- Brian Schmitz reveals head coach Stan Van Gundy's thinking when Mo Williams put up the desperation heave with 1.0 second left in the game:
Cavs guard Delonte West missed a 3-pointer, and with one second left, a wild scramble resulted in a jump-ball between James and Hedo Turkoglu. James batted it out to Mo Williams, who barely missed a desperation shot.
"I'm not an optimistic guy and when Mo Williams caught it and shot it off of one foot, I was sure it was going in," Coach Stan Van Gundy said.
- Mike Bianchi points out an interesting dynamic developing in the series between Orlando and Cleveland:
Let's face it, the Cavs are worried. Very worried. They would much rather be facing the beleaguered Boston Celtics right now; not a Magic team that has beaten them 9 of the last 12 times they've played.
The Cavs entered this series 8-0 in the playoffs, winning by an average score of 16.8 points per game. Now, astoundingly, they are 0-1 against the Magic. LeBron scored 49 points — and they still lost to the Magic. They led by 16 at one point — and they still lost to the Magic. They played in this nuthouse known as Quicken Loans Arena — where they have lost just two games all season (one if you count the final defeat of the season when Brown was resting his starters) — and they still lost to the Magic.
Let's be bluntly honest. The Magic don't need to win this series for their season to be considered a success. Winning Game 7 in Boston on Sunday night took care of that, and the Magic are now playing with house money. Magic fans are excited about their team, but they don't exactly qualify as long-suffering. If the Magic win, great. If they don't ... hey, kids, who wants to go to the beach today?
Here's all you need to know: We live in a place called "The City Beautiful." Clevelanders live in a place called "The Mistake by the Lake." The people up here are tortured fans. They have endured "The Drive" (John Elway) and "The Fumble" (Earnest Byner) in football, The "Shot" (Michael Jordan) in basketball and "The Choke" (Jose Mesa) in baseball. What will they call it if they are somehow beaten by the Magicians — "The Disappearing Act"? [...]
The Magic want to win.
The Cavaliers need to win.
- George Diaz states that Orlando, it seems, did the near impossible last night after the team came back to win over Cleveland - silence the Q:
There's plenty of basketball left to play, people, but in terms of relevance, stealing a game here is huge.
The TV theme for the playoffs has a nice ring to it: "The NBA, where amazing happens."
Then the Magic came to Cleveland and silenced the din from the Q.
- During the third quarter yesterday, SVG said some wise words to his team:
Van Gundy, who wore a microphone, kept a cool head and told his team to just chip away at the lead.
He made a smart decision to bring Mickael Pietrus off the bench early in the third quarter to get an offensive spark — something desperately needed with Hedo Turkoglu's cold pizza shooting.
"They don't know about this; we do," Van Gundy told his players in a huddle.
That message soon turned prophetic, as the game progressed.
- Kyle Hightower talks about the point guard matchup between Rafer Alston & Mo Williams and believes each will play an important part in the series.
- Here is the video of Dwight Howard channeling his inner-Shaq last night:
- UPDATE 2: David Steele writes up his post-game analysis. Check it out.
UPDATE 3: Dwight Howard posts on his official blog about yesterday's win:
It gives us motivation that nobody thinks we can win this series or even slow down LeBron at all. Hey, we held the dude under 50, what more do they want from us? (Just kidding, ya’ll).
I think we showed in the second half what kind of heart and fight that we have as a team. We’re just not going to go away. You are going to have to kill us to get rid of us in a game.
You would think people would see that by now after the way we fought back against Philly and Boston, but I guess we just have to keep on proving ourselves. But we’re just lil’ old Orlando and nobody is ever going to give us any credit for anything.
- For a Cavs perspective on Game 1, check out Cavs: The Blog, Fear The Sword, and WaitingForNextYear.
Click after the jump to see what the national media had to say about Game 1.
- Tim Povtak provides his recap of yesterday's game between the Magic and Cavaliers:
The top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers got tested for the first time in these playoffs. And they failed that test, losing the home-court advantage that they worked all season to get. They looked stunned after the final buzzer of a 107-106 loss.
After sweeping easily through the first two rounds -- winning all eight games by 10 points or more -- the Cavs discovered Wednesday that it's a different game against the really good teams.
As great as he is, LeBron James -- the NBA's MVP -- can't do it all by himself, which should have been a concern before this Eastern Conference final began. James was superb with 49 points, but he let someone else (Delonte West) take the final shot, and that was a huge mistake. No one else was ready.
The Magic, relying on a Big Three of Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, used their better balance and some clutch shooting down the stretch when the pressure mounted.
- Bethlehem Shoals of The Sporting Blog thinks Orlando's win over Cleveland didn't feel like an upset, in his opinion. This is what Shoals had to say before the game ..
What we know is this: The Cavs have swept both of their previous playoff opponents without breaking a sweat, while the Magic have stumbled multiple times and at one point nearly imploded. Cleveland’s young star is being feted one of the game’s all-time greats, while Orlando’s Dwight Howard has come under increased scrutiny. Oh, and the Magic have had to make due without All-Star PG Jameer Nelson this entire postseason, while the Cavs just might be fully healthy for the first time since who knows when. So this isn’t like Denver, where we’re looking to find out how a team fares when it's faced with a monstrous challenge.
