Overview: With the Cavaliers unable to make a jump shot or defend without fouling, the league’s two best defensive teams engaged in an ugly struggle that ultimately saw the Magic prevail.
At least it was a return to the status quo. After playing the two games in Cleveland in the bizarro world: LeBron having a monster game and the Cavaliers losing, the Cavaliers unable to get stops, both teams scoring at will, Rashard and Hedo looking like Michael and Scottie, LeBron making a ridiculous three-point game-winner-the Cavs and Magic both played their games.
Dwight was loose inside but wasn’t the monster that he was in game 1, getting loks inside and hitting the occasional hook but mostly overpowering his way into the paint and getting fouled and making a decent proportion of his free throws.
The good news in this game: the diagnosis for why we lost is much easier for why we lost in game 1 and blew a huge lead in game 2.
It’s pretty simple, folks: you’re not going to beat the best defensive team in the league if you’re not going to be able to make any jumpers. And this team simply could not make a jumper. The team went 5-26 from three-point range, and you have to remember that this is a drive-and-kick team. Mo couldn’t get it going, and he still hasn’t been a force in these playoffs. LeBron couldn’t hit a jumper, missing easy looks and settling for tough ones all too often from the perimeter.
Only one field goal from Andy, who wasn’t making the good cuts, was comitting stupid turnovers offensively. And he kept himself off the floor with stupid foul after stupid foul on the defensive end. Z didn’t get established in the post and couldn’t hit a jumper. Delonte’s confidence came in spurts offensively and he comitted an uncharacteristic four turnovers. And 0 points from guards off the bench.
This team was flat-out miserable offensively. The only thing that came close to an offensive strategy that worked was having LeBron barrel to the basket, bounce into Orlando defenders, and draw what were frankly questionable foul calls, finishing with 41 points but needing 40 attempts to get it. That’s not going to get it done against a defense this good. The backcourt had 9 turnovers against 6 assists and 9 fouls against 10 field goals. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. The team got outplayed tonight. In a way, it’s liberating.
Defensively, the team did made the adjustments it needed to and kept Hedo and Rashard from killing them, but allowed the Magic to get deep way too much and couldn’t stay disciplined on the perimeter, putting the Magic into the bonus early and often. The Magic shot 51 free throws in this game. I don’t remember arguing one foul with passion. And I remember shrugging my shoulders and laughing on quite a few of the calls that gave us our 35 free throws.
So the good news is that none of these problems are unsolveable. The bad news is that they’re the kind of problems that come from playing on the road. Role players missing shots and losing confidence offensively, role players getting frustrated and making stupid plays defensively. There’s a reason that 14 of this team’s 15 (legitimate) losses in the regular season came on the road, and those are pretty much the reasons.
But the Cavs already gave away a game at home, and nearly gave away two. So they need to break the staus quo at least once in this series if they want to go to the finals. They’ve got a chance on Tuesday. Hopefully they can right the ship, but the fact is this team has been outplayed in all three games. All they really want is the split of these two, and they’ve got more than a decent chance. But the problem with giving away games is that acceptable losses like this one just aren’t all that acceptable anymore.