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Gameblog: Cavs at Magic - ECF Game 6

By George Thomas Published: May 30, 2009

Post mortem:  Magic 103, Cavs 90
The familiar refrain returns to the North Coast:  ''Wait until next year.''
Yup, I'm sure everyone wanted to hear that line muttered.  But this year, despite the record, the Cavs weren't the best team on the floor. Ultimately, the Magic possessed too much depth and presented too many matchup problems for them to overcome.
Tonight?  Tonight was just what my mother would call a butt whooping.  Orlando had both aspects of their game working tonight - inside and outside.  Had they been able to score from upside down, they would have.
There was just too much Dwight Howard who scored 40 points and pulled down 14 boards.  And there was too much success from the three-point line as the Magic shot 40 percent from the arc for the fifth game out of six. 
The Cavs' bench was exposed in this series, as they were outscored from again.  The margin was only four points, but there's no legtimate spark from the Cavs bench if you look at this team objectively. 
Daniel Gibson has the capacity to do that, but has dealt with injury and has played inconsistently.  Wally Szczerbiak's best days are behind him, ditto Ben Wallace.  In the off-season Danny Ferry and his staff will have to come up with some answers to deal with that area.
First quarter:  Magic 30, Cavs 25
Blown opportunities sum up the quarter for the Cavaliers.  They had plenty of chances to capitalize on Magic mistakes on the offensive end.  Right now it's a game to see which superstar lifts his team to victory.  Both LeBron James and Orlando's Dwight Howard have 13 points.
The Magic are doing a tremendous job keeping the Cavs' guard from penetrating for shots.  Mo Williams who delivered a sterling effort Thursday night stands 0-for-3 thus far.  Has he lost the storke as quickly as he got it back? 
What's evident is the energy the Magic have brought thus far.  They do not want to return to Cleveland for a Game 7.  Their sense of urgency is fueling them.
Game:  Cavs vs.  Magic - Eastern Conference Finals Game 6
Broadcast:  TV: TNT.  Radio: WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM).
Starters:  Cavs:  LeBron James (F); Anderson Varejao (F); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G). Magic: Hedo Turkoglu (F); Rashard Lewis (F); Dwight Howard (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G)
Injured-inactive:  Cavs:  J.J. Hickson, Lorenzen Wright.  Magic: Jameer Nelson.
Pre-game observations:
The Cavaliers looked to find the winning formula Thursday night when they beat the Magic in Cleveland.  They freed LeBron James up to operate from the top of the key and when Magic players collapsed on him opening up passing lanes for him.
The only thing he needed was for his teammates to do what they did all year show up and hit shots.  Mo Williams finally got his stroke back, scoring 24 points including six three-point shots.
They're loose.  They're confident, but they don't win in this building very often - at least not in recent years.  So we'll see what happens.
LeBron James on what he expects the Magic to do in Game 6:

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. Magic - ECF Game 5

By George Thomas Published: May 28, 2009

Post-mortem: Cavs 112, Magic 102
Yeah, I know.  Nice blog, George.  Sorry.  It was either type during the game and deal with pain or type a game story along with the blog and deal with excrutiating pain.  I chose the former.
Probably the Cavaliers' most complete game of the series thus far. The big difference: they played like they did for the entire season. LeBron James was the spark with his triple double of 37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists, but he got a lot of help from his teammates as Mo Williams showed up in a huge way with 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
More importantly, they wer eable to connect from the outside, as they hit on 50 percent of their three-point shots when they'd been hitting just 26 percent.  Huge improvement.
In the process, they held the Magic to just 32 percent from the three-point line - a stark contrast.
Then what else do you say about James?  At one point during the game he involved himself in 32 consecutive points.
Game:  Cavs vs.  Magic - Eastern Conference Finals Game 2
Broadcast:  TV: TNT.  Radio: WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM).
Starters:  Cavs:  LeBron James (F); Anderson Varejao (F); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G). Magic: Hedo Turkoglu (F); Rashard Lewis (F); Dwight Howard (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G)
Injured-inactive:  Cavs:  J.J. Hickson, Lorenzen Wright.  Magic: Jameer Nelson.
Pre-game observations:
Prepare for the kitchen sink strategy.  Mike Brown employed it the other nightand they almost pulled one out. 
You can look back on that game and they did so much right as a team - mostly in the area of defense - in regulation that watching the overtime implosion proved extremely difficult.  It's as if what they were doing right until that point, they suddenly forgot.
Here it is: I'm on record right now saying that the Magic hit nowhere near 40 percent from the three-point arc, which will be key.  Magic center Dwight Howard will get his, but I see this one going back to Orlando.