No, this is more along the lines of what the Lakers went through last night: showing us who they really are. Orlando’s been every bit as all-over-the-place as LA, except without the elite pedigree to back it up. In fact, we were all looking to the Magic's playoff performance to confirm that the regular season hadn’t been a mirage. Losing Nelson was bad, but do we interpret their playoffs thus far as proof that he means that much to him, or a sign that, like LA, the Magic just need the proper motivation. I’m inclined to think it’s the former. But if Howard decides to try and steal some of LeBron’s spotlight, Turkoglu can provide someone with a mismatch, and the shooters make their shots, this could be a ballgame.
.. and this is what he had to say after the game ..
That didn't feel like an upset, did it?
Maybe I'm crazy for saying that, but there's little reason to think that 1) Dwight Howard can't be a force through three quarters; 2) the Magic, a team drowning in 3-point marksmen, can't get their long-range game going; 3) Hedo Turkoglu (pictured), one of the league's most underrated players, can't do a little bit of everything. That’s Orlando’s game plan, and while it's easy to joke about it or see the team as flawed, the Magic have the talent to make it work. Yes, they’d be even better with Jameer Nelson, who really stitched the whole thing together, and sometimes you get the feeling that you’re watching a Rube Goldberg device unfold over four quarters. When it works, though, as it did tonight, it’s hard to argue.
And it’s not as though the Cavs played a terrible game. Mo Williams didn’t exactly live up to his reputation as LeBron’s first mate, and the ball wasn’t moving particularly well, but King James had the kind of playoff performance that, had Cleveland won, would’ve gone straight into the pantheon. Dwight Howard may have taken out the shot clock early on, but LeBron’s untroubled drive right into the reigning DPOY was almost as absurd a feat of sheer strength. Given how enormous James has gotten, this battle of superstars seems almost as relevant as Wade/James or James/Kobe.
- Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com notes what SVG said to his players at halftime, when the Cavaliers held a 16-point advantage over the Magic:
"He (Van Gundy) told us we all look like witnesses," Howard said of his coach's halftime speech, "and we can't have that. That really motivated us, because he said y'all are out there just watching (James) dunk, and that brought some fire out of us."
But while Van Gundy did some screaming, he also did some pleading and prodding, repeatedly telling his team that Cleveland might not respond well to a nip-and-tuck game given the fact that they had steamrolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, winning every game by double-digit margins, and could turn a tad uptight if things got a little too tight.
And he couldn't have been more right.
"The one thing about our team, and it's been pretty consistent all year, but this is resilient basketball team. This team will keep playing," Van Gundy said. "All I was talking about was getting our heads right, gather ourselves, and try to do it possession by possession. I said we're not going to get it all back in six minutes, but let's get it to 10, get it to six, get it to two and put pressure on, then we got the lead. The players did very good job of that, keeping their heads and staying in the game."
- Elias Sports Bureau, Inc. shares this tidbit about how rare Orlando's comeback was over Cleveland, at the Q:
The Cavaliers took a 16-point lead against the Magic, and you couldn't blame the fans in the Quicken Loans Arena if they thought this one was in the bag. In the LeBron James era, prior to Wednesday night, Cleveland was 100-5 (.952) in the regular season and 10-0 in the playoffs when it held a lead of more than 15 points at home.
- Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports surmises what the Magic's win over the Cavaliers, last night, meant for the perception of the team:
No more do the Magic have to contend with that soft label that comes with so many jump shooters. With the Game 6 and 7 victories over the Boston Celtics, with this stunning Game 1 victory over the Cavs, the Magic have shown the stomach for pressure playoff basketball.[...]
No, Orlando hadn’t come to be witnesses to the MVP’s championship chase. The Magic took his best shot, and ultimately left LeBron James in the middle of the floor, in the middle of May, bent over and bleeding.
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie recaps Game 1 between Orlando and Cleveland:
[...] the Magic, finally, got it right. Offensively, as well. The defense returned to the norm. What we expected, from mid-way through the second quarter (even though the Cavs were still piling it on at that point) until the end.
The offense? There were some leaps and bounds, here.
Starting with Rashard Lewis. I've been begging for him to get more looks and more touches since, well, since it became obvious he could hang with the big boys in Seattle years ago. Problem is, Lewis isn't nearly aggressive enough. He doesn't understand -- or does understand, and is too timid to act upon this knowledge -- that a somewhat contested three-pointer taken over and over again still has a 40 percent success rate for this guy, and that he's helping his team in the long run if he takes it.
And on Wednesday, he took those shots. He also took tough baseline jumpers out of time outs, and benefitted from some Ray Allen-style curl action. It was great to see. I wish it had started in the first half, but he did finish with 22 points on only 13 shots, and in spite of Dwight Howard's(notes) massive play on both ends and Hedo Turkoglu's(notes) all-around brilliance, Lewis was what put Orlando over the top. Not "the best player," mind you; just someone that the Cavs couldn't counter when it mattered, plying a type of trade that despite the typical line (22 points on a good shooting mark, seven rebounds), was much, much different from the style that we've seen him work for years.
