LeBron James' Heroics Aside, the Magic Have Momentum
Last night, some of us were graced with yet another amazing Eastern Conference finals game between the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In Game One, the Cavaliers blew it open in the early minutes and got out to a 15-point halftime lead. The Orlando Magic never gave up, however, and went on to win the game behind the heroics of Rashard Lewis, 107-106.
In Game Two, the story unfolded virtually the same way it did in Game One, only worse for the Magic. The Cavaliers blew the game open to a sizable lead until Orlando began to show heart to battle back, led by Lewis yet again.
Hedo Turkoglu made a jump shot in the lane with one second left to put the Magic up by two. However, LeBron James played the role of hero when the clock ran out as he made what he called "the biggest shot of my career" to win the game, 96-95.
Despite James' magnificent buzzer-beater, it only tied the series 1-1, and it can be argued the momentum favors Orlando.
You see, James is the MVP and he did make the game-winning shot last night. But it was only the game-winner of Game Two. It only tied the series, it didn't win it.
Yes, James has exploded in these two games, averaging 42 points.
In Game One, James scored 49 points.
In Game Two, James had 35 points and the game-winning dagger.
The truth is, the MVP has had no choice but to carry his team virtually by himself.
Behind Bron's 49- and 35-point efforts, the second-highest scoring effort for the Cavaliers was Mo Williams in Game Two with 19 points.
There have only been seven different players to score through these first two games for Cleveland compared to Orlando's 10 players.
The Cavaliers have scored 19 points off the bench in both games compared to the Magic's 51 bench points.
Off the bench, Mickael Pietrus has 23 points in the two games combined, which is more than the entire Cavaliers bench.
To go along with Cleveland's lack of offensive balance, their defense has been melancholy.
The Cavaliers have blown a 15-point halftime lead in Game One and an overall 23-point lead at one point in Game Two.
It was that Cleveland defense that let Orlando come back from 23 points down. Without their defense giving up that advantage, James would not have even hit that shot, or attempted it for that matter.
Their offense, fueled by the energy of the home crowd, has gotten off to early leads in the first halves of each game. However, their defense has allowed Orlando, fueled by superb three-point shooting, to come back.
The Cavaliers' lack of defensive shifts are what really allow the Magic to get so many open shots from beyond the arc.
The Cleveland coaches should celebrate last night's Game Two victory, but they need to make changes if they hope to win Game Three.
They should be in some sort of a panic when it comes to covering Lewis, who has put up 22 and 23 points, respectively, in the first two games. Anderson Varejao simply cannot stretch out to the perimeter on Lewis, and that fact has been exploited in Orlando's second-half comebacks.
Coming off a 30-point, 13-rebound night, Dwight Howard was limited to just 10 points and 18 rebounds last night. Howard, however, only shot the ball eight times. When Orlando goes home for games Four and Five, the 6'11" Defensive Player of the Year will undoubtedly draw inspiration from the Magic crowd—a real problem for the Cavaliers big men.
Turkoglu has also continued to break down the Cleveland defense with his passing. Turkoglu has a total of 18 assists through the first two games, with 14 coming in Game One.
Orlando now takes home court, and it will be interesting to see how they bounce back from James' clutch performance.
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