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Orlando advances to Eastern Conference finals

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Associated Press
May 18, 2009
— Dwight Howard remembers the reaction when he first talked about bringing an NBA championship to Orlando.

“Everybody laughed,” the Magic center said after helping Orlando beat the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics 101-82 on Sunday night and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.


“I believe we can win a championship. We’re not going to stop going after one until we get it. We have the right team. We have the talent. We have the coaches. It’s just on us to go out there and play hard. I have a long way to go, but I’m still hungry.”


Howard scored 12 points with 16 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Hedo Turkoglu had 25 points with 12 assists for Orlando, which trailed for just 36 seconds after the opening basket and held on to earn the right to play LeBron James and the Cavaliers for a spot in the NBA finals.


Game 1 is Wednesday in Cleveland.


Orlando won the season series 2-1, but the Cavaliers swept both of their postseason series and have been waiting for their next opponent since last Monday.


“Cleveland is playing at a much higher level than anybody else in the playoffs. We’re going to have to take it up another notch,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “But that’s for us to worry about tomorrow. I am going to enjoy this one until I get on the plane tonight and start watching film.”


Western Conference

-- Lakers 89, Rockets 70—All is well again in La-La Land. The real Los Angeles Lakers showed up, and in a Game 7, no less.


With Pau Gasol dominating on both ends of the court, the Lakers emphatically silenced the doubters and the Houston Rockets, winning the decisive final game of the Western Conference semifinals at Los Angeles.


Playing with emotion, Gasol scored 21 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. The Lakers looked like the conference’s top-seeded team, not the maddeningly inconsistent one that was pushed to the limit by the undermanned, smaller Rockets.


The Lakers host the opener of the conference finals against Denver on Tuesday night.


Los Angeles won three of four from Denver this season.


The Lakers have been so up and down in this series that coach Phil Jackson said before Game 5 that they had a little bit of Jekyll and Hyde in them. That was the night the Lakers raced to a 40-point win at home, only to follow it up two nights later with a 15-point loss, the second straight game they were blind-sided in Houston.


There are any number of theories as to why the Lakers have had a split personality.


Asked what the Lakers learned from this series, Kobe Bryant cracked: “That we’re bipolar.”


Added Lamar Odom: “To make it interesting. It’s Hollywood, you know.”



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