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Cleveland Was Constructed To Beat Orlando, Not Boston

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Cleveland Was Constructed To Beat Orlando, Not Boston
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Around this time a year ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.

It is widely regarded that the reason was mismatches across the board in favor of Orlando. In short, Dwight Howard ate Zydrunas Ilgauskas alive, Orlando was too big at the small forward and power forward spots, and Rashard Lewis' role as a SF-PF hybrid who could stretch the floor to three-point range proved unguardable for Cleveland's plodding big men.

To address these discrepancies, the Cavaliers made several moves to specifically combat Orlando's 'Dwight and four shooters' attack.

They acquired Shaquille O'Neal to have an able body to defend Dwight Howard one on one.

Additionally, right as the trade deadline neared, Antawn Jamison was added to the roster for the purposes of defending Rashard Lewis and adequately spacing the floor for LeBron James on the offensive end.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they'll never know how this team would've fared against the Magic. With their Eastern Conference Semifinals collapse to the Celtics complete, this roster will never get that opportunity for revenge.

The Cavs core unit will not remain intact over what proves to be an immensely important off-season. Shaquille O'Neal and his expiring $20 million price tag are a lock to play elsewhere in 2010-11. It's believed that longtime franchise icon Zydrunas Ilgauskas will retire.

Mike Brown, despite his Coach of the Year Award in 2008-09, could very well be handed walking papers. And of course LeBron James and his pending free agency leave a question mark the size of an Independence Day spaceship hovering over Cleveland.

Boston manhandled Cleveland for a multitude of reasons. The Celtics got reasonably healthy and played their best basketball of the season.

The Cavaliers struggled to find consistency and dealt with an elbow injury to LeBron James. Kevin Garnett feasted on the undersized Antawn Jamison consistently throughout the series.

Jamison lost all confidence as the series wore on. He had a forgettable series against the Celtics, averaging a ghastly 11.8 points.

Mo Williams' 3 point percentage fell from a gaudy 42.9 during the regular season to 21.1 against Boston, converting just 4-of-19 three-point opportunities. Rajon Rondo proved to be indefensible, including a masterful 29 point, 18 rebound, 13 assist gem of a playoff performance in a critical Game 4 win.

The Celtic's vaunted defense was impeccable throughout. They limited Cleveland to a paltry 27.6 3 point percentage over the six games. LeBron James posted dominant statistics per usual, but Boston managed to limit his supporting cast.

Boston crowded the paint with 3 and occasionally 4 or 5 defenders awaiting LeBron's arrival. Their help defense was exquisite, their closeouts and defensive rotations were timely and effective.

It came down to Boston dared someone, anyone to beat them besides LeBron James. As gifted as the King is, one man does not a championship make. Anthony Parker, Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison struggled to consistently hit reasonably open shots created by LeBron.

Shaq was rendered ineffective offensively when pitted against Kendrick Perkins, and on the other end, O'Neal was an enormous liability in defending Boston's pick-and-roll.

The last few Cavaliers playoff exits have been marred with controversy and heartbreak. In 2008, LeBron carried a lesser team to a seven-game series against eventual champion Boston.

In 2009, Orlando defeated the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals in 6 games. In 2010, Boston again trumps Cleveland.

Ironically in 2008-09, the Cavaliers were built to beat the Celtics but played the Magic. Then in 2009-10, the Cavaliers were built to beat the Magic but played the Celtics.

Unfortunately, bad fortune like this has become the norm for Cleveland.

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