ECF Cavs-Magic: Be Wary, Magic; Cheer Up, Cavs Fans...Or Don't

Cock of the WalkContributor IMay 24, 2009

CLEVELAND - MAY 22:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts between plays against the Orlando Magic in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 22, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

As a Cavs fan, obviously I'm not happy about splitting at home and giving up leads, but if I were the Magic and their fans, I'd be a little more worried about the Magic's play than it seems they are.

How many teams come back from 15-20 point deficits to win four games out of a seven games series?

I'm guessing not that many, but if the Magic keep this pace up, they are going to have to do just that to take this series from the Cavs.

Anyway, let's break it down.


First Halves

The Cavs have owned the first halves of both games so far.  Mike Brown and his coaching staff have outdone themselves in game-planning at both ends, and the Cavs players have come out with superior execution and effort, and it has taken the Magic 24 minutes to fully adjust in each game.

In the first game, the Cavs shredded the Magic defense in every way imaginable for 63 points in the first half.

They started by exploiting the Magic's game-plan to have Howard heavily shade toward LeBron by having Varejao cut to the basket.  Then they used penetration to the hoop to get open looks for Delonte West from three. 

And when the Magic made adjustments to shut down the lane, the Cavs had Lebron set up in the high-post and back down Pietrus, the Magic's strongest perimeter defender, to around the elbow and shred the Magic's defense with passing and scoring from their. 

It was a creative way to negate Howard's ability to patrol the lane because he had cheat toward LeBron.

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On the defensive end, they basically let Howard get his points, but shut down the Magic's shooters, and used LeBron as a roamer to help keep the Magic guards out of the lane.

In the second game, the Cavs built a 23-point lead in the first half more simply.  They established Ilgauskas early in the post and exploited Dwight Howard's questionable one-on-one defense in the post.  Meanwhile LeBron and Delonte relentlessly attacked the rim.

On defense, the Cavs simply didn't let the Magic have anything until about half-way through the second quarter.

LeBron, Delonte, and Mo pressured the Magic guards into turnovers, and Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace worked hard to push Howard out of his comfort zone.  When Howard did get the ball in good position, they wrapped him up every time - zero three-point-play opportunities.


Second halves

The second halves of these games are pretty simple to explain.  The Cavs simply don't come out with the same energy as in the first half, and the Magic capitalize by getting into the lane, getting out on the break and hitting their threes.

Yes, I am marginalizing the Magic's great second halves.  If there is somebody out there that can tell me what the Magic are doing differently that is changing the game, my ears are open.

But to me, it looks more like the Cavs are just giving them opportunities that they weren't in the first half.

The Cavs are taking long jump-shots that lead to fast-breaks, getting back late on defense in transition, coming late with double teams on pick n' rolls/pops and allowing the Magic guards into the lane and their shooters to get open looks


Rest vs. Rust

I believe that is why the Cavs are giving up big leads and coming out flat in third-quarters.

It's not unusual for a team to struggle with their conditioning in the first two games after a long layoff.  The adrenaline can get them through the first half, but things just get a little harder after the break, which explains a bit why they are settling for jumpshots after hardly taking any in the first halves and looking a step slow on defense.

It may be the homer in me talking, but I think that playing every other day for the last three weeks is going to catch up with the Magic in the next two games, while the Cavs are going to have their legs back a little more.


Tell-tale signs people are ignoring

The Magic are shooting 14 percentage points better than their season average from three, while the Cavs are shooting almost 10 percentage points under their season average.

SVG and the Magic players don't seem the least bit perturbed that they are regularly falling behind by large margins and getting shellacked in the first half, which is a symptom of happy-to-be-here syndrome.

The Magic have still not found any semblance of an answer for LeBron.

The Cavs have a lot of emotional momentum.

If that doesn't scare Magic fans, I want whatever they're smoking.


Not gonna lie, though

I generally want what it seems all other fan-bases outside of Cleveland, Seattle, Philly, Bay Area, and Clipperland get to smoke.

Despite some pretty decent rationalization here, I'm still scared because the Cavs are not supposed to lose at home, give up 30-point quarters, lose big leads and lose close games.

No offense to Magic fans, but that is the difference between all the happy-go-lucky fan-bases out there and Cleveland fans.

You guys think it's great that your team has shown resiliency in coming back from huge leads to win one and almost win another.

If the Cavs were in the same situation, Cavs fans would pretty much be thinking the same way they seem to be now—even the usually rational-bordering-on-optimistic Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst is forecasting gloom and doom.

Truth be told, even if the Cavs had won both games, Clevelanders would be freaking out... Because were f'ing crazy.