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Gameblog: Cavs at Orlando Magic - ECF Game 4

By George Thomas Published: May 26, 2009

Post-mortem:  Magic 116, Cavs 114
Here's what I don't get.  The Cavaliers held the Magic's Dwight Howard reasonably in check with 17 points in regulation and then he explodes for 10 points in overtime.  There's the difference if you asked me.
The Cavaliers had the chance to pick their poison and those chose to keep eyes fixed on the Magic's three-point shooters. In the process, they had to leave Howard with only one guy on him and the center ate whomever that player happened to be.
The Cavaliers had their chances in this one down to the final seconds, but overall there are reasons why this one went out the window. 
Offensively, the Magic shot 50 percent from overall in the game and 44.7 percent from the three-point line.  They've shot over 40 percent in 3-of-4 games in the series.  In the process they've held the Cavs to under 40 percent from the arc in all four games.
For some inexplicable reason after the first half they reverted to form in this game relying on LeBron James to do everything on offense.  That first half?  Balance.  The second?  Not so much. 
Mo Williams once again shot under 35 percent and the Cavs got hammered on bench points 26-14.
What's left?  Reality.  The Cavs have a less than 4 percent chance to pull this out if you look back to prior NBA seven-game series where one team led 3-1.  Right now, the season of One Goal is on the verge of collapsing, forcing the Cavs to look to question parts of the team they once viewed as strengths.
First half:  Cavs 58, Magic 50
Mike Brown has opened up his bench just a little bit by giving Daniel Gibson some significant minutes. 
There's plenty to like in this half so far.  First the Magic are getting leads and the Cavaliers are beating them back and in doing so, grab much needed momentum.
In a stretch of the second quarter they held the Magic scoreless for a five minute stretch.  In another portion of the game, they outscored the Magic 9-2 to take a lead.
There's a distinct difference in the way the offense is unfolding as the Cavaliers look to have some semblance of rhythm going.  While LeBron James is still the team's leading scorer with 17, this time aroucn he is getting significant help from Willaims - who is still struggling from the floor but has 12 points - Delonte West with nine points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas with six each.  Furthermore, the Cavs are beating them on the fastbreak 15-9 and in the paint, 24-20.
Gibson has provided a big lift hitting two three point shots in the half.  What are the Cavs doing right?  Defensively they're still pestering Howard without committing dumb fouls.   Most notably, they held  Rashard Lewis, who has been the Magic's leading scorer, to just four points in the half.
First quarter:  Cavs 25, Magic 21
Some nice defense and a cold hand helped the Cavs jump to a modest lead in the quarter as the Magic shoots just 40 percent for the quarter, including a stretch where they miss nine consecutive shots.  Unfortunately, the Cavs could better capitalize on the situation as they missed their own share in the period's final minutes.
Game:  Cavs vs.  Magic - Eastern Conference Finals Game 2
Broadcast:  TV: TNT.  Radio: WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM).
Starters:  Cavs:  LeBron James (F); Anderson Varejao (F); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G). Magic: Hedo Turkoglu (F); Rashard Lewis (F); Dwight Howard (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G)
Injured-inactive:  Cavs:  J.J. Hickson, Lorenzen Wright.  Magic: Jameer Nelson.
Pre-game observations:
Some say the Cavs made progress defensively the other night.  I won't disagree with that.  I still see a team that's overmatched right now and hasn't shown itself to be otherwise.  For anyone who has read what I've written in the paper about Delonte West, you know I admire his play - offensively and defensively, but having him have to contend with Turkoglu, a guy he gives seven inches to may be  bit much.
The Cavs need to put it together offensively tonight and that doesn't mean the LeBron James Show.  That means Mo Williams West have to hit from the outside and Ilgauskas has to maintain some semblance of consistency.
Defensively they have to slow the Magic down.  The key to their offense, other than their ability to execute the pick-and-roll and their inside-outside game is to not allow Cavs to get back on defense and set up.

