How the hell did this happen? With two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Cavs held a 68-61 lead. They were playing pretty cohesively on the offensive end and Delonte West was playing particularly well (7 points, 2 assists and block in the period). The Cavs ended the quarter trailing 73-72 (yup, 12 points in two minutes) and were down 84-76 by the 9:00 mark in the fourth (yup, 23 points in five minutes). Over those five minutes, the Magic simply caught fire; they were 8-9 from the field, 4-5 from behind the arc and 3-3 from the foul line (they scored more in that five minute span than they did in either of the first two periods).
The Cavs were lookin’ pretty good too… This looked like a statement game for the Cavaliers; they seemed to be beating Orlando with relative ease. The defense was stellar, the offense looked smooth (Pavlovic looked especially comfortable) and the rotation pattern seemed much more natural. But the Cavs went cold; they scored just 17 points in the final period and finished just 6-19 from downtown and 14-22 from the line.
Free throws and 3 point shooting hurt. The Magic were 22-28 from the line and 14-32 from the field. The Cavs? 14-22 and 6-19. That won’t get it done. The Cavalier starters combined to go 3-12 from downtown (West 1-5, James 1-4, Pavlovic 1-3) while their Orlando counterparts went 9-19 (and that includes Jameer Nelson’s 1-6).
Second game back from injury, second night of a back-to-back… go guard Dwight Howard. Z didn’t have a good game (whether its the travel, the injury or the Dwight Howard, I dunno). The big fella was just 2-10 from the floor, he missed his only two free throw attempts and he ended up with 5 fouls. Some of the jumpers that fell Sunday didn’t fall on Monday and he picked up a few fouls while going for offensive rebounds.
Back-to-back Ben Wallace isn’t pretty either. Big Ben had 2 points and 4 boards in just 23 minutes of court time. It wasn’t like Wallace was bad or awful… he just wasn’t anything… a non-factor. I’m a little concerned that the starting bigs had some issues on the second day, but I’m not overly concerned since A) both guys are returning from back issues (meaning I’d like to see more) and B) there are off days between playoff games.
LeBron James was good, if not great. I know, 30 points, 9 boards and 6 assists… not great. I dunno, maybe I’m spoiled, but I was underwhelmed with LeBron’s performance. He seemed to settle for a lot of jumpers (though there were stretches where he attacked forcefully). Free throws were an issue again, as James ended up just 7-11 from the charity stripe (over the last 5 games he’s 48-71 for 68%). What was somewhat disturbing was the fact that James looked turnover prone late in the game, especially when working with Delonte West. It’s hard to argue with his box score, but I just didn’t feel like his focus was all the way there.
Pavlovic looked comfortable in the offense, Wally looked comfortable on the bench. Sasha finished with 14 points (6-11 FG, 1-3 3pt), 5 boards and 2 assists. He didn’t dribble the ball behind his back through traffic, but he did dust off the classic “Pavlovic charge” (I’ve missed it so much). Sasha looked pretty active out there and he gave the Cavs a solid effort on both offense and defense. And Wally? 1-4 from the field in just 6 minutes of court time. As of now, it looks like he’s losing the battle for minutes… but if that shot could start to fall…
Besides Wally, the rest of the bench was pretty productive. Joe Smith and Devin Brown both finished with 7 points (both were 3-6 from the floor as well) and Damon Jones chipped in 6 (2-6 from behind the arc). I thought Anderson Varejao played well, but he picked up some dumb fouls (as well as a weak one or two); Andy finished with just 2 points and 3 boards in just 20 minutes. I’ve stated this before, but I really like Devin Brown coming off the bench (and I think Pavlovic fits in much better as a starter). When starting, Brown falls into the role of the shooting guard, which fits, but its not something he excels at. When he comes off the bench, he’ll fall into the energy guy/junk player/hustle player role (which fits him perfectly IMO).
14 games left, but how many with the full team? The Cavs biggest goal should be to get healthy, but it wouldn’t hurt to finish the year strong (especially when you consider that they have Detroit three more times as well as meetings with Toronto and Orlando). They’ve looked pretty strong when they’ve had the bulk of their parts and I imagine that they’ll look just as strong with everyone healthy… but will there be enough time? While other teams are gearing up for the playoffs, Mike Brown and company will be scrambling to find their best player rotation.