About 90minutes¬†before Game 7 in Boston on Sunday, when he might have beenreviewing scouting reports or watching video, Magic center Dwight Howardtrolled the locker room for people to chest-bump. First it was forward HedoTurkoglu. Then point guard Rafer Alston got one. The block-chested Howardthumped Anthony Johnson so hard that the backup guard nearly toppled onto atraining table. "That's just how we do things around here," Johnsonexplained. The Magic way seems to work: A few hours later the players were backin the locker room celebrating a 101--82 slaying of the Celtics that put theteam in its first conference finals since 1996.
If the Magic'spregame preparation is unconventional, so is the way it plays. Instead ofcomplementing the 6'11" Howard with slashers and another low-post scorer,Orlando has surrounded him with outside shooters, including frontcourtmatesTurkoglu and Rashard Lewis. With Howard opening up the floor by drawing doubleteams in the post and off the pick-and-roll, the Magic finished second in theleague in three-pointers taken (26.2 per game) and in makes (10.0). In theBoston series, the Magic connected on 56 of 162 long-range attempts (34.6%)."When those shooters get going," says Celtics coach Doc Rivers,"[Orlando] is nearly impossible to guard."
They got goingagainst Cleveland in the regular season; the Magic won two of three games,including a 29-point blowout in Orlando on April 3. In those victories theMagic got the Cavaliers' defense scrambling with pick-and-roll afterpick-and-roll, attempted 58 threes and hit 24 (41.4%). That strategy is sure tocontinue in the Eastern Conference finals. "We need a lot of movement,"says Johnson. "You can't go one-on-one with them because they are too gooddefensively."
Orlando also hopesto apply the lessons it learned in overcoming a 3--2 series deficit against thereigning champs. In Games 4 and 5 the Magic looked overwhelmed when no reliablescorer stepped forward in the fourth quarter. But Lewis had eight points in thefinal period of Game 6, and Turkoglu emerged on Sunday, scoring 10 of his 25 inthe fourth quarter. "We have matured a lot in a short period of time,"says Lewis. Howard agrees. As he walked off the podium after his postgame pressconference on Sunday, he paused, looked down and said quietly to himself,"I feel like I grew up tonight."