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. Magic - ECF - Game 3

By George Thomas Published: May 24, 2009

Post Mortem:  Magic 99, Cavs 89
Some of you will disagree with this, but I get the overriding impression that this on is over. The Cas possess no complete solution to stopping the Magic.
In a physical game that was also occasionally sloppy, the Magic put together a defensive gem, holding the Cavs to 37 percent shooting for the game. LeBron James outscored the rest of the starting lineup 41-40.  That's not good.
Mo Williams said it best after the game, this team isn't playing the way they had throughout the season - with balance and a collective sense of purpose.  This wasn't supposed to turninto the LeBron James show, but it quickly has.
Part of that is due to the Magic.  They seem to have decided that they'll allow James his, but take away his teammates.  We will dicuss the gory details tomorrow after I go over the numbers.  While this wasn't a blow-out the Cavs have little that they can really take from this game other than knowing if they don't win Tuesday night, they go back to Quicken Loans Arena with Orlando having the opportunity to win the Eastern Conference title on Cleveland's home court.
First quarter:  Magic 24, Cavs 17
Magic shoots 59 percent for the quarter, Cavs 42 percent. But where the Cavs have reason to worry is the number of turnovers they committed in the first quarter.  Six Cavaliers turnovers led to 10 of the Magic's 24 points in the quarter.
So far Mo Williams continues to struggle as he's hit just 2-of-5 shots in the quarter.  Magic players contest every shot while Cavs look disjointed.
Game:  Cavs vs.  Magic - Eastern Conference Finals Game 2
Broadcast:  TV: TNT.  Radio: WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM).
Starters:  Cavs:  LeBron James (F); Anderson Varejao (F); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G). Magic: Hedo Turkoglu (F); Rashard Lewis (F); Dwight Howard (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G)
Injured-inactive:  Cavs:  J.J. Hickson, Lorenzen Wright.  Magic: Jameer Nelson.
Pre-game observations:
LeBron James said in his pre-game meeting with the media that he might need to clone himself to help his team keep up with the Magic.  If only...
Here's the dilemma - and this was the one problem most everyone noted prior to the start of the series - Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu create matchup problems for the Cavs.  For that reason, look for Mike Brown to go back to Sasha Pavlovic off the bench.  At 6-foot-7,  Pavlovic is long, athletic and negates at least some of that advantage these guys have.   Performing as he did he at least earned some more playing time in the series.
Friday night saw the Cavs apparently have the right answer for Dwight Howard as well as the Cavs held him to just 10 points.  Of course he had 18 rebounds, but he's going to rebound regardless. Each time he touched the ball, the Cavs got physical with him, harassed him. 
Great.  What do you do about the other two guys? Logically speaking, there's no way the Magic can keep hitting more than 40 percent of their three-point shots in this series.  I could be wrong, but that is a torrid pace to maintain throughout the series.  But if the Cavs are able to neutralize Howard again, Lewis is the next go-to guy and here's betting that he sees a lot more of James than in the prior to games.
How the Cavs play here tonight dictates how this series will go.  Being completely honest, I'm not even close to liking what's been put on display in the first two games.   While Mo Williams delivered 19 points the other night, it was on 7-of-21 shooting.  Both he and Delonte West have to deliver offensively as well as defensively.

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Game Blog: Cavs vs. Magic - ECF - Game 2

By George Thomas Published: May 22, 2009

Gameblog: Cavs vs. Magic - Conference Finals Game 1

By George Thomas Published: May 20, 2009

Quote of the night:
How Stan Van Gundy motivated the Magic at halftime:

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Quicken Loans Watch Party Information

By George Thomas Published: May 18, 2009

Vouchers good for four tickets for a Watch Party for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals can be picked up at participating Northeast Ohio Papa Johns locations.
Check cavs.com/onegoal for more information.

