Could this picture be any more perfect?

The Cleveland Cavaliers: Whoooooops. So much for the Cleveland Playoff Steamer. Some people may be blaming the extended layoff -- the Cavaliers hadn't played a game since eliminating the Hawks on May 11 -- but rust usually manifests itself on offense, not defense. And make no mistake: Defense is what cost Cleveland the game. According to John Hollinger's team stats, the Cavs have been BY FAR the best defensive team in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, giving up only 90.8 points per 100 possessions. By contract, Orlando is a distant second at 98.7. But the Magicians apparated into "The Metropolis of the Western Reserve" and made Clevelan's "D" disappear. Orlando scored 107 points on 55 percent from the field -- including 59 percent in the second half -- and 45 percent (9-for-20) from beyond the arc. A pessimist might say "The Magic played at their absolute best and barely won"...but the only important part of that sentence is the "won" part.

What makes the defeat even more painful for the Cavs is that it was one of those heartbreaking come-from-ahead losses. Cleveland was up by 14 after one quarter (33-19) and 15 at the half (63-48). But instead of cruising in for an easy blowout win, they forgot the whole "hand in the face" thing and got outscored 30-19 in the third period...and then it was a dogfight. And mind you, this was all despite a uber-game from LeBron (49 points, 20-for-30, 6 rebounds, 8 assists). Of course, Dwight Howard (30 points, 14-for-20, 13 rebounds) kind of countered 'Bron Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus-sytle:

But in all seriousness, the Cavs just got too happy with themselves after their dominating first half, particularly after this:

But from that point forward, there was waaaaaay too much standing around and watching...

LeBron James: From Stephanie G: "On the one hand LeBron's team mates looked lethargic and useless. But what are they supposed to do when LeBron has the ball for 20 seconds each possession? Or am I hating?" You are not hating. As an anonymous commenter noted: "Kenny Smith called LeBron a 'copycat killer,' i.e., that with Kobe and 'Melo getting huge numbers, LeBron would have to get his. Spot on. But I think that may have hurt the Cavs. I thought LeBron had figured out something by watching Kobe over the years: On average, big numbers from the star can make it LESS likely for your team to win. Not always, of course, but I think it may have this time."

Yup. And don't forget how King Crab missed four of his 10 free throw attempts, including a huge bonk with 1:39 left in the fourth quarter. Pretty big miss in a one-point loss, especially from Mr. Superclutch MVP.

Update! In the interest of fair and equal representation, NarSARSsist chimed in on this subject:

I have to disagree with anonymous about LeBron only trying to score because 'Melo and Kobe did it too. In his defense, his teammates were kinda cold.

He had four early assists seven minutes into the game. If he was looking to score, starting early when they were in no danger seems to be a good way to go.

It's not like he was mediocre but shooting in volume, 20/30 was the second best shooting percentage on his team, with the first being Varejao, who almost exclusively shot layups (4 of his 6 makes came off of LeBron feeds).

Though I have to say, Williams, West, and Big Z had some pretty questionable shot selection. I can't recall what the circumstances were, but looking at the shot chart, most of their misses came from areas where they are below their own averages in shooting (the two guards shooting a bunch of <45 degrees 3 pointers and around the free throw line area, and big Z shooting 20+ footers from everywhere except the top of the key). That could easy alter LeBron's assist numbers (which was already at 8 anyway).

Big numbers coming from a star equating to less of a chance for you to win isn't really that causal when the star is shooting well. They generally come from the opposing team trying to shut down everyone else and forcing one guy to try and beat them (Pistons not doubling Shaq in 2004), or the star being forced to rise to the occasion when their teammates weren't shooting well.

I sorta gag at the media's mancrush with LeBron, and I look forward to instances where Lebron shows some kinks in the armor. Still have to be objective about it though, and this was not one of them.
Anderson Varejao: Dotted by the game-winner. I'm just sayin'.

