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Magic edge closer to final as LeBron's Cavs crushed

DWIGHT Howard dominated the overtime period to lift the Orlando Magic to a 116-114 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, putting the home team on the verge of a trip to the NBA finals.

Howard's two free throws with 21 seconds remaining capped a 10-point effort in the extra session as the center nicknamed "Superman" finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds to help the Magic leave LeBron James' Cavs facing a stunning series defeat.

"Now it's time to close it out," Howard told reporters after guiding his team to a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. "We have to have the killer instinct. If we want to win a championship this is what it takes."

League MVP James recorded 44 points to reach the 40-point barrier for the third time in the series, but all those games have ended in losses for the top seeded Cavs. He made two free throws with less than a second remaining in regulation to send the game into the extra session, but his 3-point attempt to win the contest at the overtime buzzer hit the rim of the basket before bouncing away.

Owners of the best record during the regular season, Cleveland won its first eight games in the playoffs, but has struggled to match up against the Magic, while dominant displays from James have not been emulated by teammates. Cavaliers guard Mo Williams had 18 points, but shot just 5-for-15 from the field, while Delonte West added 17.

Orlando made 17 3-pointers, a postseason franchise-record, with six from point guard Rafer Alston who netted 26 points.

The Magic led by eight points midway through the fourth quarter, but Cleveland clawed back to lead 98-97 with 1:05 left in regulation.

Rashard Lewis drilled a baseline three to put Orlando up 100-98 with four seconds left, but James drew a foul and made his free throws to take the game into overtime.

Howard scored the first six points in overtime to put the Magic a step closer to its first NBA finals since 1995. Orlando can close out the series in Game 5 in Cleveland today.

"It gets harder and harder," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "When you've got a guy as great as (James) on the other side, you're a long way from being done."

James, averaging 42.2 points per game during the conference finals, may need more heroics to help the Cavaliers become just the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 1-3 series deficit. "I have to figure out a way not to have eight (turnovers)," said James. "That's unacceptable to me."


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