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]