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by Matt Fargo - 05/28/2009
Orlando is proving to be the best team in the Eastern Conference after winning Game Four on Tuesday to take a commanding 3-1 leas in the series. The Cavaliers, the leagueâ€™s best regular season team, now must win three straight games to advance to the NBA Finals. The good news is that two games will be on their home floor where they are 44-3 this season. However, one of those losses came in Game One of this series.
The Cavaliers are in a huge hole right now but they have the talent and the ability to mount a comeback but it will take a team effort. Winning on their home floor is no longer automatic but they are in good shape still. The problem is Game Six if it comes to that as Cleveland is 0-4 in Orlando this season, or in other terms, 25 percent of its road losses on the entire season have come at Amway Arena.
Being down three games to one is not impossible to come back from but the odds are not in the Cavaliers favor. Since 1947, there have been 190 series where a team has led 3-1 and of those, 182 were won by the team with the lead. That is a 95.8 percent success rate meaning history shows Cleveland to have just a 4.2 percent chance of advancing.
The Magic know the odds and they know the history but they also know Cleveland is not gong to quit, making this series far from over. â€œWhen you have a guy like him (LeBron James) on the other side of the court, you're a long, long way from it being over,â€쳌 Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Back to Basics
By basics I mean Cleveland needs to start playing some defense. The Cavaliers led the NBA this season in scoring defense, allowing just 91.4 ppg and their 43.1 percent shooting defense was tied for first with the Celtics. In the first series against the Pistons, Cleveland allowed 78 ppg. In the second series against Atlanta, the Cavaliers allowed 78.3 ppg. Through the first four games against Orlando, the Cavaliers have allowed 104.3 ppg. Take away the overtime points and the average is still a gaudy 100.3 ppg.
Cleveland has LeBron James and we all know what he can do but this team prided itself on defense, just like the Celtics did in their NBA Championship run last season. The Cavaliers cannot win this series by outscoring Orlando in a shootout as the Magic have shown to have too many weapons to knock down shots. They need to defend to get back into this series and have any shot of advancing.
â€œWhen you have a team that shoots the 3-ball as well as they do and they have a stretch [the floor] big man against our two traditional bigs, it's tough,â€쳌 Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown said. â€œPlus, you have Dwight Howardâ€쳌
Orlando has been held to less than 48 percent shooting only once in this series and it has topped 50 percent twice. In the Cavaliers first game in Orlando, they held the Magic to 42.9 percent shooting from the floor including 35.3 percent from long range. They lost that game but that was because of a below average effort on offense where they shot just 37.2 percent from the floor including a putrid 19.2 percent from behind the arc.
James is a great player as proven by his MVP award this season but he can not do it alone and that is visibly a big problem for Cleveland. He is the go to guy and if not for his clutch three-pointer in Game Two, Cleveland would already be making its summer plans. This series looks as though it is taking its toll on James as he looks fatigued and beat up toward the end of these games.
James committed eight turnovers in Game Four including six in the fourth quarter and in overtime. It is clear that he needs another player that is capable of making plays and right now the Cavaliers do not have that.
Almost every championship team has had more than one clutch player it could turn to. Looking back at Game Four, Cleveland turned to James only and Orlando had an answer as it was able to defend since the Cavaliers isolated James for one-on-one plays more often than not.
Orlando is showing it is the better team because it is more of a balanced team. It is no fluke that the Magic are a perfect 7-0 ATS against the Cavaliers this season. Either we have seen Cleveland win close games (two wins by 2.5 ppg) or seen the Magic dominate and win big the majority of the time (five wins by 10.6 ppg). It is hard to overlook the fact that Cleveland is 15-3 (14-4 ATS) following a loss this season so donâ€™t discount it quite yet.