Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Debacle at the Q: ECF Game 1

As I literally floated down the steps from my seat at the Q, moments after Mo Williams swished a shot from the opposite 3 point line to beat the halftime buzzer, I had one thought in my head, which I should've known was the thought of doom:
"I've never seen my team catch the breaks like this. I think we may be destined this year. (3 long buzzer beaters so far in the '09 playoffs)."

I smiled to myself, my bright orange Lebron throwback jersey glowing from the inside-out.
Then in what can only be described as an episode from the Twilight Zone, the unthinkable happened... the Cavs reverted back to previous years, stunk up the joint in the 3rd quarter, ran an elementary school offense with Lebron pounding the ball at the top, and gave the Magic Game 1, blowing a 15 point lead... at home.

I love Coach Brown, and on this blog have said he's a great playoff coach. But the Coach of the Year got out-coached by the Master of Panic. I thought the game plan to start the game was borderline genius. Coming out with Lebron guarding the point was just one of the many things that shell-shocked the Magic into a 16 point deficit in the first half. Guys were cutting, the offense was flowing, Dwight Howard had 3 fouls (or was it 4?) in the first half (we'll come back to that later), and 3/4 court shots were falling... everything was good at the Q.

But halftime is the time of adjustments and in-game strategies, and here's where the coaching staff let us down.
  • Dwight Howard had 3, maybe 4, fouls, so why the HELL are you not coming out in the 3rd quarter and attacking him. You have a 15 point lead. Who cares if you get blocked a few times. To me, the Cavs players seemed scared of Howard, and were very hesitant near the rim.
  • In my expert NBA opinion, Dwight Howard can have his 30 points. Hell, he can have 40... he abused us in the first half and we were leading by 15! Why? Because Lewis, Turkoglu, and the other guys were not. Howard is the game changer because of his defense. He guards the lane like Cerberus, the three-headed dog, guards the underworld... or the Minions guarded the evil Undertaker. When he was out of the game, Lebron got to the rim much more. So by attacking, either Howard is forced to be less aggressive on defense, or he fouls out. I'd love to see the stats on how many of Lebron's 49 points were in the paint vs. jump shots. I have a feeling it would be astonishing.
To expand on that concept of getting Howard out of the lane:
Z, my lovable Lithuanian who actually WANTS to stay in Cleveland while other athletes are bolting for the sunshine or the bright lights... you have to hit the 15-20 footers to keep Dwight Howard honest. If Z's hitting the outside shot, Howard is forced to step out, opening up the lane for Lebron and others. If not, then Z is virtually useless. Defensively, I thought Z did okay on Howard. He forced him into several ugly hook shots that happened to fall (and don't kid yourself, Dwight basically closed his eyes and threw those up at the rim). Another thing... Joe Smith and Ben Wallace did pretty well on Howard in the first half, but Coach Brown didn't use them in the second half.

And now I'm going to utter two words I never thought I would need to utter these playoffs. God help me:
Sasha Pavlovic
He's erratic, he plays dumb, he disappears at times, but he might just be what the Cavs need. He's tall, he's athletic, and he's a guard. We all know Orlando isn't the best match-up for the Cavs, so maybe our rabbit in the hat is a guy buried on the bench. Every playoffs has that guy on the bench who turns out to be key. Boobie two years ago. P.J. Brown last year. Maybe Sasha can guard the taller guys like Turkoglu, or even Lewis. (I just vomited in my mouth a little).

Believe it or not, there were some highlights from Game 1:
  • Lebron's absolute facial on Dwight Howard. From my seat, LBJ looked like he was sitting on the rim. And to overpower Superman like that. Wow! (Link here or see video below)
  • Mo William's bomb at the halftime buzzer. What's the NBA's slogan? "Where Amazing Happens". Uh Yeah. (Little did we know the "amazing" would be blowing a 15 point lead).
Sign of the Night:
Barkley = DUI

I know there are a couple readers of this blog that absolutely detest the phrase "must win" unless it is an elimination game. But Game 2 is a must win. Strap it on Cavs. One Goal.