I keep going back and forth. On one hand, I see a team that is a last second heave away from being down 0-3. They've blown leads at home, they've stood around and watched LeBron and they seem slow to make adjustments. The Magic have played extremely well and they, at times, look dominant.
On the other hand, this group is a Rashard Lewis jumper away from being up 2-1. Yes, they've blown leads at home but they got those leads for good reasons (hey, remember when LeBron schooled Mickael Pietrus in the post? That was neat). Have things looked bad at times? Sure, but it's not like no one has ever come back from a 2-1 hole. At some point I also think that Orlando has played about as well as they can play. They aren't going to look any better than they have already. Maybe I'm grasping at straws here, but it's fairly obvious what areas the Cavaliers need to focus on. How much more could you expect out of Lewis, Howard and Turkoglu?
But am I nervous about tonight? Lord yes. While I'm not freaking out over being down 2-1, I'm definitely not comfortable with the idea. I don't want to even contemplate being down 3-1.
You know what's not helping my comfort level? Mo Williams making guarantees.
He better hope that the Cavs win Game 4, because if they continue at their current level of play (including -and especially- Williams), he's gonna come off like a jackass.
Mo hasn't played particularly well (17 pts, 32% FG, 25% 3pt) and he just put a lot of pressure on himself. If this ends well, Mo will come out of a this a Cleveland folk hero. Maybe the Cavs and the city needs this bravado, even if it rings a bit false. False bravado has got to be better than utter despair, right?
The fact of the matter is, this series hinges on the play Mo Williams. The Orlando supporting cast (if you can even call it that) around Dwight Howard has been superb. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis are the reason Orlando owns this 2-1 advantage. If Williams can step up and provide James with some help (not just knocking down open looks, but by initiating the offense and forcing/allowing LeBron to play off the ball) the Cavs will be in a much better position.
For better or worse, I keep reminding myself that this is basically Mo Williams's first 'real' playoff series. Sure, he made it with the Bucks, but they knew going in that they had no shot against the Pistons. We all know the ease of which the Cavs walked through this year's first two rounds. The Magic are battle tested. They've already blown games at home and won a tough fight against the defending champs. This is Mo's first taste of a real playoff series. That elbow from Anthony Johnson may have been the best thing to happen to him.
I'm fairly optimistic that Williams will fight through his struggles. I've seen the confidence he has in his abilities throughout this entire season (and even in his days in Milwaukee). Mo has knocked down big shots throughout the year (at home AND on the road) and when he gets going, he's extremely hard to stop.
Plus, if Mo can take a little more control of the offense (LeBron doesn't have to initiate every possession) maybe it allows LeBron to D-up Turkoglu or Lewis for the entire game (instead of floating off of Rafer). As much as it feels weird to say, LeBron is going to have to do a little bit more; if the Cavs are going to win, they'll have to stop at least one of Orlando's Big Three (Howard, Lewis & Turkoglu) and LeBron (Defensive POY runner-up) is their best bet.
As bad as things have looked, a win tonight puts this thing at 2-2 heading back to Cleveland. Seriously, before the series started, if I would've asked to you to guess the series record at Game 5, would 2-2 really be that far fetched?
And for all you message board commenters already proclaiming this "the biggest choke job in the history of Cleveland sports"- go jump off a fucking cliff. Way to be helpful you self loathing douches. No wonder our teams choke; a little adversity and we all tweak out. Can't you wait til the series over before you start feeling sorry for yourself?
It's the goddamned playoffs. This is a team equipped with the best player on the freaking planet. And if you thought that they were going to waltz through this ECF in 4 or 5 games, you're simply ignorant about the NBA.
Are they in a dog fight? Hell yes. Can they play better You betcha. But being down 2-1 is not an insurmountable hole. A win tonight and we're back to square one (and a loss could put the entire city on suicide watch).
We'll see what happens. (Hopefully Mo and West won't simply be used as spot up shooters. Mo has to run the offense and West particularly has to drive the ball to the rim. Delonte can't be afraid of Dwight Howard. And of course, I'd love to see LeBron post up and maybe even be used in pick and rolls).