Saturday’s Niblets will return next week. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend and thank a Veteran for his or her service to our freedom.
In 50+ years of watching basketball, I have never seen anything close to what I saw last night from Superman Lebron James. Forget the fact that there was only one second left. Forget the fact that the Cavs were 2 points behind. Forget the fact that they had given back a 23 point lead. This was The biggest shot in Cavs history because their survival in the series depended on the shot going in. The Cavs chances of keeping Lebron in town after 2010 depends a lot on winning a championship or two.
I consider myself qualified to make such a statement. I have been a Cavs fan since they came into the league. Along with a few thousand other fans, I suffered through the Walt Westley Bingo Smith era. I was there when in the old downtown arena the Cavs beat the Lakers for the first time. When the team needed to raise money and sold stock, I bought some.
I also suffered through the playoff losses to Michael Jordan. But this team was different. It had a killer instinct that previous Cavs teams lacked. Or at least it seemed like they did.
The fact that the Cavs lost 2 games at home in the playoffs against the Magic after having leads of 15 and 23 points is inexcusable. The Cavs lost that game last night. It was Lebron that won it rather than the Cavs as a team.
There are a number of things that point to a Magic win in the series. First, the Cavs can not seem to handle the pick and roll. Time and time again the Magic ran the P&R and got totally open shots because the Cavs defenders were too slow to provide defense on the ball. The Cavs were doubling Dwight Howard down low. The Magic adjusted and began to make the extra pass to a wide open 3 point shooter with great success. The Cavs never adjusted to the change and got burned. I am not convinced that Howard is enough of an offensive threat to warrant doubling the entire game. The Cavs have to get more pressure on the outside shooter to win the series.
At one time in his injury history, I was convinced that the word Ilgauskas was Greek for “man with bad feet.” I realize now that it refers to a 7 foot Greek statue. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is no match defensively for any of the Magic big men. Away from the basket Z is a defensive liability on anything that can move faster than a lamp post. Lebron is the only Cav with length that has the feet to guard any of the front line members of the Magic. Obviously, he can’t guard 3 guys at the same time.
The Cavs shot selection was abysmal. Mo Williams is in a slump shooting 13 for 40. No one other than Lebron is stepping up to fill in. When the Magic were making their comeback late in the 2nd quarter, time after time, the Cavs were taking long 2 point or 3 point shots. Ilgauskas was outside taking 15 to 18 foot 2 point shots with no one under the basket to provide an offensive rebound. That is just dumb. The Cavs are not a 3 point team. They don’t have a wealth of players that can hit those shots regularly. They are much more of a half court offense.
The successful Cav half court offense depended on ball movement. That requires movement of the players without the ball. In the critical period of the game with the Magic cutting the lead, the majority of the Cavs were standing around on the offensive end of the floor. They have to get back to Cavs offense—half court moving the ball around the floor and 4 guys without the ball working to get open. The Cavs seem to forget what got them the leads they have been able to build against Orlando.
Rebounding, particularly offensive rebounding has also been nonexistent in those periods when the Magic are making their charge. When the Cavs are cold from the outside, they have to get those second rebound shots to slow the charge. They go blocks of minutes without an O rebound.
While the Magic bench is providing excellent support, the Cavs bench has vanished. Joe Smith and Aleksandar Pavlovic have to step up on both ends of the floor. They haven’t so far in this series. Ben Wallace needs to provide more D than he has so far. Daniel Gibson and Wally Szczerbiak have been ignored totally.
The Cavs that are usually careful with the ball at the O end of the floor were giving the ball away like the Federal Government hands out money. That would be trouble for any team. It is ten times worse for a team that lacks the team foot speed to get back on defense after a turnover.
Worst of all, the Cavs seem to have lost their killer instinct. During the regular season, the Cavs would either get the lead of a dozen points then blow it up to 20 or more or at least finish off the game with the key shots and defensive stops to win. They are doing neither in the two games against the Magic. That has to change if the Cavs are going to get to the finals.
To win this series, the Cavs are going to have to figure out how to stop the P&R. Early in the game the Cavs were doubling the ball and getting stops. The Magic adjusted and began making the extra pass to an open 3 point shooter. The Cavs did not adjust and lost the lead. If they can’t figure out how to stop the P&R with the players that they have, they will get rolled right out of the playoffs.
Some of the pressure will transfer to the Magic for the two games in Orlando. To win the series, they really need to win both games. While the Magic may be able to win another game in Cleveland, they can’t count on that.
There is pressure in any playoff series. The situation has just escalated the pressure a bit on both teams.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .