Thursday, May 21, 2009
Eastern Conference Finals, Game 1
The Cavs are not invincible. Any team can be beaten if it gives up 55 percent shooting, and 45 percent shooting from behind the arc, as Cleveland did in only its second meaningful loss at home all season Tuesday, a 107-106 defeat at the hands of Orlando. That the Cavs came within in Mo Williams' prayer off a jump ball with a second to go despite playing such poor defense most of the night shows just how potent Cleveland is. LeBron had a magnificent night, scoring 49 points on 30 shots, dishing eight assists and pulling down six rebounds. It's not his fault Cleveland's interior players couldn't compete. Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis outscored Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao 52-24, led by Howard's 30 points and 13 rebounds. Lewis was 9-for-13 for 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Orlando's distributors were effective at feeding the post, as Orlando piled up 32 assists to Cleveland's 23. Hedo Turkoglu served up 14 assists and Rafer Alston had eight. The Magic had a much more productive bench as well, led by Mickael Pietrus with 13 points. The Cleveland reserves were outscored 25-5, with those five coming from Joe Smith. Wally Szczerbiak, Daniel Gibson and Ben Wallace went scoreless, as the Cavs struggled to find a complementary scorer for LeBron. Williams scored 17, including a three-pointer and the end of the half and another that gave Cleveland a lead with 2:04 to go, but it was not enough. The same goes for Delonte West, who nailed three treys but went just 4-for-13 for 11 points. The major problem the Cavs must address isn't on offense, of course. They have to improve their defense and particularly on the interior, where they can't allow Howard to have another huge scoring night. Friday night is suddenly even more important than it would have been, with Cleveland fighting to avoid a difficult 0-2 hole and Orlando seeking a knockout punch.