The Cleveland Cavaliers:
The best team in basketball. At 66-16, that's what the Cavs were during the regular season. That's what Mo Williams says they are now (see below). They were so dominant in the opening two rounds of the playoffs (against the hapless Pistons and overrated Hawks) that some people were talking about them going fo' fo' fo' on their way to the NBA Finals
. And yet, after last night's 116-114 overtime loss in Orlando, the Cavaliers are staring up at a 3-1 series deficit that, if not for some truly lousy last-second defense by the Magic
, would have been a 4-0 sweep. When was the last time that the "best team in basketball" came within a single second of getting swept out of the postseason?
Mind you, this has been a freaky-close series. (It actually kind of reminds me of the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals
between the Celtics and Sixers, where Games 1 and 7 were decided by a point and Games 4, 5 and 6 were decided by two points.) Games 1 and 2 both featured clutch shots and were each decided by one point. Game 3 featured even more clutch shots and went to overtime, where the final margin was only two. So clearly things could have gone either way, and Orlando could very well be the team that's down 3-1. But they aren't.
So what went wrong for Cleveland? Well, for starters, their best-in-the-league defense failed them once again. The Magicians shot 50 percent from the field (40-for-80) and nearly 45 percent from downtown (17-for-38). In fact, those 17 threes set an Orlando team playoff record. And it wasn't even the usual suspects (Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis) doing most of that triple-threat damage, either. Rafer Alston (26 points, 10-for-17) drilled six three-pointers and Mickael Pietrus (17 points) nailed five. (Alston even knocked down a banked three-bomb over King James.) Of course, that's what makes Orlando so dangerous...you really do have to guard everybody on the floor. Which is something the Cavs weren't able to do last night.
It also didn't help that their offense has, at times, regressed to the 2007 version, or the 2006 version, or the 2005 version. That is, lots of standing around while LeBron either holds or dribbles the hell out of the ball. Sure, that allows 'Bron to pad his stats and, yeah, it sometimes generates open shots for his teammates. But when that happens, Cleveland's shooters had all the rhythm of The Urkel Dance
, hence the 6-for-22 shooting from beyond the arc (2-for-12 sans LeBron's 4-for-10). Mo Williams (5-for-15) and Delonte West combined to go 0-for-6 from distance. And those guys shot 43.6 and 39.9 percent in threes during the regular season. The other big problem was...LeBron James:
His near triple-double (44 points, 12 boards, 7 assists) was actually a near triple-bumble
, thanks to his game-high 8 turnovers. Even more damning is WHEN those turnovers occurred: 3 came in the final 3:50 of regulation and he committed another 3 in overtime. That's 6 TOs in "clutch time." (For the sake of perspective, all of the Cavaliers not named "LeBron James" had 4 turnovers FOR THE GAME.) And a few of King Crab's TOs were just bad, careless passes. I suppose it's also worth mentioning that he was guilty of overdribbling and spending way too much time looking for or trying to create his own shot. The Cavs' offense was at its best last night when the ball and the players were moving. And last night, LeBron spent too much time killing the clock.Mo Williams:
In case you missed it, here's the full text of Mo's guarantee
: "They deserve respect. They are a good team. But we are the best team in basketball. I don't feel that they've had to adjust to us one time in the series. ... Guarantee we're going to win the series? Yeah, yeah. We are down 2-1. But there is nobody on this team and definitely not myself that says we are not going to win this series. Yeah, it is going to be tough. We know that. We get this game tomorrow, go home, still got home-court advantage. We don't see ourselves losing two out of three at home." If Cleveland goes on to lose this series, Mo is going to surpass Devin "We knew we were going to be a playoff team" Harris
for the season's greatest and most crippling stat curse
. Oh, and here's a memo for Mo: Next time you make a "Guaransheed,"
you might wanna do better than 5-for-15 from the field and 0-for-3 in threes. I'm just sayin'.The Orlando Magic:
The Magicians played most of the game from behind but managed to forge an 8-point lead (83-91) when Courtney Lee hit a three with 7:48 left in the fourth. From that point on, their offense went stupid. I'm talking grown men dressing up like the Super Mario Bros. and waging a live action lightsaber duel (with special effects!) stupid
. I'm talking Sony releasing a stupid piece of sh*t that doesn't f*cking work stupid
. Rushed threes, too much dribbling, nothing going toward the basket. I will never understand why a team insists on chucking it up from 20+ feet when they're in the freaking penalty. Can anyone else explain this?
