Orlando 107, Cleveland 106

This team is done. They cake walked through the first two rounds. They were only 3-6 against the Celtics, Magic and Lakers. They have no answers for Howard, Turkogu or Lewis. Dwight Howard fouled out (on ticky-tack fouls no less) and they still lost. They blew an insane effort by one LeBron James (not to mention a 16 point lead). But LeBron still can’t hit his free throws when they matter. Mo Williams is in uncharted waters and it shows. Z is too slow. The bench doesn’t give them enough. We’re Cleveland and we’re doomed.

It’s cool, it’s cool. They had 9 days off and they were obviously tired in the second half. Orlando has absolutely no answer for LeBron. Mo got open looks and just didn’t knock ’em down. Despite missing for most of the game, Mo had the fortitude to hit a clutch trey with two minutes left. The refs were awful; the Magic got some seriously questionable calls on Williams (how come when he gets knocked down he gets whistled!) and Varejao (Turkoglu totally jumped into him!). The Cavs executed down the stretch, routinely getting good looks. It’s not like they got blown out, they built a 16 point lead for a reason. It’s all there, they just can’t get into that “stand around and watch LeBron” lull.

Though seriously, the sky isn’t falling. They lost a game, their first of the postseason. Did everyone think the road to the title would be easy? They had a bad game. Orlando hit shots, they executed down the stretch and they never stopped fighting. They’re a good team, much better than both the Pistons and the Hawks (I mean, they did just win a Game 7 in Boston). Is there cause for concern? Of course; they have to limit the looks for both Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis and they have to get someone else going at the offensive end. But this is what the playoffs is: making adjustments game to game (and it’s also what Mike Brown is really good at).

LeBron looks freaking dialed in. The MVP shot a preposterous 20-30 from the floor (3-6 from 3pt) and finished with a playoff career high 49 points. James also pitched in 8 assists, 6 boards, 3 blocks and 2 steals. He was knocking down his midrange jumpers, he was hitting his treys, he got inside and drew fouls and he even abused Mickael Pietrus in the post. His one blemish was the fact that he shot just 6-10 from the line. I hate to tell a guy who just scored 49 points that he needs to do more… but… they can’t have him going 60% from the stripe. They lost by one while he missed four freebies. Not saying that’s what determined the final outcome, but it’s not good in any event.

The starters weren’t awful, but they weren’t great either. On one hand, each other member of the starting five finished in double figures, so it’s not like they were completely useless. However, Mo Williams finished a grisly 6-19 from the floor (2-8 3pt) and Delonte West didn’t fare any better, going 4-13 (3-8 3pt). The Cavs won’t be able to win with their backcourt shooting 30%. Z was alright, going 5-11 from the floor for 10 points and he grabbed 10 boards. However, he’s gonna have matchup problems defensively this entire series; he’s not quick enough (or strong enough) to deal with Howard (though few are) and he’s useless guarding someone like Rashard Lewis or Turkoglu (Boston faced the same problem). Also, Varejao played well, going 6-8 for 14 points, but only grabbed 6 boards (and just 1 offensive).

Hey Mike? These guys might need a rest. The Cavs haven’t played a game in 9 days and Mike Brown has Williams, James and West all play over 40 minutes (West played 47!!!). Now that stretch where they sat around and hoisted treys makes sense: they were beat. I know the bench was awful (and it was- 5 points, 6 boards combined) but do you really not trust Daniel Gibson (3 minutes) and Sasha Pavlovic (DNP-CD) that much? Only Wally, Joe Smith and Ben Wallace got significant minutes off the bench. They basically played no backup guards. Only slow bigs off the bench. I think they’re gonna need Pavlovic to contribute; he’ll be able to stay with both Lewis and Turkoglu on the defensive end (he just has to not F-up at the offensive end).

Let’s give the Magic their due. This is a squad that won 59 games. It ain’t like they’re in the conference finals on accident. They played a good game. The Cavs tried to single cover Howard and he made them pay (30 pts, 14-20 FG and 13 boards). Orlando took advantage of their speed and beat Z and Varejao to the rim (or out to the 3pt line). The Cavs tried to hide LeBron defensively on Rafer Alston (to conserve energy), but the Magic used their height to shoot over West and Williams. Rashard Lewis hit some freaking HUGE shots. Lewis had 8 points in the final three minutes (12 in the quarter), including the go-ahead 3 with 14 seconds to go. Hedo Turkoglu also had a great final period, scoring 9 points (all in the final five minuets) and had a whopping 7 assists (he finished with 14 in total). Also, while LeBron owned Mickael Pietrus, he stuck in there (I thought he gave good energy the entire game) and he hit some tough tough shots to cut into the Cavalier lead.

and finally…

This is just a bump in the road… for now. This is just one game. Sure, they lost at home, but that happens. If Orlando was going to steal a game in Cleveland, it would be the one where the Cavs had the previous nine days off. Hell, the Lakers lost Game 1 in the last round. These things happen. What’s comforting me is the fact that Mike Brown usually does well in these extended series. While I’m not totally sold on his in game adjustments (Delonte West played 47 minutes!!) Brown makes good adjustments from game to game during the playoffs (think the two Detroit series from 2006 and 2007). Now, they do have some things to change; the bench has to produce more than 5 points and they have to figure out what to do with Z on the defensive end. While this sucks, at the end of the day it’s just one game out of seven. What? You didn’t think that this city’s first title since Meet the Beatles would be easy, did you?

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