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Cleveland Cavaliers 97, Orlando Magic 93: The Morning After

You've read what we have to say about the Orlando Magic's 97-93 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night. But what's everyone else think? We look around the blogosphere for more reaction:

  • John Barry of writes "Orlando could end up being a problem for Cleveland" when they playoffs start, but ultimately thinks the Magic are a power forward away from true championship contention. It's something he's written before, and it's something we responded to in-depth. That will be the case once more, as erivera7 has a response to Barry on tap for later today. Please stay tuned.

  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie was impressed with the way both teams played, but thinks Cleveland might have gotten lucky:

    It took a horrible game from Rashard Lewis (3-15 shooting, one of those makes was a breakaway dunk) which isn't likely to happen again, and a brilliant game from LeBron James to turn this one for Cleveland. And though James is likely to bring that brilliance back, it's not something you want to have to count on for four-point home wins.

    Dwyer thinks Dwight Howard needed to get more involved, and lays some of the blame on Rafer Alston:

    Yes, [Alston] was taking and making the shots the Cleveland defense gave him, but Dwight Howard was an afterthought in this game on offense, and that can't happen. At some point, you have to force feed a pass or three to the big man, if only to draw a foul or give your team (which shot only 13 free throws, making 11) an easier trip to the penalty.

  • J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas devoted the first 8 minutes or so of today's The Basketball Jones video podcast to discussion of the game.

  • Henry Abbott of TrueHoop questions Cleveland's confidence after the win:

    After Cleveland pulled out a meaningful and close-fought home win against the Orlando Magic, the Cavaliers were right to feel great. They had beaten a team that had won seven of their past nine meetings, and three straight in Cleveland.

    But I wouldn't be surprised if the Magic felt prettty good, too -- and not just because of that unusual three-second call that negated the Magic's most important possession of the game.

    LeBron James hit the big shot, from 26 feet, which is well behind the 23-9 3-point line. That shot spelled victory for the Cavaliers, but its location was a victory for the Magic, who wholly succeeded in keeping James and his teammates from getting anywhere near the rim in crunch time.

    After the game, James indulged in a little bit of athlete self-aggrandizing.

    "That was just being confident," the AP quotes him saying. "Being down one and taking a 3, a lot of people wouldn't have done that. I'm one of the guys who would do that. I knocked it down."

    But you know what? Delonte West had been taking that shot. Mo Williams, too. In fact, no one in a home uniform seemed willing to shoot anything other than 3s, and I'm not at all sure that was a sign of confidence.

    A truly confident player would have sought high-percentage shots and trips to the line. But the Cavaliers kept their offense very far from the rim.

    Abbott goes on to break down the Cavs' late-game possessions, all of which resulted in jumpers. I'm of the opinion that James' hitting that three-pointer is an instance of lucky offense beating great defense. Again, James is a career 32.6% three-point shooter. If you're forcing him to take fadeaway three-pointers with the game on the line, you're doing your job defensively.

  • Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm feels similarly:

    If you're Orlando, what do you do with that game? You had a nine point lead. You led by one with less than a minute to go. You went under the screen, cut off the baseline, and forced James into a pull-up three pointer. Can you really be mad at yourself? Is that a letdown?

After the jump, more thoughts on the game from around the blogosophere.

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel believes Stan Van Gundy and Rashard Lewis will get most of the blame (and it sounds like Stan agrees with the first point):

    While LeBron James was getting the ball and, ahem, the calls, Howard wound up with just eight shots for only 13 points. He did not get an attempt in the fourth quarter while Lewis --- who finished an icy 3-of-15 --- got five attempts and made just one shot.

    "I thought we limited him and probably I limited him," Van Gundy said of Howard.

    I do indeed question some of Stan's decision-making, but not so much as it pertains to Howard's not getting the ball. At the start of the fourth quarter, Orlando's lineup was Anthony Johnson, Mickael Pietrus, Hedo Turkoglu, Tony Battie, and Marcin Gortat. That's one starter and four reserves. Cleveland's was Mo Williams, Sasha Pavlovic, James, Joe Smith, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. That's three starters and two reserves. Orlando re-loaded with three more starters after 2:42 elapsed in the period (Alston for Johnson, Lewis for Battie, Howard for Gortat), but by that point Cleveland had taken a one-point lead. I understand that the guys need rest, especially on the first night of a back-to-back, but Howard needed to stay on the floor for the entire second half. Whatever. Stan doesn't make many mistakes, and hindsight is 20/20. Enough hand-wringing.

  • As for Lewis... it's hard to excuse a 3-of-15 evening, especially when it includes a 0-of-8 mark from three-point range. In light of last night's loss, Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily looks at Lewis' scoring splits, and makes this observation:

    It's no secret that the Magic too often have an over-reliance on the 3-point shot. It's also no secret that the production of Rashard Lewis has been steadily dipping over the second half of the season.

    Those two facts are closely related.

    Lewis has scored at least 25 points seven times this season. In those games 40.4 percent of his field goals were 3-pointers.

    In all other games, 51.1 percent of his shots were from behind the arc.

    Which is more surprising to you: that Lewis is more efficient when he takes fewer three-pointers, or that he's only crossed the 25-point threshold 7 times in 66 games?

  • On his spiffy new blog, Howard writes that the Magic are a better offensive team when he gets the ball early in a possession :

    I got just eight shots in the game and only one after halftime because they were double-teaming me so much with a big and a guard. As I've said many times before, I think we're a better team when we play inside-out first. When we go inside first, that's when we put the pressure on the defense to make a play.

    He's also confused about the officiating last night. Here's how the post starts:

    Needless to say, I was very surprised by the three-second call at the end of Tuesday night's game against Cleveland.

  • John Krolik of Cavs: The Blog is (understandably) impressed with James' performance, but praises some Magic players in his recap. Here's what he says about Mickael Pietrus, for instance:

    Why nobody wanted Mickael Pietrus, the French Bruce Bowen, as he begged out of Golden State for three years, is completely beyond me. Championship teams have guys like him. That he, unlike Bowen, doesn't give a crap just makes him more intriguing.