Thursday, April 05, 2007

Miami 94, Cleveland 90 OT

The Heat in Cleveland, late season game, playoff implications and it ended in overtime- sounds like all the ingredients for a good game right? Wrong. That game was awful. Cleveland and Miami both played poorly, just at separate times (though Cleveland's awfulness was much more frequent). If I wasn't a Cavs fan, there was no way I'd have watched that game (and as a Cavs fan I wanted to turn it off for the first 2 hours and 40 minutes).

The Cavs had no business being in this ball game (and in overtime they proved it). 37% shooting. 25% from 3. They had a 11 minute spell where they made just one field goal. O-N-E. The defense wasn't much better; Shaq had his way all night and when they doubled, Miami's shooters were left wide the f*** open (hell, Antoine Walker was left open without the double team).

The reason they were in it (and in OT)? The answer may surprise you: free throws. The Cavs shot 24-29 from the charity stripe (82%) and they actually made their freebies down the stretch. LeBron was 11-13 from the line (and the two he missed were early on- not in the fourth. He was clutch). The Heat let the Cavs back into it by committing dumb fouls down the stretch which enabled the Cavs score some points while the clock was stopped (and I really mean they let the Cavs back into it; the Cavaliers were happy to hoist dumb jumpers until they realized they had a shot thanks to Miami's fouls).

The refs were terrible. Riddle me this: Scot Pollard fouls Alonzo Mourning. Mourning over reacts and causes a scene. Pollard gives a dumb smirk. Tech on Pollard. Makes sense to me! There were a ton of calls that could've/should've gone the Cavs way (let's point out a few simply from memory: Eric Snow's collision/charge, Pavlovic's goaltend on Walker's layup,
Shaq blocking Z's dunk attempt by getting all wrist and no ball, Z getting tackled in OT on a tip, Gooden getting stripped by Shaq in OT. What I miss?)

But this loss can't be blamed on the zebras. If I had to blame someone, I'd blame Mike Brown. The Cavs were listless and had no energy, they had no offensive continuity, they left guys open on defense, they gave up offensive rebounds- they just didn't seem prepared (they left Walker wide open OFF OF A TIMEOUT. I've always assumed that the Cavs focussed on defense during timeouts, due to their penchant for having terrible offensive possession following a TO. But now... who knows what goes on in there. Maybe Damon Jones is just telling jokes).

The biggest coaching issue was the Cavs' critical offensive possessions late in the game. They had two possessions in which they could've either won it (in regulation) or tied it (in overtime) and both times they failed to execute the designed "play". Out of those two possessions they got a LeBron 25 foot fade away 3 over two men and a blown inbounds play. Fantastic. Those are the plays you drew up? LeBron dribbles into two guys and hoists a bomb? Hughes chucks the ball to the other sideline?

But the coaches can't get all the blame. Let's not forget the players. Here's the thing: at this point the Cavs shouldn't need to get motivated for this game. They were playing a conference rival, they held a slim grasp on the 2-seed (which they gave up) and they were at home. What was the problem? Also, I'm relatively confident that Coach Mike didn't tell the Cavs to stand around, hoist jumpers and not challenge the Heat inside. And I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money that he didn't tell them to just let Miami hoist open 3s at will. And as for the last second plays... LeBron needed to call a timeout (I'm 99% sure that they had one) after Miami trapped him out high (he didn't have to settle for the 25 foot fade away. Call a TO and draw up a quick shot- and if they didn't have a TO, my apologies).

The Cavs scored 7 points in OT. And only 4 points for the first 4:55 of the extra session. It seemed that the Cavs didn't have anything left in the tank for the OT, like they used all their energy making the comeback (which was at 15 with 10 minutes to go in the fourth). Of course, if they had drawn up an actual play at the end of regulation, they wouldn't have needed the 5 extra minutes....

I've said this before... but it never fails to amaze me how the Cavs can play so completely awful (and I mean terrible, The Reaping-level awful) and yet still find themselves with a chance to win the ball game. Seriously, I can't say this enough: they had no business being in this game and yet, there they were. This has happened throughout the season (the game in Dallas comes to mind quickly, but I'm sure there are others) and I just don't get it. And that's what makes this team so frustrating (well, one of the reasons): they can play so poorly and shoot themselves in the foot for almost an entire ball game and still have a shot to win. Wonder what would they would look like if they actually had an offense or decided to guard shooters.

and finally...

Hello 5th seed! If the playoffs ended today, the Cavs would be facing these Miami Heat in the first round. Who likes that scenario? Personally, I'm not a fan. Obviously, I'd like to see the Cavs face a depleted Wizards team (who they'll probably lose to Friday) or anyone from the New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Orlando contingent rather than the defending champs. The Cavs can physically hang with the Heat, but when it comes to mental toughness and coaching, they won't stand a chance.

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