Thursday, May 21, 2009

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?


Erik said...

The Cavs had the right idea in the first half, when they were building their 14-point intermission lead. They closed out on the Magic's perimeter shooters very well, which kept Lewis and Turkoglu at bay. They don't really have anyone who can match up with Howard, so they just let him do what he was going to do, and just tried to make sure Orlando didn't get going from beyond the arc.

In the second half, they got away from that. Their rotations were slower and Orlando's perimeter guys started getting space to operate. The results were predictable. I think it was due to a lapse in conditioning from two nine-day breaks in 25 days. I don't know if that is going to get better or worse over the course of this series.

If I'm Roker, I stay with the game plan on Friday and keep trying to close out Orlando's perimeter shooters, and just hope that LBJ and Co. have some fuel left in the tank for the fourth quarter. Because if the Cavs continue to wilt down the stretches of games, this is going to be a short series any way you slice it.

The Other Ben said...

Two things stuck out at me last night:

1)Why did the Cavs stop running the pick and roll? When Mo and Delonte's shots stopped dropping, they should have made a conscience effort to get Howard in foul trouble. The refs were calling ticky tack stuff and the Cavs should have taken advantage of it. Andy was getting wide open on rolls/back door cuts then disappeared in the 2nd half.

2)Just stop double teaming Howard down lown. Get Z, Ben, and Darnell down there and body him up. Its not going to hurt us that bad if Wallace, Darnell, and to a lesser extent Z foul out. Keep the guards out towards the perimeter and stop over-rotating on the post feed.

That being said, Ben you made a good point about our backcourt. If Mo and Delonte get back to form we should be able to win this series. Its more about adjustments than matchups in the playoffs and I suspect Brown will not allow a 59 PT half to happen again.

Ben said...

Also, at some point you just have to recognize that Orlando got hot. Pietrus made some tough tough looks and both Turkoglu and Lewis seemingly couldn't miss for stretches.

The Cavs aren't going to win many games where their starting backcourt plays 80% of the game and misses 70% of their shots.

I really think they're gonna need Pavlovic. Gibson will be practically useless on the defensive end and they're going to have to give Williams and West some rest. Sasha plays well with LeBron and they'd be able to have Bron-Bron guard either Lewis or Turkoglu while Sasha takes the other. He's at least a big, athletic body (and he's done well defensively in the past).

They simply have to get more out of their bench.

Anonymous said...

Both Bens are right. Where did Andy go in the second half, He had like 5 walk off layups in the first half by cutting to the net after LeBroBro.
The bench needs to step up and by step up, that means put in the shooters. This isn't the Celt's bench, our guys can play. Sasche has a decent shot and I think he could play d well against their bigger shooters such as (the new elway) Turk'a'Suck.

What frightens me is that when Cleveland was going punch for punch with Orlando at the end of the game, they were coming out of time outs looking scared. Exspecially Many Mo (he looked scured), Buddy Bron wasn't looking to pumped either. Where was that look that said "I'll punch your kid" that he had in the first half.

They are a team of finishers and should act as such... There Cox I read your F-ing blog!

-Chubby D

Anonymous said...

I mean seriously during the last minute they had multiple opportunities to put that game away, Brons free throws, Bro Red's brick, and Many Mo's miricle look at the last second.. ect