Dwight Howard made a statement early.
In the first few minutes of the game with Cleveland leading, Howard caught the ball off of a rebound and dunked it ferociously, bringing down the shot clock from the backboard.
Play had to be halted for eight minutes before shot clocks were put on each end of the court for the remainder of the first half.
Cleveland dominated early. DeLonte West hit two threes in the first quarter. LeBron James controlled the flow of the game (for the entire game mostly). Maurice Williams hit a 3/4 court shot to end the first half to give Cleveland a fifteen point lead. The biggest lead they had of the night was sixteen. Then Orlando got it going.
The criticism of Dwight Howard not having a low post move can stop now. It wasn't pretty, but a few times during the game he was forced to go up left and right handed and hook the ball into the hoop. He still did what he does best by dunking the ball with authority as well, but he has begun to show more low post moves.
Mickael Pietrus hit some big shots. So did Anthony Johnson, surprisingly. Hedo Turkoglu is a forward who is pretty much playing the point guard position. Orlando feels more comfortable with him controlling the ball than Rafer Alston I guess.
It seemed at times as if LeBron had to work on every possession, but he answered the call for the most part. Whether it was waiting on a mismatch on a switch and pulling up for a jumper on a shorter defender, or driving to the hole and getting fouled or scoring at will, or waiting on the double team and making the right pass, everything Orlando threw at him seemed to fail.
Van Gundy said it best in the post game press conference. "You'd like to come away from game one thinking "Well, at least we found some sort of game plan to contain him" but that's just not the case. He is unbelievable."
Orlando has to accept the fact that they will not stop LeBron James. They probably won't contain him, either. If they want to win this series, they have to play exactly like they did tonight (offensively).
Here are a few things I took from this game:
- Dwight Howard still needs to be the focal point of the offense. The jump shots went in when they had to tonight, but it's only a matter of time before they don't. Take the first half, for instance.
- Hedo Turkoglu is underrated. He is a forward playing the point guard position pretty much and he is very effective at it.
- Anderson Varejao is underrated. Whenever he does get the ball in the low post in the right position, unless Howard has his arms in his face, it's going in. He also works for every rebound.
- Nobody in the NBA has more heart than LeBron James. He played those last 2:30 minutes very injured and you couldn't tell it until the game was over. For future reference, trying to challenge Dwight Howard inside may work at times, but it can get you hurt too.
I really hope Orlando finds a way to maintain this momentum into game two. The most important thing is they have taken home court advantage away from Cleveland for the time being. It's still a long series to go.