I have read and commented on my fair share of one-sided articles regarding the playoff series between Cleveland and Orlando, but the reality of the situation remains: the series is not over and neither team is sitting pretty right now.
So here is my attempt to shed some kind of light on the Magic versus Cavaliers series and how it has played out so far, and how it might play out in the near future.
What the Magic Have Done Right:
Hit Them Threes: Orlando has proven that everyone on the team can hit a three-point shot from almost anywhere on the court, and it has the Cleveland Cavaliers dumb-founded because the Magic also have Dwight Howard.
When the Cavs begin to move some of their players outside to defend the three, the Magic just pass inside to Howard and he usually gets an easy two on a dunk off Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Z may be taller, but it seems that Howard can just bully him to the rim.
Make Free Throws: Some of the free-throw percentages of the Magic are just plain crazy, last time I checked I believe Hedo Turkoglu had a percentage of around 90 percent. Every time they get a defensive foul it seems like the Magic turn it into an automatic two no matter who is at the line.
Tire the Cavs Out: The game plan for the Magic sometimes seems to require players to just run around in a random order and get the ball to the open man for three. Now I know the Magic know their offensive sets before they do them, but these routes have confused the top-ranked Cavalier defense and forced Cleveland to go to its bench early. Before this series I thought the Cavalier bench was relatively good and deep. However the Magic have been able to exploit the bench and reveal the flaws in some of their players.
What the Magic Have Done Wrong:
Wheres LeBron?: The Magic have no answer to LeBron James, who seems to be scoring at will. However the rest of the Cavs' starting line-up has been unable to make shots when it counts, essentially negating the fact that LeBron is scoring all over the Magic.
First Half: Until Game 3, the Magic really didn't have strong first halves and would have to stage a comeback on what was often a tired Cavs line-up. Well now they've started strong and with the help of some questionable officiating, they beat the Cavs by double digits in Game 3 (10 points). I should note that when the Cavs got these calls Orlando only won by a point.
Operation Dwight Lightning Halted: When Ben Wallace played in Game 3, Howard seemed to have a hard time dunking and scoring in the paint. This is very bad for the Magic right now, as even they cannot expect to make three-pointers all day. They'll have to hit the rim sometime in the series to win it.
If the Cavs want to put a cork in the Magic's game play, starting Wallace is the key. He seems to be the best person on that team to contend with Howard. At the end of the day Howard still wins, but maybe Wallace can hold Howard just enough for the Cavs to pull out a victory.
What the Cavaliers Have Done Right:
LeBron James it down their throat: James is averaging more than 40 points a game, including a game-winning shot in Game 2 that may have put the final nail in the coffin for the Cavs. LeBron's heroics have kept the Cavs in it to this point, but can it continue? Probably not if none of his supporting cast can score.
Mo Williams Can't Stay Cold Forever: Even though Williams hasn't been the three-point machine that we've seen until now, he can't stay in the this slump forever. But the door is closing on Williams and he may get hot when it is too late. And that right there is the Cavs' worst fear because if Mo doesn't start hitting those threes, who will?
With the way the Magic play the Cavs can't win it by just shooting twos. If Mo Williams starts to come alive the Cavs will probably take the next two games easy, but can he?
Strong First Halves: Cleveland has had some impressive first halves in this series and it could easily be a 3-0 series in favor of the Cavs if the game ended after 2 quarters. Have the Cavs dug themselves too deep?
What the Cavaliers Have Done Wrong:
Where Are They?: The Cavaliers haven't been playing well because they are too tired entering the second half to become enough of a factor. Orlando has been perfect in their execution late in the game, which really hasn't really helped the Cavs' cause.
LeBron Can't Do It By Himself: It seems like no one else is scoring points other than LeBron. For the Cavs to win this series someone else has to score because this can't be a one-man team.
The Defense Has Disappeared: The best defense in the NBA has arguably turned into one of the worst. The defense that was able to shut down dominating offenses has turned into a tired bunch, trying to make something happen on offense rather than stopping someone on defense. If this kind of play continues the season may be done for Cleveland, but if the defense returns to form, Cleveland is just getting started, I am sure of it.
Summary: Overall this has been an interesting series, although Orlando is winning the series at 2-1, I believe this series is far from over. For Orlando to win they need to keep doing what they are doing, shooting for a high percentage and make shots when it counts.
Cleveland needs to return to form and win with defense and timely shooting.
Right now the advantage lies with Orlando, however all Cleveland has to do is win Game 4 and suddenly this series gets decided in Cleveland. LeBron James just can't win it by himself in Orlando, so the supporting cast must do something for this series to go back to Cleveland, if not it is Orlando's series to lose.
All we can do is wait in anticipation as our teams take the court and give it their all.
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