This one hurts. The Cavs were close for most of the game, got down in the fourth and made a late (and I mean late) push to get it into overtime. In OT they had a lead with 13 seconds to go, but Dwight Howard made two freebies and the Cavs couldn't convert at the other end (Hedo Turkoglu, of all people, tied LeBron up for a jump ball as time was about to expire).
LeBron was a beast. James played probably his most complete game of the year; he led the Cavaliers in just about every category you can think of by scoring 39 points, dishing out 14 assists, grabbing 13 boards and blocking two shots. He even hit his free throws (7-9), including three in the final 2.4 seconds of regulation. LeBron will probably take some crap from the media for having Turkoglu force the jump ball, but I can't fault anything about LeBron's performance Wednesday night. He hit a go-ahead shot with 13 seconds left in OT, he hit three free throws to tie the game to send it to OT and he guarded Rashard Lewis down the stretch- in short, he played like an MVP.
Can't say they aren't giving the fans what they want. Larry Hughes took the first Cavalier shot of the game. It was a jumper. He missed. Larry didn't have a particularly good game, going 2-12 for just 4 points. I'll direct your attention here.
The Cavs started out slow. They spotted the Magic a 7-0 lead and then got down 11-3. It's not really surprising, considering that Cleveland is coming off their West coast trip (they played in Denver on Monday night). However, they ended up having a 29-28 lead at the end of the first period. Things slowed a bit in the second quarter, getting down 52-45, before the Cavs closed out the half strong to take a 56-55 lead into halftime.
The offense looked good early. Four of the five Cavalier starters scored in double figures in the first 24 minutes (Hughes didn't score) and LeBron led the way with 14 points, 7 assists and 3 boards. The defense was the problem early on; the rotations weren't quick enough and it allowed Orlando to shoot 52% for the half.
Z and Gooden both had strong game offensively, but neither could contain Dwight Howard. Gooden had 23 points and 12 boards while Z pitched in 18 and 11. However, Howard had 35 and 16, including a couple big rebounds down the stretch (though the Cavs out rebounded Orlando 50-42 overall). This could've been a game that Varejao was missed, if just to get a cheap charge or two on Howard. The big fella got Z fouled out gave Gooden 5 as well.
Daniel Gibson's last basket came with 11:40 to go... in the third quarter. I'm sure Orlando stepped up their defense a bit, but Gibson had 13 points at halftime and 16 for the game. The guy was on fire too; he was perfect from the floor (5-5 overall, 4-4 from downtown) and from the line (2-2). I have no idea how the Cavs can't get him a shot over the final two periods and OT.
Pavlovic was back and he was so-so. Sasha had some good moments in the first half (6 points) but he made some mistakes down the stretch and he missed a bunch of open jumpers late (though, in a few weeks, I'm pretty sure those drop).
The turnovers hurt. Cleveland only had one more TO than Orlando (15 to 14) but they led to 20 Magic points, compared to just 13 for the Cavaliers. The Cavs had a bunch of mental mistakes as well, sloppy passes, traveling and just some general misunderstandings. They got better as the game went on, but if a few of those miscues don't happen...
More injuries. Damon Jones' back flared up late in the game and Larry Hughes was having his knee looked at on the sideline (Hughes didn't play down the stretch, whether it's because of injury or just general crappiness, I don't know). At this point, losing Jones would be a bigger blow, as it would make Gibson the teams' only point guard AND consistent outside threat. The Cavs face Utah on Friday (which I may or may not be able to watch and/or write up) and that's a tough team to face when you want to stop a two game slide from ballooning into a three game losing streak.