And if the Magic want to win, he has to keep it up. Has to. No way around it.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus delves, a bit, on yesterday's matchup:
Storylines change quickly during the NBA playoffs. Try to keep up.
A week ago yesterday, the Orlando Magic was left for dead after blowing a fourth-quarter lead in Boston and moving within one loss of elimination. Dwight Howard complained about his touches, and people mused about Stan Van Gundy's job security. The night before, the Cleveland Cavaliers completed their 8-0 romp through the first two rounds of the playoffs amidst talk of reaching the NBA Finals undefeated. That sure seems like a lot longer than a week ago now, doesn't it?
Even if Rashard Lewis' three-point attempt had rimmed out instead of proving decisive in Game One, the Magic would have demonstrated with their effort that this is going to be a competitive series, not the mismatch the first two series were for Cleveland. Getting an early win on the road merely reinforces that point.
The Cavaliers were dominant in the early going, catching Orlando off guard by putting LeBron James on Rafer Alston. The Magic was stagnant in the first quarter, uncertain how to attack Cleveland. That quickly changed, and although Orlando still trailed at halftime, the team's 29-point second quarter was a good sign. The Magic never slowed down and won this game with offense, scoring on five of its final six possessions to pull out the win.
What stood out about Orlando's offense in the closing moments was its diversity. The Magic mostly put Hedo Turkoglu in pick-and-roll situations, taking advantage of the fact that he followed up his 12-assist Game Seven outing against Boston with 14 dimes this time around. However, the last two possessions saw Rafer Alston run the pick-and-roll to set up Lewis for a baseline jumper, and Lewis and Turkoglu play off of each other on opposite sides of the court to create just enough room for Lewis' winning three.
UPDATE 1: John Hollinger of ESPN.com admits his gaffe and asserts that the Magic are capable of beating the Cavaliers in this series:
I let you down. Sorry about that.
Of all people, I should have seen through the coronation blitz and realized that Orlando had a great shot to win this series. Unfortunately, I picked Cleveland to emerge in five games.
As I was writing Tuesday's story on how the Magic had carved up the Cavs during the regular season, I immediately began getting a sinking feeling that perhaps I had screwed up. The Magic's point differential during the second half of the season wasn't anywhere close to Cleveland's, but as we've learned countless times, the playoffs are all about matchups. That's why J.J. Redick went from being a 40-minute starter against Boston to DNP-CD against the Cavs, and it's why the Magic went from barely surviving against a weakened Celtics team in Round 2 to having the upper hand on a trip to the Finals.
Sorry to be late to the party, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that Orlando matches up great against Cleveland. [...]
Thus, the Cavs must go back to the drawing board, and it's time for them to unearth the one tactic we didn't see Wednesday night: going small.
This may be the only way for the Cavs to survive. It's easier to double Howard with quicker, faster players, while James can slide up to the 4 and lock up Lewis. The Cavs haven't used that plan much this postseason, but it may be the only way they can guard the Magic in this series. Such a lineup might require them to play Sasha Pavlovic, because Wally Szczerbiak can't guard Pietrus, and that's a terrifying thought. But anything would be preferable to the way they've been chewed up during the teams' first four meetings.
- UPDATE 4: Steve Aschburner of Sports Illustrated has five thoughts concerning the Orlando / Cleveland series.
UPDATE 5: Tom Ziller of NBA Fanhouse explains how SVG and his team didn't freak out or panic against the Cavaliers last night (HT: Stan in a Van):
The Magic won't take contested threes -- the first half proved as much. The studio crew (and color commentator Doug Collins) criticized Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu for being passive in the first half, but that's not quite right. They played Orlando's offense -- they didn't heave up bad shots that define "panic." They waited for the open shot, which was hard to come by in the first half as Cleveland almost conceded Howard's inside dominance in order to shut down the three-point line. You'd think designated scorers like Shard and Hedo would be gunning away down 16 on the road to the best team in the league. But that's just not Orlando's modus operandi. And it's a good thing!
But the Magic do adjust. No coach is said to be as prepared as Van Gundy going into any given game. His whiteboard is, of course, legendary, and his devotion to strategy nearly unmatched. And he figured out how to beat the vaunted Cleveland defense (besides continuing to feed Dwight, which worked well in the first half). Van Gundy had Turkoglu and Lewis work themselves into open shots inside the arc. Like a point guard and center, Turkoglu and Lewis ran the side pick-and-pop to perfection on a few possessions. The two scorers and Rafer Alston ran more draw-and-kick action than usually, using the size or quickness advantages created by Mike Brown's defensive strategy to use LeBron James as a free safety of sorts.
Brown put LeBron on Alston or Anthony Johnson so the MVP could help on Howard from behind. relying on the other wings to cover the three-point line. It worked ... until the penetration mismatches granted to Hedo and Lewis opened up the entire floor. Mickael Pietrus benefited from that. Alston benefited. And in the end, Lewis benefited.
Make sure to check out this post every few hours for updates.