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Cavs Searching For Magic Spell


LeBron, are you still growing or are you standing on your tippy-toes? (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)


What does Mike Brown do now? That was the first question I asked when I watched the final seconds of Cleveland's 99-89 loss to the Orlando Magic last night. What adjustments does the coach of the year make to push back the tidal wave that threatens to dampen a dream season for the Cavaliers? Does he start Ben Wallace? Dust off Wally Szczerbiak? Go small and start Sasha Pavlovic?

If anything has been blatantly obvious through the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals, it's that Orlando has some major, major matchup advantages against the Cavaliers that are not going away any time soon. I outlined some of the problems in my conference finals preview story last week.

But Rashard Lewis is too fast, too skilled and too gifted a shooter to be slowed down by Anderson Varejao. Dwight Howard is too fast, too strong and too excitable to get slowed down by Zydrunas Ilguaskas. And while LeBron James can create all sorts of havoc for Hedo Turkoglu, the situation grows worse when the Cavaliers switch on pick and rolls, leaving Turkoglu to be defended by Delonte West. It also doesn't help that James helped force Turkoglu into missing 10 of 11 shots last night but Turkoglu still finished the game with 10 rebounds, seven assists and a plus/minus ratio of plus-20.


We're not afraid of you. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The Cavaliers are fortunate to be down 2-1 -- and would be down 3-0 if not for James's other-worldly shot at the end of Game 2. I think J.A. Adande had an pretty good column on Sunday explaining how some of the most memorable shots in postseason history were followed by losses. I mentioned earlier how Orlando has bounced back from disappointing losses all postseason, but it should feel pretty confident about its chances in this series. Those two Courtney Lee (no relation) dunks on James should be proof that the Magic players certainly aren't scared of Cleveland.

My best friend, David, made an interesting point to me the other night. He told me that Orlando reminds him of Golden State against Dallas two years ago. Not that Orlando is some huge underdog attempting to knock off a top seed, but just that Dallas won 67 games in the regular then had a first-round series against the one team in the Western Conference for which the Mavericks had no answer. Orlando is the one Eastern Conference playoff team that the Cavaliers have been unable to figure out. If Boston had defeated Orlando, that series would've been done in five games or less (James spent most of this postseason salivating over the opportunity to destroy the KG-less Celtics).

I'm not ready to say that Cleveland won't bounce back and win the series. I have a sneaky suspicion that the Cavaliers will (and no, I didn't get a secret memo from the NBA commissioner, ABC/ESPN, Vitamin Water or those Nike puppets). That is based mostly on what Cleveland has accomplished throughout the entire season, but I'm not overly confident -- and the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Brian Windhorst pointed out this morning that the Magic has basically wiped out what the Cavaliers have achieved and turned them into the underdog. The Cavaliers are not going to advance if Mo Williams, West and Ilgauskas don't provide more help for James, who had 41 points in Game 3 and has scored 125 of his team's 291 points (42.9 percent) in the first three games. Williams, the all-star, gets a bit of a pass last night after having two spots around his eye split open by an Anthony Johnson elbow. Sun-Sentinel writer Ira Winderman has a really good take on the LeBroniers over at NBCSports.com.

Brown has historically gotten his teams to overachieve in the postseason. While the Cavaliers looked unbeatable against Detroit and Atlanta, they have their work cut out for them against Orlando. It's just amazing how the Cavaliers win 66 games, sweep the first two rounds and now the league's most valuable player all of sudden looks like a one-man team again.

At least James is approaching Cleveland's predicament with the appropriate amount of humility. "I'm only one guy," James told reporters in Orlando last night. "If I could clone myself, we'd be all right."

By Michael Lee  |  May 25, 2009; 9:15 AM ET
 
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Comments

Maybe Mike Brown can ask the Cavs' potential Chinese investors to slip some cash to David Stern so the refs miss a few calls in the next couple of games.

Posted by: jcbcmb68 | May 25, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Why in the world is everybody saying Lebron is the greatest player ever? The guy missed 5 free throws in the fourth quarter and is -12 for the series. He hasn't won any titles. His stats are inferior to Jordan's after the same number of years.

Orlando is 50/50 to win this series. What would the odds be playing against Jordan in the prime of his career?

This puffery for TV ratings is too much already. Reminds of the advertisements before the Olympics years ago of the two "premier" decathlon competitors and one didn't even make the qualifying.

Posted by: Izman | May 25, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

The Cavs should try using Wally Szczerbiak on Rashard Lewis. Wally is quick enough to stay with Rashard on the perimeter and strong enough not to be pushed around inside. Wally's low center of gravity will help his post defense, too. He's too short to alter Rashard's outside shot, but Wally should be able to at least get a hand in Rashard's face, which is more than anyone else on the Cavs not named LeBron has been able to do.

