We’ve been hearing about match-up problems posed by the Magic, but the Cavs can win this thing if they just play better. Mo Williams and Delonte West need to pick up their games. In game 3 it looked like they drank too much caffeine before the game.
LeBron James also needs to play better. That might sound crazy given his point totals so far in the series, but James needs to make better decisions. Too many times he threw up long shots without giving the offense a chance. Craig Sager just reported that LeBron admitted this in an interview before the game.
The Cavs have the talent – they just need to execute.
Here’s a cool post on how LeBron’s shot against the Orlando Magic in game 2 “altered history.” I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusion, as I think LeBron will stay no matter what happens in this series, but it’s a well-written and entertaining post.
Q: Didn’t you mention previously that Cleveland’s crowd is in full “LeBron might leave in two years mode so let’s go crazy” mode or something like that? Based on Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals (which is the first I’ve seen of Cleveland in the playoffs), Dwight Howard has more heart than their fans. I cannot believe how dead they were.
–Charles, Clifton, N.J.
SG: You can’t totally blame them, for one reason — that was the first time all season when the Cleveland fans truly sensed the stakes and realized that (A) they weren’t cakewalking to the title and (B) they’re still Cleveland, the city that hasn’t won a title since 1964 and has experienced a variety of Stomach Punch moments — so that window of doubt opened up and everyone fell right through it. They got tight and so did the players. But what happened was a necessary part of the process: Sometimes you need those “OK, this ain’t gonna be easy” moments to get over the hump. The best thing that ever happened to the ’90-91 Bulls was losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The best thing that ever happened to the 1999-2000 Lakers was nearly blowing Game 7 of the Portland series. The best thing that ever happened to the ’07-08 Celtics was Game 7 of the Cleveland series, when the Cavs wouldn’t go away. You don’t know what kind of team you have (and what kind of fans you have) until someone socks you in the mouth at home. How you respond to that moment defines the team you become.
Now, if some 2003 Cubs karma surfaced there — namely, the “Oh God, it’s happening again, we’re screwed!” factor — then that’s a whole other story. But the Cavs fans have been terrific all season; I think they just got nervous and froze. You know what’s not helping them? Their loser game coordinator, who played “In The Air Tonight” coming out of the timeout with 14.5 seconds left on the biggest possession of Game 1, then topped himself by unconscionably playing “Jump” by House of Pain right before the game-deciding jump ball with one second to play when the Cavs looked screwed. Nice discretion! The Cavs’ game coordinator might be the guy who fulfills my dream of seeing a team getting fans fired up by playing “The Shining” clip of Jack Nicholson swinging an ax into Scatman Crothers’ chest. I wouldn’t put it past him.
Simmons nails it. Cavs fans have been a little spoiled at home, so stunned silence shouldn’t be a surprise. Also, Cleveland fans are gun shy after all the disappointments, so that explains it as well. In any event, the place certainly lit up after LeBron’s shot last night!
The Cavs have a tough choice in this series. Do they try to stop Dwight Howard, or do they try to stop the Magic’s three-point shooters. It’s a tough choice, and Terry Pluto breaks down the “stop-Howard” approach.
Yes, the 3-pointer at the buzzer by LeBron James (and his 35 points) decided this game. But did you notice Dwight Howard had only two points after the first quarter? Or only 10 for night? Howard was still a factor with 18 rebounds, but not close to 30-point force that he was in the opener. That’s because the Cavs entirely changed their defensive approach, giving Zydrunas Ilgauskas plenty of help — and the Cavs center also being more active. Or how about this? Ilgauskas outscored Howard, 12-10. He was close in rebounding, the 18-15 edge to Howard. So much better than the opener when Howard outscored Ilgauskas, 30-10.
In the first game, the Cavs’ film study revealed that there were five to seven plays where Dwight Howard was within a few feet of the basket and a Cavalier was nearby and could have fouled him — but didn’t. In Game 1, Howard took only two free throws (made both) and scored 30 points. In Game 2, the Cavs doubled-teamed Howard from different directions, everyone from Delonte West to Anderson Varejao to LeBron James helping Ilgauskas with double teams. The Cavs outscored Orlando by five points when Howard was on the floor.
In the playoffs, 46 of Howard’s 103 field goals are dunks, yet another reason to send him to the foul line. When a player lacks confidence from the line and begins to miss free throws, it can make him a bit timid on offense — because he doesn’t want to be fouled. Ben Wallace also was an asset on defense; he did a nice job pushing Howard away from the basket. Even better for the Cavs, they won the rebounding battle, 38-30.
They should stick with this strategy, but they need to find an answer for the Magic shooters when Howard if off the court.
For years we’ve had to watch replays of Michael Jordan’s famous shot against Craig Ehlo and the Cavs. Now the media can start showing LeBron James’s last second shot to give the Cavs the win tonight over Orlando. Nice!