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Cleveland Cavaliers 118, Orlando Magic 111

Larry Hughes shoots a layup
The Cavaliers' Larry Hughes scores an easy 2 of his season-high 40 points in Cleveland's 118-111 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday.
Photo by Fernando Medina, NBAE/Getty Images

This loss (boxscore | GameFlow) might be the most disappointing one of the season. The Cavaliers were playing their fourth game in five nights, the second game of a home-and-road back-to-back. They didn't arrive in Orlando until 1:30 PM yesterday. Meanwhile, the Magic had two days off and were playing just their fourth game in seven days. Additionally, the Cavaliers were without the services of rotation players Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, and Anderson Varejao. How the Hell did they manage to beat us?

We let them. It's that simple. We had just a three-point halftime lead, and I was never comfortable with it. Our third quarter was one of the worst of the season, as Cleveland scored 34 points on 62% shooting. Larry Hughes scored 23 points (on 6-of-7 shooting!) in the period, one short of the Magic franchise record of points scored by an individual opponent in a quarter. Keyon Dooling, the Magic's best on-ball defender and the player most capable of shutting down Hughes, missed the game with a sprained mid-foot. Dooling would have certainly been able to keep Hughes in check, but Larry Hughes is still Larry Hughes. There's no reason why he should be the one guy to beat your team. Look at the picture I used at the top of this entry. There are literally no Magic players in the picture as he lays the ball in. It's disgusting and embarrassing.

There's also the matter of Dwight Howard being dissatisfied with his role on the team. Reportedly, Howard's breather in the middle of the fourth quarter was to make an example of him. He and Stan Van Gundy had a "conflict," and apparently Van Gundy wants Dwight to focus more on his rebounding and shot-blocking. From John Denton:

"He had 23 15-plus rebounds in the first 41 games and he has one in the past 12 games. He didn't even have a double-figure rebounding game (on Monday). It's a matter of focus and his focus is on the offensive end and he gets discouraged when he doesn't get the ball. I don't think, I know, that the numbers prove that what we need him to focus on to win is defense and rebounding. But that's not what he wants to do right now, so we have a little bit of a conflict."

Both Dwight and Stan have legitimate beefs. Dwight is an All-Star for a reason: he's a damn good player. He leads the team in scoring despite being the third option on offense, and he hardly saw the ball last night after the first half. In periods one and two, Howard shot a combined 6-of-9 for 13 points. In periods three and four, he shot a combined 0-of-2 for 3 points. He has every right to be ticked, especially when everyone else in the starting lineup attempts at least one more shot than he does, as was the case last night. At the same time, it shouldn't take more touches to make Dwight happy; he should be trying hard on defense whether he shoots 25 times or 2 times.

The loss makes us 1-3 on our 5-game homestand going into the All-Star break. Clearly, we have work to do. A few days ago, Stan told the Orlando Sentinel he wanted his team to think of the homestand, as well as the two road games immediately after it, as "a playoff series." If the team's poor play of late is indicative of how it will play in the postseason, there's no question we'll be hitting the golf links sooner rather than later.

For what it's worth, Hedo Turkoglu (25 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) was the only one of our guys to play well tonight. Jameer Nelson scored 22 on 7-of-14 shooting, and got to the foul line 10 times, but he also committed 5 turnovers.

In light of last night's defeat, I'm considering changing this site's URL to www.heyorlandomagicpleasestoplettingcrappyplayerslikelarryhughestakesomanyeasyshots.com.

Speaking of funny URLs, the guys at Hey, Larry Hughes! Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots! have written an open letter to Rod Thorn of the New Jersey Nets, imploring him to trade Jason Kidd to Cleveland for Hughes:

The future’s name is Laura Larry Hughes. Larry is 40-point-scorer. He’s a slasher. He even has tattoos - very cool tattoos of tough things that give him street-cred. And 3 years ago, when he played for the Wizards, Larry had a lot of steals. THOUSANDS OF STEALS. More steals than any player every recorded in the history of the NBA. You like steals, don’t you Rod?

Well, there is something to be said for wanting to sell high...

Our next game is Wednesday night against Denver. Without Keyon Dooling to check Allen Iverson, it's going to be a long night. Remember when the Answer hung 60 on us in 2005? It might get a lot worse than that on Wednesday. Be prepared.