Posted by: yop32 | May 25, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The 3rd paragraph from the bottom is a bit unclear:
If Boston had defeated Cleveland, that series would've been done in five games or less

Do you mean, "If Boston had defeated Orlando, they would then fall to Cleveland in five games or less" ?

Posted by: HerodotusJr | May 25, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Cleveland gets two more field goals, only one fewer 3 pointer, and loses at the free throw line, 39 to 26. Still didn't hit their threes (a miserable 16%), but Orlando wasn't that great from outside, either.

The threes are the issue for the Cavs. They shot 26 last night, and made 5. That's nine more attempts than Orlando. This from a team that shot, what, almost 40% from outside during the regular season?

Hard to believe that's Orlando's perimeter defense. I think Cleveland has just gone cold at the worst possible time.

Posted by: Samson151 | May 25, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

You know whats funny? The fact that Mike Brown won coach of the year and is getting outcoached by a guy who most people say can't coach.

Posted by: CBell29 | May 25, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

The Caveliers better find that majic spell real quick, but if you ask me, it ain't to be found.

There goose is cooked. A great offensive shot from LBJ kept this series from being a sweep.

Ya Heard It From LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | May 25, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The Cavs are stacked with talent.
I don't think they will go down easily. I'm rooting for the Magic as hard as i can though. If they can somehow take the next one I think Labron will fold. I missed last nights game but LBJ looked gassed at the end of game 2. I hope the Wizzies are watching and learning what it takes to win at this level.

Posted by: samhri | May 25, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I hate the Cavs, but I wouldn't mind seeing them take the whole thing this year. It'll just make Wizards' victories over them that much sweeter next season.

I can't fathom why the Cavs haven't started Ben Wallace in this series. They've got one of the premier defenders in the league, almost certainly the best pick-&-roll defender in the NBA, and they're giving those minutes to Zydrunas. Ilgauskas is a better offensive player, but he'll never get it going against the likes of Dwight Howard. They can't win in a shoot-out; they need to concentrate on diminishing the Magic's game through physical defense. The Cavs (and their coaching staff, especially) show their immaturity by not adapting to changing circumstances and not using all the tools available to them.

Posted by: satchmore | May 25, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm really enjoying this. I love it when teams are crowned champions too early and end up failing (cowboys, cavs, yankees, lakers, patriots).

Posted by: bryan1976 | May 25, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

After watching Lebron bowl and travel his way over us the last three years, there is no way I want to see him win a title.

Posted by: bryan1976 | May 25, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"I can't fathom why the Cavs haven't started Ben Wallace in this series. They've got one of the premier defenders in the league, almost certainly the best pick-&-roll defender in the NBA, and they're giving those minutes to Zydrunas. Ilgauskas is a better offensive player, but he'll never get it going against the likes of Dwight Howard. They can't win in a shoot-out; they need to concentrate on diminishing the Magic's game through physical defense."

It's worth a try, but I wouldn't get my hopes up much. Wallace is at a disadvantage against Howard. He's not as quick as he used to be, and he never was very tall.

Ilgauskas would be OK if he hit some outside shots.

Posted by: Samson151 | May 25, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

you know what really grinds my gears . . .satchmore, wtf do you mean you wouldn't mind the Cavs winning the title. thats like saying " wont mind if the Cowboys win a Super Bowl if we beat em next year"

Posted by: jpt1002 | May 25, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I think the Cavs problem is LeBron brings the ball up and everyone stands around to see what he is going to do with it.

When Turkoglu brings the ball up, he is looking to pass the ball and his teammates know if they work hard to get open he will get them the ball.

Gil are you watching this or is your head still stuck up your A$$ and the only thing that matters to you are your stats?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | May 25, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

lebron's comments are a truly pathetic thing for any team's best player to say, he is the man most responsible for facilitating his team's good play, when he dribbles for 12 seconds and then fires up a long jumper he hurts his team, whether it goes in or not, glad that he didn't notice 49 didn't win game 1 and 41 didn't win game three, cleveland's offense has been stagnant because of james and instead of having some class, the dude throws his teammates under the bus. So zero humility is appropriate?

Posted by: bford1kb | May 25, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Nah, the Cavs' best chance against Dwight Howard is to get him in foul trouble with Sideshow Bob's flopping.

Fact is, Howard is a bad match up for almost anyone. That's why he's a superstar. The Cavs could live with that. Not being able to match up the rest of Orlando's players is the part that is surprising and disappointing.

The Cavs could go to the nuclear option: Hack-a-Dwight.

(Or Varejao could gel his hair like Birdman and "accidentally" poke DHo's eyes out. Call it the "porcupine defense".)

Posted by: yop32 | May 25, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

The Cavs could go to the nuclear option: Hack-a-Dwight.