Ben Wallace: There was a time that the presence of Ben Wallace would have meant holy terror for Dwight Howard. Sadly, that time was around 2004. Last night, the 15 Million Dollar Man logged just under 10 minutes and finished with 2 boards, 1 foul and a plus-minus score of -14...easily the worst of the night. (Joe Beast was second-worst at -8).

Delonte West: From Basketbawful reader zzz: "Anybody see Delonte West's 'semi-worst-possession-ever'? Dribbling, nearly turning it over against Anthony Johnson, dribbling again, nearly getting pilfered by no-neck again, and ending the whole mess by launching a sitting three-pointer at the buzzer, which fails to touch the rim." Yep, yep, yep. A special Basketbawful Medal of Valor to anybody who can find me video of that black eye to the sport.

Chris's very brief lacktion report: Daniel Gibson clawed his way to a 3.25 trillion payday at the Q.

Dirk Nowitzki: Wow. Turns out his ladybeast is preggers. With Dirk's baby. And check this out:

The woman arrested at Dirk Nowitzki's house on May 6 says she is pregnant with the child of the Dallas Mavericks' star and that they had been engaged.

Cristal Taylor spoke to The Dallas Morning News from jail in Beaumont, Texas.

"I've known Dirk for seven years -- and, no, I didn't tell him everything about my past because I was afraid," Taylor said, according to the newspaper. "But I mean, now I'm pregnant and alone and broke because he is my only source of income."

Taylor said that Nowitzki has not contacted her and likely does not know that she is pregnant. She said that she didn't know before she was arrested.

"I didn't even know," she said, according to the newspaper. "Nobody knew until they tested me in Dallas."

Taylor said that she was tested at the Dallas County Jail where she was held for one week before a transfer to Beaumont.

"They give you a urine test when you walk in and they give you a T.B. test," she said. "And the lady was like, 'Oh, so when are you due?' I was like, 'I don't know when the court date is due.' She was like, 'Uh, no, you're pregnant.'

"That was at intake. When I went upstairs, she said, 'I'm going to start you on these prenatal vitamins.' I was like, 'If you could just test me one more time, I just want to make sure.'"

A second test also came back positive, Taylor said.
As AnacondaHL said: "This is too beautiful. Like life unfolding like a perfect movie. A blooming blossom of shadenfreude. On a brighter note, you all realize how much ass this will get Dirk, right?" I do NOT want to know how that ass tastes. [shudders]

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Did you see when Dwight dunked really hard and knocked down the shot clock on top of the thing that holds the hoop?

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
A BasketBawesome to the tester lady for the best line to use telling someone they're pregnant ever: "Uh, no, you're pregnant." And I totally missed this the first time: "HE IS MY ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME." Do you think Taylor did a Jordan fist-pump or popped her jersey after the second test came back positive? This could go on forever.

Also, having only watched PTI before the game, I thought that more people would have thought the Magic could steal this game like Tony and Mike predicted.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
Are we surprised the Magic won?

Not before the game started. Before the game began I thought Orlando might get it done... But at halftime, when Cleveland was dominant and up by 15 and LBJ was hitting everything he threw at the rim? I figured they were dead after the first 12 minutes.

So,hell yeah we're surprised Orlando came back from being down 16 on the road. This is the team that blew major leads all through the Celtics series, and got blown out in game 2.

Just like in the last series, however, Rashard Lewis is going to be the key in this one. I can't think of a player in the NBA who matches up well with this guy. He's ueber-athletic, tall, post moves, awesome mid-range and 3-pt range jumper... they might need to put LBJ on him, because clearly Rafer Alston figured out that he CAN drive around LeBron.

I'm impressed with the in-game adjustments that took place last night. Orlando sped up the game in the second half, moved the ball around and got wide open 3-pointers. Maybe Stan Van Gundy isn't just a "frontrunner"...