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Gameblog: Cavs at Atlanta Hawks - Game 4

By George Thomas Published: May 11, 2009

Post mortem:  Cavs 84, Hawks 74
Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.  Did I mention it was ugly?  The Cavs turned the ball over 18 times for 22 points and shot a pathetic 54 percent from the free throw line. In the short term is doesn't matter.   The Cavaliers beat the Hawks because they played their brand of basketball - on at least one side of the ball. 
Defensively, this played out like a Tony Award-worthy  Broadway play.  When you hold a team to 32 percent shooting for the entire game, you're doing something right.  And the Cavaliers seemed to have the right plan in this case.  They'd harassed Joe Johnson with double teams throughout the series, but this time they threw a few in the direction of Ronald ''Flip'' Murray, the Hawks' best player off the bench. Considering Murray played 12  minutes of the fourth quarter, the adjustment proved effective.  Although he scored 14 points in the game, he only scored two in the fourth quarter and the Hawks only hit 17 overall.  They shot an anorexic 24 percent from the floor in the quarter.
Offensively, the Cavs played sloppily.  While LeBron James was LeBron James,  bench players struggle mightily producing just eight points total.  While center Zydrunas Ilgauskas seems to have shaken off the rust wit another workman-like performance that saw him record another double-double with 14-points and 10 rebounds, the normally reliable Mo Williams struggled with 4-of-11 shooting, although he hit a pivotal three-pointer in the fourth quarter.  Who came to the rescue?  Delonte West, who played positively brilliantly and that was just on offense.  West hit 7-of-13 shots, grabbed four rebounds and dished out six assists.   
 Defensively, with a little help, he made Joe Johnson's night  a living hell.  Johnson scored 18, but it came on 7-of-18 shooting.
In some ways you have to think that with the turnovers, lousy free throw shooting and overall subpar offense, the Cavs were lucky to get this win and sweep the Hawks.  However, as long as they can lock teams down on defense, it would seem that they will have enough offense to get things done.
Quotable:
West had a couple of dunks that got even Coach Mike Brown excited:

Third quarter:  Cavs 62, Hawks 57

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Gameblog: Cavs at Atlanta Hawks - Game 3

By George Thomas Published: May 9, 2009

Post-mortem: Cavs 97, Hawks 82
Many apologies for nothing for the third quarter, but things go a little intense.  Mo Williams said in his post-game press conference that the Hawks deserved some credit for the way they played.  He's right.  They gave the Cavs fits until the team finally succumbed in the fourth quarter.
The Cavs set a record for consecutive double-digit victories in the playoffs, this being their seventh.  It wasn't particularly easy as each time they tried to put the Hawks away, they came clawing back.  They answered a 13-4 run by the Cavs in the third quarter with a 13-0 run of their own. It wasn't until late in the third quarter when they had an 8-0 run to end that period and into the second that the game was sewn up.
This is one of those games that you file away for later reflection.  They won because LeBron James decided to take over the game.  He dropped 47 points on the Hawks and added 12 rebounds and eight assists for good measure.  Even he realized it was special, comparing it to his performance against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago.
James normally sits to start the fourth - not in this game. He played 96 percent of it and scored 13 of the Cavs 25 points in it.  He apparently told Brown he was going to take over the game.  Teammates had no problem with it.
But don't underestimate the effect Zaza Pechulia's ejection with 1:33 left in the third after being called for a blocking foul had on the outcome of this game.  Atlanta Hawks Coach Mike Woodson admitted as much.
 Post-game quotes of note:

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Chat With Cavs Beat Writer George Thomas

By George Thomas Published: May 8, 2009

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Game blog: Cavs vs. Hawks

By George Thomas Published: May 7, 2009

UPDATED: Pre-game Blog: Cavs vs. Hawks - Suspend Kobe?

By George Thomas Published: May 7, 2009

I'm sure some of you have seen the infamous Kobe Bryant elbow on Ron Artest from last night's Lakers-Rockets game.  But in case you haven't here:

Here's Artest's post-game reaction:

Neither Cavs Coach Mike Brown or Atlanta Coach Mike Woodson is prepared to say that Bryant should be suspended after being asked about it.

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Cavaliers Chat: Talk About Tonight's Game Friday at 10:30 a.m.

By George Thomas Published: May 7, 2009

Stop by at 10:30 a.m. Friday to discuss Game 2 of the Eastnern Conference semi-finals with George Thomas.

