Magic 101, Cavs 86
--Remember when the Cavs were one of the best fourth-quarter teams in the NBA? Today they were 4-of-23 shooting and got run over, Thursday they were 6-of-23 when the Bulls sped past them. The offense was reduced to taking nothing but jumpers on both occasions. Some of this is because LeBron James' back is preventing him from being aggressive in going to the basket. While he seemed to jump just fine today, I think it affects him when he runs and when he drives. Also, I don't think he is the same player after halftime because it tightens up. It has not helped the two games had long halftimes because they were national broadcasts. --Based on the reaction at the arena today, I sense that many in the fan base will want to pin this loss on Mike Brown's decision-making and his offense. As someone who called for Mike to hire an offensive coordinator two years ago and then detailed his two new offenses since then, I would like to agree with you. I have pointed out many times I disagree with who he plays when, especially in regard to Damon Jones, Joe Smith and Zydrunas Ilgauskas of late. However, I cannot say what has happened the last two games is his fault. The Cavs scored 118 points in Charlotte on Wednesday. Thursday they had 85 points and were shooting 54 percent through three quarters. Today they had 55 points in the first half and 16 assists on 23 baskets and 30 points in the paint. They had four points in the paint in the second half. The same players are running the same plays in the second half as the first half, to me they look like they are just tensing up and dumping it all on LeBron. They are not as crisp, they are not as aggressive, they all settle way too much. Today I watched Brown go through a timeout in the fourth quarter where he's drew on his dry erase board the whole time and another when he just looked everyone in the eye and yelled in the huddle. It is one thing to say that his rotations are off and he's slow to make adjustments, that all may be true. But I just don't believe he told them to go out there and fire up nine 3-pointers in the fourth (after taking a total of eight in the first three quarters). It wasn't the Magic, they played a little more zone, but it wasn't like they turned into the Celtics out there. --LeBron said after the game he would not take any extra rest and miss games. The Cavs have the next three days off, I assume he'll not have any contact at practice and get treatment. He also vowed to play better after his last two performances. --Daniel Gibson went 1-of-7 today and is 5-of-24 since coming back. Mike told me he doesn't plan on cutting his minutes and he'll let him play through this. Seems like he has made the decision that Sasha Pavlovic and Damon are sitting and that is final. --Ben Wallace played another pretty solid game today (other than another missed dunk). He had nine rebounds, four blocks and a steal. He also did a nice job on help defense on Dwight Howard. He seems to be coming around.
Pregame Starting lineups
Magic: Jameer Nelson, Maurice Evans, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard Cavs: Delonte West, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Duke Callahan, Sean Corbin, David Guthrie
--Before the game Mike Brown told us LeBron has been battling back issues for a couple weeks. LeBron said he is not 100 percent. He may start out OK, but pay attention to how he plays in the later stages of the game. --The key whenever playing the Magic is to try to stay attached to their shooters. For the Cavs to do this they have to control Nelson's penetration and try to handle Howard 1-on-1 or if you bring double teams bring them from the weak side. --To win this game the Cavs are going to have to score a little and it will probably have to come from someone besides LeBron. Wally Szczerbiak seems like he could be on the verge of a breakout because he's been showing signs. We'll see. --If the Cavs lose, the Magic clinch the No. 3 seed.
Halftime -- Cavs 55, Magic 47 --Cavs have played with great teamwork so far. Especially on the boards and while operating the offense. They have a shocking 32-11 rebounding edge and 16 assists on 23 baskets. Delonte West is playing excellent at both ends, especially with his penetration and controlling Nelson at the other end. LeBron has 11 points and is shows signs that the back is bothering him while he's standing still but you could never tell they way he's jumping. --Dwight Howard has just two points and one rebound. This is shocking. Ilgauskas and Wallace have been trapping him and boxing him out. Still, Howard isn't showing much fight and seems to be willing to let his teammates shoot. My guess is Stan Van Gundy may be in his ear a little in the locker room. The Cavs energy is swallowing in the Magic, we'll see if they push back. --Daniel Gibson has struggled to keep Nelson in front of him and it caused trouble when Hedo Turkoglu and Pat Garrity got free on the outside. The way the Cavs play, as I have written when playing the Magic, it is hard to cover their outside shooters and deal with penetrators and Howard. They Magic are capable of making runs with that offense.
Stars Turkoglu, 23 points, five rebounds Rashard Lewis, 21 points West, 19 points
Quotes: LeBron: "It has been frustrating, but we have to figure it out and I'm going to figure it out. I've always been able to bounce back in situations where I haven't played particularly well. I have a few days to reflect." West: "At the end of the day, you can play great defense and have great spirits but the ball has to go in the hole," said Delonte West, who led the Cavs with 19 points. "We went through a stretch where we got the plays we wanted and did a good job of executing and the ball didn't go in."