Oh, and here's a memo for Stan Van Gundy: The Cavaliers figured out that high screen and roll with Hedo and Dwight. I understand Van Gundy's desire to go back to that play, because they've scored a lot of points off of it during this series. But it wasn't working in the fourth quarter, mostly because Anderson Varejao -- unlike Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- can actually MOVE LATERALLY. Sideshow Bob even pilfered Hedo twice, so easily that it was embarrassing. Not exactly the leader of the free world getting outsmarted by a door
, or getting your frank 'n beans caught in your zipper on prom night
, but still.Dwight Howard:
He had a MAN-type game (27 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocked shots), a MAN-type overtime (10 points, which included three dunks) and a Rick Barry-type night at the line (7-for-9). BUT...he scored only 4 points in the third and fourth quarters, and he was blanked during the fourth when the Cavs were making the charge that almost allowed them to steal the game. Heck, Delonte West even drove right at Howard for a layup near the end of regulation. His second-half disappearance (until overtime) very nearly cost his team the game.More lousy officiating:
Ugh and double-ugh. Dwight Howard gets a technical foul with 4:11 left in the fourth for...flexing looking really happy after getting an And-1? (If this one stands, I will demand that the NBA retroactively assess about 371 technical fouls on Alonzo Mourning.) And even though only one tech was called, Mo Williams gets two free throws? Did I miss something? (Not according to the game log I didn't
.) LeBron draws a foul by falling into Pietrus with 0.5 seconds left, "earning" two FTAs that allow him to tie the game. Then Varejao rides Howard out of bounds on Orlando's final play and there's no call. (Even the always-impartial AP said: "Both players tumbled out of bounds, and although there was enough contact for the officials to call two or three fouls, there was no whistle.") Now, mind you, I would have been fine if either a) both had been no-calls (my preference) or b) both had been called. Again, at this point I've given up my hopes for correct officiating and only want consistency. But I can't even get that. Unless by consistency I mean "King James always gets the benefit of the doubt"...because I get that in spades.Tuesday night lacktion report:
It's pretty hard to hunt down lacktion in a two-point overtime game, but Chris did it: "Joe Smith routinely pinched out a 4.15 trillion (the largest payday in the third round so far), while Tony Battie continues his epic run to the Damon Jones Award -- and a potential trip to the Finals - with a celebratory brick for a +1 suck differential in 5:09."Weird Gold Jacket Guy:
From Basketbawful reader Wade Wisdom: "You might have already addressed this at some point in time, but my friend and I have seen this guy (picture attached from the Magic game 5/26) at four sites during the playoffs, including L.A., Denver, Houston and now Orlando. He is really weird and seems to have no affiliation with any one team. The only constant is that he wears that stupid jacket and hat. Maybe one of your readers will know? Thanks for the help."
Well? Anybody know who this guy is?John Denton, unintentionally dirty headline-writing machine: NBA rescinds 'flagrant-one' foul on Magic's Johnson
. Let's hear it for jokes that write themselves.Kobe Bryant:
Basketbawful reader catfish writes: "From ESPN
: 'Who would win a 1-on-1 game? Quick Olympics story: Both guys played P-I-G against commoners last summer. LeBron almost lost to Sean Gregory of Time Magazine. Kobe used a dunk on his first shot to give Adam Wright of the U.S. water polo team a P, and it was all but over. It's Kobe.' Who dunks in P-I-G or H-O-R-S-E other than a huge dick? That's like challenging a small kid to a game of 1-on-1 and making it 'make it take it.' I'm gonna put my foot on your throat and never let up, and I could care less if you're only seven years old..."
Labels: Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron James, Mo Williams, Orlando Magic