*Side note: what the fuck does Shaq mean when he calls somebody a "frontrunner"? Is that supposed to be an insult??

Blogger Unknown said...
How about Dwight Howard's dietary habits? From the Daily Dime:"But we started this column by asking about fuel, which is why it was so amusing to see Rafer Alston pop into the locker room after the game and pronounce to anyone who was listening, "It was the McDonald's! Dwight's McDonald's and Hedo's pizza."

Turns out Howard got himself ready for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals by downing two quarter pounders with cheese, large fries and a Sprite, while Turkoglu went all non-Turk, keeping the yogurt and the olives off his pizza while downing a plain cheese pie. "

What I like about this is that Howard is doing his job as a sponsor for McDonalds. And apparently, McDonalds provides a better winning formula than Vitamin Water.

Blogger Unknown said...
No blurb about dwight destroying the shotclock on his first possession? Honestly, I'm more surprised that Shaq (in his constant effort to remind Orlando that he was there before Dwight, even though he abandoned the team to go make classics like Steel and Kazaam) hasn't held a press conference in which he calls himself The Big Smashabackboardopolis and states that he pulled down the whole backboard not once, but twice.

Side note, I as at the game at America West Arena the first time he collapsed the hoop assembly.

Anonymous DKH said...
That game makes me feel pretty meh. I want to nominate the refs for being worth a couple points to the Magic in a one point game. Are we returning to the Suns-Spurs games of yore? (Or three years ago or something, whatever.)

I guess Cleveland should follow the Laker formula of falling behind early so that the refs help them out in trying to even the game, rather than hurt them. Meh.

WV: paring. That's a real word, so it's not very interesting to make up a sentence.

Anonymous Karc said...
The WWE vs Pepsi Center war rages on.

So not only is WWE going to LA for next week's shows, they are also promising that there will be a ten-man parody match with wrestlers appearing as the Lakers and the Nuggets on Raw (credit to They also canceled another house show in Colorado for 5/24.

Now, while I do think that WWE was wronged here, it's not like there is not a precedent for this sort of thing. WWE will frequently cancel shows on a couple of weeks notice. I think they canceled some shows in Atlanta a month ago, and I know they canceled the Mexico tour because of the swine flu panic. But WWE may have overplayed their hand with the cheap shots (and if they did not, they certainly will on Monday), to where they no longer have a valid lawsuit that may have won them enough money to cover their losses. Sad, really.

Blogger David Landon said...
LeBron went only 6-10 from the free throw line last night. If he bricks two less, the Cavs win. I hear all this talk about how Bron is better than Jordan, but would MJ brick free throws in this situation? Would Bird or Magic? Those guys were automatic from the line. Until LeBron is, too, he won't be in that highest echelon.

Anonymous bloo said...
One of you guys been editing J.R. Smith's Wikipedia page? Or does he really have a bear dick?

Anonymous Aaron said...
shouldn't it be a fall-from-ahead loss?

one of the problems was that so many of lebron's points came from jumpshots. when he demolished the pistons two years ago it was on drives. Actually the whole team was in utter fear of dwight howard, instead of driving into him and living with a couple blocked shots and drawing fouls they shot hella jumpers and lofted floaters in the lame, or they forced out a bad pass.

the cavs have to ugly up this series. they can't score with the magic, no one can really with the shooters orlando has.

remember when ben wallace was the 2nd coming of rodman then all the talk about hi learning from charles oakley. well both those players were extremely effective late into their careers. My only response is...'Wtf!' ben. he's still strong as hell why can't he use position and timing to be a factor on the court. what a chump. what do you think the cavs would give to get rid of ben wallace right now and bring in a decent perimeter defender so anderson isn't chasing around rashard lewis or turk-turk all game

Anonymous Anonymous said...
AnacondaHL - She did the big balls dance. Oh SNAP!

flohtingPoint - You know, it was an awesome dunk. But look at the reply - apparently the setup crew didn't even use Scotch tape to hold that clock up. My boy makes better Lego backboards and shot clocks.

