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News » 'Bron gone: Howard, Magic rule the East 2009-05-31


'Bron gone: Howard, Magic rule the East 2009-05-31


'Bron gone: Howard, Magic rule the East 2009-05-31
Whereas LeBron James sounded a precious few loud notes, the Magic had their own one-man-band operating at full blast.

All told, an admirable outing by a very resourceful ball club.

The biggest surprise of the game was how meekly so many of the Cavs played in this do-or-die game.

Zydrunas Ilguaskas hit a single jumper and was otherwise invisible on offense.

Mo Williams did nothing in the first half when the game was lost, then padded his stats as the Cavs made an abbreviated rally to start the third quarter — and then faded once more at the end.

Wally Szczerbiak connected on one triple, and among his four misses were a pair of airballs.

Daniel Gibson can be excused for shooting 1-for-3 because Mike Brown rarely played him long enough to establish any kind of rhythm in the series.

Varejao was actually quite active without the ball and scored many of his 14 points on sheer hustle.

As ever, Delonte West scored on drives, sets and fades in a courageous attempt to keep the Cavs from being completely humiliated.

And what about LeBron, the self-styled "King"?

When he was needed the most, James was scoreless in the second quarter and tallied only four points in the last quarter — with three of these coming in the last minute of play. Indeed, he actually seemed reluctant to shoot in the concluding 12 minutes.

Perhaps he was exhausted as a result of all the minutes he had accrued in the series. Also, the physical contact he absorbed (and dished out) on virtually all of his drives had to wear him down.

On the other hand, James barely broke a sweat against both the Pistons and the Hawks and had nine days of R & R before facing the Magic.

2009 NBA playoffs


NBA Finals -- Thursday

  • Lakers 100, Magic 75 (Lakers 1-0)

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Specifically, the Magic tried various defensive tactics against James:

  • They played him soft and let him shoot from long range. He was 2-for-8 from the outer limits.

  • Instead of meeting him at the rim, they doubled him in the paint much higher than they had been doing. One result is that LeBron missed three semi-complicated layups and shot only 11 free throws.

  • Most importantly, they forced him left and stacked their defensive help so he wasn't able to spin back to his right. On his five left-only drives, James threw a pass that was tipped out of bounds, scored on a fadeaway jumper, missed a layup, missed a flipper and turned the ball over while trying to force a spin move.

  • Another surprise was the Cavs' failure to put the ball in LeBron's hands in the 1-2-2 set that had devastated Orlando in Game 5. Mike Brown called this number only once, and LeBron responded by getting fouled as he drove his right hand hard to the hoop. But James then missed both of his subsequent free throws. Instead of this alignment, the Cavs mostly employed a perimeter weave that ended with LeBron being presented with a high screen.

    Of course, the only important number is the final score, but there's another statistic that revealed what was really going on inside the Cavs' collective heads — they shot only 11-for-22 from the foul line.

    This miserable performance shows an incredible lack of concentration, which in turn shows a lack of an authentic competitive spirit. In other words, the Cavs choked.

    But there's more to Cleveland's latest and perhaps saddest story:

    After the deciding game of any NBA series, the time-honored practice is for the players and coaches to shake hands, hug, or in some way congratulate, or commiserate with, one another. It's called good sportsmanship.

    Immediately after the final buzzer, however, King James chose to ignore this sacred ritual and made a beeline for the dressing room.

    Maybe he was too disappointed, too angry, or too teary-eyed to linger for even an extra few minutes. Or perhaps the King really has the soul of a peasant.


    Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: May 31, 2009

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