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Cleveland Cavaliers Chat with George Thomas

By George Thomas Published: May 6, 2009

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. Atlanta Hawks - Game 1

By George Thomas Published: May 5, 2009

FYI:  Join me for an online chat at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Post-mortem:  Cavs 99,  Hawks 72
Defense. Defense.  Defense.
Looking rusty in the first half and not even thinking about defense, the Cavs clamped down on the Hawks in the second - especially in the third quarter - to run away with the win.  James got his team going, but eventually his backcourt - Mo Williams (21 points) and Delonte West (13 points, nine assists) got into the act.  Overall in the second half, the Cavs held the Hawks to 30 percent shooting, limiting to just 28 points on offense.  In the fourth quarter the Hawks shot for just 25 percent and scored just 11 points.  It's a solid win in a game the Cavaliers should have won, given the seven-game series that the Hawks endured.
Third quarter:  Cavs 77, Hawks 61
Here's what I'm willing to bet Coach Mike Brown told his team at the halftime:  the team taht plays defense will win this game.  While the Cavs sputtered through the first half, shaking off some of that rust from the elongated break, they came out with more than a bit of ferocity in the third quarter, holding the Hawks to just 17 points in the quarter.  James added 12 points to a halftime total of 22.  Impressive to say the least.  Barring some improbably comeback - there wasn't any for the Hawks when they were down against the Heat in that series - the Cavs should win this one.  They, however, have to keep their foot on the gas to do so.  James started getting his teammates involved in the quarter.  It makes a distinct difference.
First half:  Cavs 49, Hawks 44
At one point the Cavs led this one by 12 points and looked as if they were ready to run away with things.  But something cropped its head up as they got sloppy - very sloppy.  They only had four turnovers in the half, but I'd bet at least three were unforced.    There was always the chance that they would come out rusty, so this isn't unexpected, but they had best be done with that.  James needs to get his teammates more involved - he had no assists in the first half - and someone from the bench needs to step up.
First quarter:  Cavs 25, Hawks 21
Cavs are shooting 47 percent from the floor while the Hawks are shooting 56 percent.  Free throws account for the disparity in scoring.  The Cavs have made eight trips to the charity stripe, while the Hawks have hit the line just twice.  LeBron James had 14 points in the first quarter. It's quite evident he wants to set the tone for his team because he hasn't had an assist.

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Cavs vs. Atlanta Hawks: Pre-Game Part I

By George Thomas Published: May 5, 2009

I realize that some of you may have thought I dropped or hoped even that I fell off the face of the Earth. So sorry to disappoint some of you, but with the Cavs having enough time to tour Europe after their win over the Detroit Pistons, not a lot of real news came out of the organization until yesterday.
Let's just say that there was nothing contrived, phony or insincere about LeBron returning to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary to accept the league's MVP award. Here's a couple of takes from those close to him on the team:

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UPDATED: Cleveland Cavs: Conference Semi-Finals Scenarios

By George Thomas Published: May 1, 2009

Eastern Conference
If Atlanta-Miami series concludes in 6 games:
Cleveland vs. Atlanta
Game 1 - Sun May 3 Atlanta at Cleveland 1:00PM 1:00PM ABC Game 2 - Tue May 5 Atlanta at Cleveland 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT Game 3 - Sat May 9 Cleveland at Atlanta 8:00PM 8:00PM ABC Game 4 - Mon May 11 Cleveland at Atlanta 7:00PM 7:00PM TNT Game 5 * Wed May 13 Atlanta at Cleveland TBD TBD TNT Game 6 * Fri May 15 Cleveland at Atlanta TBD TBD ESPN Game 7 * Mon May 18 Atlanta at Cleveland 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
If Atlanta-Miami series concludes in 7 games:
Cleveland vs. Atlanta/OR/Miami
Game 1 - Tue May 5 Atl/OR/Miami at Cleveland 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT Game 2 - Thu May 7 Atl/OR/Miami at Cleveland 7:00PM 7:00PM ESPN Game 3 - Sat May 9 Cleveland at Atl/OR/Miami 8:00PM 8:00PM ABC Game 4 - Mon May 11 Cleveland at Atl/OR/Miami 7:00PM 7:00PM TNT Game 5 * Wed May 13 Atl/OR/Miami at Cleveland TBD TBD TNT Game 6 * Fri May 15 Cleveland at Atl/OR/Miami TBD TBD ESPN Game 7 * Mon May 18 Atl/OR/Miami at Cleveland 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT

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