Blogger Will said...
bloo- do you have a screenshot?

Blogger DDC said...
More Donald Sterling hijinks. I know there are two sides of every story, but is there a more reprehensible owner in sports? I'm sure there are, but good grief what a prick. I actually fell asleep during the game, but I saw the deciding 4th quarter. I didn't realize the Crabs bench play was so horrid, and what the hell happened to "Boobie" Gibson. It's like his game has regressed. He channeled his inner Damon Jones with that performance last night. I think Stern might have the Stern button ready before this series ends. Orlando is a match nightmare for them.

Anonymous DKH said...
Will: You can see the quote in question by clicking "history" at the top of the page, and looking at Tjnaughton's edits.

Blogger Nick Flynt said...
Wiki fixed the J.R. Smiff thing.

Moving along, that was the weakest dunk ever to do damage to a backboard. I'm not saying that it was a weak dunk, but he has had harder slam jams (I've been playing Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, it is awesome) in games before, with far less game-delaying results.

@guywhosenameI'mtoolazytolookat: I haven't heard anyone say 'better than Jordan' I've heard 'reminds me' I've heard 'more like Magic.'

James is poor in freethrows, and I noted last night when the game ended that yes, indeed, they would have won the game if he would have made 80%+ of his free throws the Cavs would have won.

On another topic I don't understand all the Lebron jump shot hate. He made 20 of 30. Please, by all means shoot more when it is falling, oh great Lebron. The only problem for the Cavaliers was their lacking defense throughout the game, and the fact that Delonte West and Mo Williams under-performed (much like you in the bed room) over the course of the game. That includes the wide open look (from the titty no less [Reggie Miller shout-out]) that West missed after Lebron was quadruple teamed on his final drive.

So I guess I'm just re-writing what the second guy said in your post.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Wow, with all the Vagisil jokes bawful makes, I'm surprised there wasn't something similar about Lebron's cramps.

Blogger Dunpizzle said...
Not basketball related, but this is definitely WOTN material

Blogger Will said...
DKH- thank you

Anonymous AK Dave said...

Mega Shark would totally bbqpwn Giant Octopus in a 7-game series.

Blogger Unknown said...
More chuckles.

Courtney Lee dunking on LeBron:

Dwight Howard taking out the shot clock:

Blogger Diosnomeama said...
I love how the sports websites are calling this an "upset", as if Orlando is a team made up of amputees and midgets.

Anonymous Czernobog said...
DKH: Are you serious? The Refs did everything they could to give this game to the Crabs. Dwight's second two fouls were laughable, Big Z got away with three moving screens in the first quarter alone, and how about Varejao pushing Gortat out of bounds on the rebound right in front of the ref and making an "I didn't do notgin'" face and getting away with it. Or LeBron travelling, yet again.

Absolute bull. The NBA has already inked the Cavs as title contenders, and will let nothing get in their way.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
Buck Nasty-

Can we get a review of "Barkley- Shut up and Jam: Gaiden"? Is that an RPG in the mold of the Final Fantasy series? I've seen clips of cinematic scenes, but no actual gameplay.

Also, what system was it made for? Does it play on a SNES emulator?

Anonymous DKH said...

I can't speak much to the first half since I didn't see it so well. It's very possible that what you say is true. I don't know about the Varejao play you discuss, but I did see Varejao give a pretty good push once when Lewis was handling the ball on the perimeter. Would have been entirely reasonable to call a foul and give it to them out of bounds. (Not really worth any points to the Cavs.)

