When Mo Williams hit that unbelievable shot from the three point line on the opposite side of the court, it looked as though the Magic just did not have enough tricks in their bag to stop the Cavs.
But Stan Van Gundy, who has been heralded as the purveyor of panic, had a different message for his team. Of the Unstoppable Cavs, the Series Sweepers, Van Gundy said: they have not been here before. They have not been tested.
His team was going to provide that postseason test.
Despite the early lead, the Magic never lost that energy that can propel a team to victory. Even when they were down, they never played as though the game was over. Their steady pace was the factor in tipping the game their way.
The Magic never went on a clear run, but as Rashard Lewis’ shots started to fall, that once insurmountable Cavs lead began to lessen. You almost did not notice, because every time LeBron James got his hands on the ball he scored, either by a rainbow three or a hard drive. Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard did his best to stop James under the basket, but it seemed every time James stepped into the paint he got a foul call and was sent to the line.
Yet by the fourth quarter, the large lead was gone and for the first time in the Playoffs, Cavs fans had to wonder if their team could hang on and gut out a win. James dominated the game from start to finish and this did not change down the final stretch. He was ready to carry his team on his back to a win, but this time there was too much dead weight.
Other than his miraculous court-and-a-half shot, Mo Williams had an off night. He ended up with a respectable 17 points, but he did not appear his usual scoring self. Varejao, West, and Ilgauskas also contributed to the Cavaliers 106 total, but with no extra help from the bench, it just was not enough.
On three consecutive plays, the Magic found a wide open Lewis who knocked down three after three. Turkoglu and Howard also came alive in the fourth quarter, pushing the Magic ahead of the Cavs.
Cracks even began to appear in King James as he missed a key foul shot and several threes.
But in the final seconds of the game, the Cavaliers had the ball, and more dangerously, the ball was in the hands of LeBron James. Like we have seen him do countless times before, James drove to the hoop. He looked ready to slam the ball through the net and get another foul call when—curiously—he kicked the ball out to Williams, who whipped off a quick pass to West. West’s shot would not fall and the Magic took Game One.
This leaves one to wonder, why did James not take that last shot? LeBron James knows best, but the question has been asked: does James really want the ball when the game is on the line?
The answer to this question is probably yes. He is a special player and talent like his does not come along every year. He saw an open Williams and he made a call. If West’s shot had gone in, all would have been forgotten.
What we really learned from Game One is that with James doing all the work, his team can come within one point of a win. With just a little more help from his supporting cast, there is no doubt that the Cavs can take Game Two and still have a great shot at winning the series and advancing.
Yet, we learned a lot about the Magic as well. This team showed great heart and guts down the stretch. They did not allow the Cavs to run all over them as they had done to their previous opponents. They showed their mental toughness and proved that they can beat this Cavs team.
As Cavs fans gear up for the next game and Magic fans gloat in their moment, fans of basketball can be sure of something else; this is going to be a great show, and this was only act one.