The moment finally arrived on Wednesday night. The Cavs had been sitting idle for what seemed like a month for Boston and Orlando to complete their series. The Cavs finally took the floor at 8:40 PM on Wednesday night with huge energy and a sense of suspense that we haven’t felt as Cavs fans in a long time. Questions abound. Will the Cavs be rusty? Will the Cavs be able to stop the three? How will the Magic come out defending? The 8 days of anticipation were enough to make the home crowd burst into flames.
And the game almost stopped as soon as it started. As the Cavs jumped out to a 4-0 lead, Dwight Howard grabbed an offensive board, went up and thundered down a dunk that would almost instantly delay the game because it knocked out the 24 second clock on top of the hoop. Thankfully, they improvised some clocks in the corners of the court and the game got back underway at about 10 minutes to 9:00 PM.
After finally getting under way again, the Cavaliers took early control. Their defense was as swarming as it has ever been. In the first quarter the Cavs held the Magic to 36.4% shooting while the Cavs scored 33 points to the Magic’s 19. The Magic finally got it going offensively scoring 29 points in the second quarter. But things still weren’t looking great as Dwight Howard picked up some ticky tack fouls and headed to the bench with 3 fouls. Two of the fouls were offensive fouls (no pun intended) and the third occurred as he was attempting to get out of the way of a driving LeBron James. One of the most electric plays of the first half occurred just before the buzzer as Mo Williams nailed a prayer from 3 quarter length of the court to end the half.
In the third quarter it looked like the Cavs of a couple years ago. The Cavs were running stagnant offense as the Magic started catching fire with mid and long-range jumpers. If not for LeBron’s jumpers, the Cavaliers might have lost control of the game completely before the 4th quarter. The wind was taken straight out of the Cavaliers fans’ sails in the third quarter. After it was all said and done the Cavs lost the frame 30-19 to take a precariously small 4-point lead into the 4th quarter.
The Magic hot streak continued into the fourth the Cavs called timeout with just under 10 minutes to go in the fourth as Orlando gained its first lead of the night, 85-84. The Cavs’ previously swarming defense couldn’t account for Orlando’s heralded inside out game as they started draining slightly contested jumpers. Also, LeBron James started the 4th quarter on the bench, but didn’t stay there long as he was about the only scoring option that worked in the third quarter.
Things were looking especially bleak all fourth quarter long for the Cavs. The Magic seemed firmly in control when the Cavs’ Delonte West nailed a three on a dish from LeBron James with 40.8 seconds left in regulation to go up 103-102. The Cavs desperately needed to pony up some late-game defense to pull the game out, but Rashard Lewis nailed a two to go up one. LeBron responded immediately with a driving bucket where he was fouled by Dwight Howard. For the Magic it was Howard’s 6th foul and for the Cavs it was an opportunity to go up by two, 106-104 as James converted the throw with 25.6 seconds to go. The Magic called timeout and LeBron pleaded with his team to help him get just one stop.
That stop couldn’t be had as Rashard Lewis bombed a three in Varejao’s face and gave the Magic a 107-106 lead in a see-saw battle. The Cavs called their final time out with 14.7 seconds to go to draw up a play to desperately try to answer the Magic’s three. LeBron drove, kicked out to Mo Williams, who fed Delonte West who missed a three. After a scrum, Lebron James tied up a jump ball with 1 second left against Hedo Turkoglu. LeBron tipped the ball to Mo Williams who caught, shot and even appeared to take some contact as he missed off the back of the rim. In the end, the Cavs didn’t have enough to get the job done.
The Cavs wasted an opportunity in game one of the Eastern Conference finals, and the news isn’t looking any brighter for the Cavs. LeBron James couldn’t get himself off the court as he was hobbled by what appeared to be leg cramps. He finally made his way off the court with a stream of blood running down his shin and the painful look of unfamiliar defeat on his face. It was a depressing finish to an awful second half for the Cavs.
Knowing this Cavalier squad, they will be chomping at the bit to get back into action on Friday night. There will be no excuses as the refereeing seemed to go hot and cold for both teams throughout the night. In the end the Magic played a better defensive game when it mattered most as the Cavs’ offense grew stagnant in the second half.
There is plenty of analysis to be had in this game and how it turned out. Tune back in tomorrow for RockKing’s “Numbers and Words” for more in-depth analysis of this game.