cleveland timeout, James took the ensuing inbounds pass, drove down the lane toward the basket and drew a blocking foul against Orlando's Mickael Pietrus with 0.5 of a second remaining. With Amway Arena's sellout crowd of 17,461 booing, James hit both shots to tie the score.

On the ensuing inbounds play, the Magic tried to have Hedo Turkoglu pass the ball to Howard near the Cleveland hoop. Howard and Anderson Varejao got tangled up without Howard catching the ball, leaving Orlando fans calling for a foul that never came.

James' 44 points came on 13-of-29 shooting, and Cleveland point guard Mo Williams, who had guaranteed Monday that the Cavaliers would win the series, added 18 points but made just five of his 15 shots from the field.

The Cavaliers turned the ball over four times in overtime.

"It hurt a lot," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "When you turn the ball over, you don't give yourself an opportunity, obviously, to score."

Lewis finished with 17 points, while Turkoglu had 15.

Game 5 is set for Thursday night in Cleveland, where the Magic has won three of the past five games between the teams. With a victory, Orlando would earn its second trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history and first since 1995.

After Cleveland and Orlando combined for 58 personal fouls during Game 3 - including one foul on an elbow by Orlando's Anthony Johnson that left the left side of Williams' face bloodied and in need of four stitches - they combined for 50 fouls Tuesday night.

But the intensity ratcheted up with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter and Cleveland ahead 73-70. Howard, who also had 14 rebounds, drove the baseline for what looked like it would be an easy dunk and started to jump toward the goal when Cleveland's Anderson Varejao grabbed Howard from behind and tried to keep him on the ground.

The ball went through the hoop for the basket, but Howard was incensed when the referees didn't call a flagrant foul on Varejao. Howard was whistled for a technical foul - his sixth of the playoffs, one short of an automatic one-game suspension.

But in the end, Howard had the last laugh.

MAGIC @CAVS

Thursday, 8:30 p.m.

TV: TNT

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