A Cavs-Heat playoff series would surely pack an awful lot of drama (sounds like a TNT plug, I know). Too bad for the Cavs they: 1. Can't seem to beat the Heat in dramatic games. 2. Can't seem to beat the Heat in Miami. 3. Can't seem to avoid facing them in the first round.
Some bytes on the 94-90 loss in OT to Miami...
--The NBA season is never about one game. It is about trends and shifts and general focus. Yes, the Cavs lost a game Thursday. But it is part of a terrible 10-game package, where they have lost six. It is this spurt that will probably cost them the No. 2 seed, not an individual game or possession.
--That said, I find it impossible to excuse LeBron James' decision-making with the final shot of regulation. When he got the ball, Pat Riley screamed for Jason Williams to go double-team him, but Williams had to run 25 feet to get there everyone in the gym saw it coming. I have never been in the spot James was in, but I would assume he would either start moving toward the basket to split the double or pass in the direction of the double to catch the Heat in rotation. Instead, he did the worst possible thing, he stood still and dribbled.
--This sort of freeze happened to LeBron at the end of the game in Charlotte as well. It was just as hard for me to explain it then, too. But what I can say is this, he is 0-of-10 on 3-pointers this season to win or tie games. There is no avoiding this stat. And he's going to take plenty of heat about it. He won the game against the Bulls with some great plays and was at the top of his game in Minnie. But these finishes are a hole in his game right now and a high-profile one at that.
--While LeBron has to make a better decision, there's got to be better preparation coming out of the timeouts. There's got to be more options. I'm not in the timeouts, in fact the Cavs have pushed the media so far away from the bench, I can't even see who's talking in timeouts. I don't know what is said or drawn up, but something has to improve there. Mike Brown is an excellent defensive coach and he's won 60 percent of his games, but this season he's failing on these plays. The Cavs were 0-for-4 in side out of bounds plays down the stretch and none of them came close to working. Surely, Mike can't make the shots or set the picks for the guys, but he can put them in a better position to succeed. I think I remember there was a stat on 82games.com last year that had the Cavs last in efficiency coming out of timeouts. But I can't find it now, so I'm not 100 percent sure.
--After the game, Brown passed the buck to James, telling the media they'd have to ask LeBron what happened. On everything else, he said he needed to look at film. LeBron, his feet in a bucket of ice and his knee wrapped, looked as down as I've seen him this season. He said: "I just try to be aggressive and try to get the best shot up possible." Only, he wasn't and he didn't and it wasn't close. And he knew it.
--It is hard for me to call the Cavs and James terrible in the clutch. In this game they were 17-of-17 at the foul line in the fourth quarter. They couldn't make a shot (11-of-49 shooting in the second half) and they had all sorts of trouble with Shaq, yet there nearly won the game win some tight defense and willingness to drive down the stretch. But they didn't finish it off, they haven't been finishing them off.
--Looking back at this game and the Chicago game, to go 1-1 isn't bad the way things went down. But to lose in New York, to lose in Boston, to lose in Charlotte with a big lead late, these are the games that have cost them their lead on Chicago. Plus the Cavs have lost three of four at home, and there's no excuse. This is what I mean by looking at things with perspective.
--The difference between being the No. 2 seed and No. 5 seed is massive. Not only would the Cavs maybe be on the same side of the bracket as the Heat and Pistons, but would be an underdog in that opening series. They've never won in Miami since Dwyane Wade arrived and this season they are 0-3 against the Heat in games decided by five points or less. That doesn't seem too promising, does it?
--Oh, but before I leave, here's my favorite play of the night: At the end of the first half official Eric Lewis calls a foul on Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The problem was, Z didn't commit the foul. So he went over and told Lewis that he didn't commit it, at least in so many words. Lewis admitted he was wrong, changed the foul to LeBron, and then hit Ilgauskas with a technical for arguing. Not that I ever want to come down on the side of a guy like Rasheed Wallace -- who is always griping about technicals -- but
that is a joke.