What I did see:
1. Dwight Howard was moving on a screen as the ball handler brought Mo Williams around, Williams is called for the foul. (2 points to Magic, plus Howard got to stick around longer.)
2. Turkoglu jumped into Varejao on the long jumper, Varejao called for the foul (2 points to Magic.)
3. Williams is fouled on the final jumper (1.82 points based on Williams's FT%).
4. I thought I saw Wallace get fouled on a shot attempt, but I can't remember when it happend so I won't count it. He can't make his free throws anyway.
5. Dwight Howard landed on Varejao as Varejao attempted a layup. I think AV made it anyway, but it's worth 0.62 points based on AV's FT%, plus Howard got the stick around longer.
6. The other way, LeBron traveled to find someone in the corner for a three.

Total that up and it's about 3.44 points to the Magic in the second half.

Maybe the first half calls you cite even things out, but I don't recall seeing anything unreasonable. The Magic got called for a few offensive fouls, but it was always because they were putting a shoulder/elbow into someone's chest (that I saw).

Blogger stephanie g said...
Future Guy: Actually yeah, Jordan bricked clutch free throws a fair amount. Probably the weakest part of his game. A lot of the time he only shot in the low 80s. Bird and Magic didn't shoot 100% either. In 15 years someone will say "Did LeBron or Kobe ever brick clutch free throws like this guy? HECK NO!" Memories and golden ages are funny like that.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
To kind of drive in the point stephanie g is making, remember The Shot that MJ hit over Craig Ehlo? The only reason that ever happened in that famous Game 5 against the Cavs in Cleveland is because Jordan shanked two FTs at the end of overtime of Game 4 in Chicago. One FT would have tied it, two would have won it. Also, Magic famously gonged two FTs in overtime of Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals. The game was tied and those FTs would have given L.A. the lead. Instead, Bird hit a clutch jumper over Magic on the other end to basically ice the game.

So, yeah, it's not just LeBron.

Blogger Nick Flynt said...
Barkley played off a download to windows for me. I'm not sure about the emulator. But it's pretty much a dumb rip-off of FF RPG's.

Blogger Unknown said...
Did ANYONE doubt for a second that when JR Smith got the ball with a minute left that it would wind up in a turnover?

Anonymous DKH said...
By the way, "the metropolis of the western reserve"? I hadn't ever heard that name for Cleveland, so, uhh, mad props I guess (seeing as I'm from there). Kinda curious how you came by it.

Blogger Mintz... said...

When Turkoglu jumped into Varejao after that pump fake it was clearly a foul... I don't you can consider that as the refs helping the magic... it would have been ridiculous if they hadn't made that call.
It was just a smart play by Hedo to get AV in the air.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
DKH -- I have a master list of player and city nicknames that was put together doing a Google search of the the player/city name and "nicknames." So when it feels like I'm saying a player or city name too much for a given entry, I cherry pick one of those nicknames and go with it. As for the "Metropolis of the Western Reserve," I have no idea as to the origin, but it's popular enough that it appears on t-shirts, mouse pads, etc.

Anonymous DKH said...

The offensive player can't get someone in the air and then step under them to get the foul (at least on the perimeter). The defender actually has to be landing on the shooter. (Like, say, as may have happened on the final shot attempt.)

There was actually a good non-call on this play in the Boston/Chicago series where Paul Pierce catches a pass in the corner, pump fakes to get the defender in the air, and then has to step to his left while shooting the jumper to contact the defender. He hits the defender, but there is no foul called, because he stepped under the defender. (This happens in Boston [the crowd was pissed], and I'm thinking game 5, since it was late in the series, and I don't think I saw game 7.)

And just think about that concept: it's ok to undercut a player in the air to get a foul called on that player? I always thought one of the central rules was that it is not ok to undercut other players, because of safety.


Yea, I searched around and found that name out there, just had never heard it before. You learn something new every day, I guess.

Blogger Mintz... said...
I just don't dont think it was an undercut. He pumped, took a step forward, and elevated (as far as I can remember).

Game #2 was very similar except for the spectacular ending. Lebron stepped up after the Cavs blew a 23 point lead. If they can start to close games out like they did throughout the year and the first 2 series they will make it to the Finals.