(Or Varejao could gel his hair like Birdman and "accidentally" poke DHo's eyes out. Call it the "porcupine defense".)

Posted by: yop32

The Cavs are already doing this....and even admitted it in the post game presser. They intended to make Dwight go to the foul line since he typically does not make the free throws....but he did last night.

Posted by: Lisa_R | May 25, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Lee- I do like how you cross reference other articles in your blog. Good move there. Also, have you hopped on twitter yet? Get on the bus. twitter.com/ahr19 for me.

The Cavs were lucky that in game 3 Hedo had a horrible shooting night and Rashard was just average and Howard played limited minutes. Imagine if Orlando played a full 48 minutes for one game. It would be like that 25 point blowout of Cleveland in April. I still say the NBA gets their Cavs vs Lakers final but how I do not know b/c the Magic have matchup problems galore for Cleveland. And Mo Williams can't hit many an open look he has been getting. He needs to score 24+ for the Cavs to win. Otherwise their goose is cooked (as LarryincClinton said) ...

Posted by: Levelheadedskinsfan19 | May 25, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Mike,
I'm planning on heading over to Vegas Summer League and am wondering if you might know when the schedule would be released.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 25, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Cleveland is done. Why? "If I could clone myself, we'd be all right." says LeBron. Since he can' clone himself, I guess Cleveland won't be alright.

That's the problem with LeBron. The gigantic ego. He's extremely talented but his penchant to pout and whine like a baby will be his undoing. That and his enormous ego.

Posted by: tundey | May 25, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

levelhead: "Imagine if Orlando played a full 48 minutes for one game."

Don't they have to? If they walk off the court at 46, it's a forfeit.

Posted by: Samson151 | May 25, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

The Cavs and James are getting enough help from the refs, i.e. calls on phantom fouls. I guess we now have James Rules.

Posted by: michael4 | May 25, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

lisar: "The Cavs are already doing this....and even admitted it in the post game presser. They intended to make Dwight go to the foul line since he typically does not make the free throws....but he did last night."

Yep, the Haqqing wasn't helpful. But what they really need is to hit some of those open 3 pointers. 16%? You don't beat anybody shooting 16% from the 3 point line.

Posted by: Samson151 | May 25, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

levelhead: "Imagine if Orlando played a full 48 minutes for one game."

Don't they have to? If they walk off the court at 46, it's a forfeit.
__________
Samson - I was simply saying imagine the possiblities if the entire Orlando team played well for the entire game.

Posted by: Levelheadedskinsfan19 | May 25, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

"Samson - I was simply saying imagine the possiblities if the entire Orlando team played well for the entire game.Posted by: Levelheadeds"

It was a joke. Obviously not a real good one.

Posted by: Samson151 | May 25, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Go Orlando.

Posted by: pjkiger1 | May 25, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I want Orlando to win, but I don't think the Finals will be as good unless it's Kobe vs. LeBron.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | May 26, 2009 12:04 AM | Report abuse

man i don't see why cavs arn't up 3-0, i mean its practically 8 on 5 right now, 9 on 5 if you include stern. Magic should get a special trophy for just winning these two games.

Posted by: BBallFOO | May 26, 2009 4:55 AM | Report abuse

At least James is approaching Cleveland's predicament with the appropriate amount of humility. "I'm only one guy," James told reporters in Orlando last night. "If I could clone myself, we'd be all right."

"I think the Cavs problem is LeBron brings the ball up and everyone stands around to see what he is going to do with it.

When Turkoglu brings the ball up, he is looking to pass the ball and his teammates know if they work hard to get open he will get them the ball.

Gil are you watching this or is your head still stuck up your A$$ and the only thing that matters to you are your stats?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | May 25, 2009 2:51 PM"

78, In comparing what you said with what Lebron said, I guess you consider Lebron and Gilbert two peas in a pod.

Interesting.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | May 26, 2009 6:12 AM | Report abuse

This morning in Warsaw's New Town Market, I saw a young Polish guy wearing a Magic jersey with Gortat 13 on the back. You gotta love a team that is playing well and bringing interest in the NBA into countries like Poland and Turkey. This is great for basketball!

Posted by: khrabb | May 26, 2009 6:36 AM | Report abuse

I want Orlando to win, but I don't think the Finals will be as good unless it's Kobe vs. LeBron.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | May 26, 2009 12:04 AM

True, but IMO it is going to be Dwight vs Carmelo. and it would be nice for a change...

Posted by: Goelez | May 26, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

""I'm only one guy," James told reporters in Orlando last night. "If I could clone myself, we'd be all right."

Y'know, that'a a true statement. And like the caption to the photo, he really does look like he's still growing.

