May 23, 2009
With one second left on the game clock and the Cavaliers trailing by two, it appeared they were going to lose another heart breaker on their home floor and fall to a 0-2 series deficit.
That would have been the case had LeBron James not decided to pull up from the top of the arc and bury a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Cavs to a much-needed victory, 96-95.
You may consider this the shot that saved the season for Cleveland, and some fans are even referring to it as a new version of "The Shot".
Yes, that is referring to Michael Jordan's buzzer beater in the 1989 playoffs in Richfield, OH that advanced Chicago to the next round, and is something that Clevelanders will NEVER forget!
"Well, that guy is not in the league anymore," said James of Jordan. "The other 23 is on the good side now. That other 23 is gone, so we don't have to worry about that no more."
If James hadn't made that shot the series would be extremely different from what it is now. Orlando would have a 2-0 series lead and although anything is possible, teams that trail 0-2 in a playoff series only win the series seven percent of the time, and all odds would have been against the Cavaliers. However, the series is now tied 1-1 heading down to Orlando.
Aside from Lebron's greatness and this being the most memorable shot in Cleveland history, this game should have never came down to a last second shot. Just like in game one, Cleveland gained a big lead in the first half, but watched it go away in the second.
Head Coach Mike Brown and the rest of the coaching staff needs to hit the game film and figure out what they have been doing wrong that is allowing the Magic to push themselves back in the game. Cleveland led 56-44 at halftime, but were outscored 51-40 in the second half.
"There are some things we can do better as a staff to help put our players in a better position especially when they went on their run, and we'll watch the tape and figure that out tonight," said Brown. "You've got to give them credit for playing the way they played and staying with it no matter what the score was. They could have easily said, 'hey, we already got one, we'll wait until we get home and pack this in,' but they didn't."
Dwight Howard continued his dominance on the rebounds on Friday as he pulled down 18 of them. It is nearly impossible to stop Dwight Howard in the paint as he has double-doubled every game of the playoffs, but the Cavs did a good job taking away some of his offense by holding him to just 10 points and eight shot attempts. He wasn't able to get some of his easy dunks and put-backs that he is used to, and that made a difference in the game.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas really gave a great effort tonight on both ends of the floor. He finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds, and he was on the floor going for every loose ball that was in his reach. He was forced to sit in the fourth quarter at times because of match-up problems with Orlando's taller shooters however.
Ilgauskas isn't quick enough to get out to the 3-point line to defend, and Howard was bringing him out there when the Magic ran their pick n' rolls. Instead, Brown decided to put Ben Wallace in the game along with Anderson Varejao, and they both did a solid job defensively.
Brown also decided to play Sasha Pavlovic 21 minutes after he didn't even see the floor in game one. Pavlovic stepped up when his number was called and played a great game, finishing with nine points.
"I just stayed ready because coach told me before the game to stay ready," said Pavlovic. "That's what I did. I came out and played as hard as I could on the defensive end to help my team get stops."
Mo Williams continued to struggle from the field, making just 7-of-21 shots, but he was able to keep his head in the game and knock down a couple of big shots down the stretch. He also assisted the game-winner with his inbound pass.
"I just had to wait until he got it at one second," said Williams. "I couldn't give it to him too early and make it a tough shot. That's a difficult pass to make when you have no timeouts."
Mo also joked about the different options that they had drawn up for the final play.
"Okay. Option B was LeBron. Option C was LeBron. Option D was Big Game James, and that was Option D that you saw."
Obviously, James led the way for Cleveland with 35 points, five assists and four rebounds, and of course the game-winning shot.
Friday's victory marks the start of a brand new five game series, and Orlando has the home court advantage next. Orlando has defeated the Cavs both times they met in Amway Arena during the regular season. One game being a 29 point blow out where they led by as many as 41 points and was an embarrassing loss that Cleveland has not forgotten.
The Cavs will be seeking revenge away from home, when they attempt to steal a game on the road on Sunday night.
SEE YOU IN FLORIDA!!