This is every great player's dilemma -- he's so much better than everybody else on his team that it's hard to keep them from lapsing into admiration during the game. And the superstar from responding by just taking over.

Cleveland isn't that strong a squad. Beginning in the late 70's, we got used to the model of 3 legit stars and a supporting cast. Bird, Parish, and McHale; Magic, Worthy, and Jabbar; Jordan, Pippen and Rodman (OK, I apologize, but he was a legit ALl-Star if you forgot offense). Last year it came back with the Celts. But if you look at the Cavs, it's LeBron and the dwarfs. Be different if they had the Ben Wallace of six years ago, or a young, strong Ilgauskas, or Deron Williams instead of Mo.

Not that the Magic are all that strong either -- at its core, Orlando is Dwight Howard and a bunch of outside jump shooters. Turkoglu is a good player but not a great one.

Come to think of it, who's the third All-Star on the Lakers or the Nuggets?

Posted by: Samson151 | May 26, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Gil are you watching this or is your head still stuck up your A$$ and the only thing that matters to you are your stats?

Posted by: bulletsfan78

How soon we forget. Since when did the Wizards offense under Gil have a problem scoring? What did Gil not do that LeBron, Kobe, and Melo are doing now? All three should be averaging +30 per game in the conference finals. They are putting there teams on there backs and carrying them to victory. They got to do it. You do it when your team needs you to do it. If LeBron, Kobe, or Melo decided to score less and pass more, everybody would be saying he is afraid to shoot and scare of the pressure. MJ did it. Wade did it. When Gil does it, you complain. Like you would rather have anyother wizard do an ISO with the game on the line. You see as much as LeBron is averaging, he needs to score more per game or they will lose. I thought playoff time was the time for the stars to step up. Mo Williams, Reddz, Big Z et al need to hit open jumpers. But your superstar still has to carry you. Gil stepped up, unless you want Caron or Antawn to do it. Not me!

Posted by: G-Man11 | May 26, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"The Cavs are stacked with talent."

They have a one man stack and thats it. Maybe Mo, but the rest are garbage. A little defense next year and we could be where the Cavs are standing now.

LEBRONIMUS LAMICUS

Posted by: BurgwithaU | May 26, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Go Orlando!

That statement made by Lebron about cloning himself is why I can't stand that guy! Oh yea, he has mad talent and bball skills, but he is so egotistical and full of himself. And know this, if they don't get past Orlando, it will Adios Cleveland! Bet on that one!

Go Orlando, Go Denver! I am like D.Howard, the NBA completely DISSED both the Nuggets and the Magic when this whole playoff series they focused on no one but Lebron and Kobe. They seem to have forgotten that they had to get to the finals. The best way for the Magic to take this series is to not let one basket or one point be the decider because if it is, you can be darn sure that the refs are going to influence the outcome.

Posted by: ivyleague | May 26, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Well said G-Man11.

When we brought Gilbert here, probably no one thought he would be as good as he is.

Hopefully, his knee is truly healed and he returns to form and even better than before in which I have no doubt that he will, if healthy.

I guess our stars have to be anointed upfront. God forbid, we get a player that grows into one before our very eyes.

Not liking Gilbert is one thing, but to continue to mischaracterize his value and accomplishments as a player in this League is getting a bit stale to me.

And the irony of it all, is that, most that disparage him, in the same breath compare what he does to Kolby or Lebron.

And if you are really honest about it, how many guards in this League can you count ahead of Gilbert, except Kolby and possibly Mr. Big Shot, but Gilbert might surpass him with a Ring or two.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | May 26, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

LeBron simply can't admit that Orlando was the better team in Game 3 like Kobe did after last night's game. Reality is that LeBron can score his 40 points a night, but Orlando has the better balance and it's frontcourt creates major matchup problems for the Cavs because of their quickness.

If Orlando continues to play their game and wins tonight at home, this series is over in 6 games.

Posted by: wizfan89 | May 26, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Pretty much every player in the NBA has an ego. James at least has a right to a big ego. He's that good. Love him or hate him (and I can't stand him), it's still the truth.

If the Cavs lose this series, not only is James gone when his contract is up, but Mike Brown, reigning coach of the year, will be out of a job, if not this offseason, then next.

Posted by: kalo_rama | May 26, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Szczerbiak on Rashard Lewis. Worked first time down the floor.

Posted by: yop32 | May 26, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

The Refs in the NBA are an absolute joke! LeBron stubbed his own foot and lost his balance and then fell into the defender. I watched it 20 times in super slow mo...he was not even being touched when he first started to lose his balance. Unbelievable...I am starting to hate the NBA!

Posted by: rphilli721 | May 26, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

This is very good!
http://www.nowgoal.com/22.shtml

Posted by: suesue8709 | May 28, 2009 5:55 AM | Report abuse

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