Cleveland Down 3 to 1

With the Cavaliers down 3 to 1 to the Orlando Magic, now seems like a good time to look at the numbers to see what’s going on.

ORL 1.0 107.0 89.9 119.0 60.9 14.5 17.8 15.4
CLE 1.0 106.0 93.6 113.2 53.4 8.5 19.0 13.6
ORL 2.0 95.0 87.2 108.9 54.9 13.8 14.6 23.9
CLE 2.0 96.0 93.2 103.0 48.7 15.0 18.2 27.3
CLE 3.0 89.0 96.3 92.4 40.4 15.6 20.4 33.3
ORL 3.0 99.0 90.5 109.4 47.6 14.4 15.4 61.9
CLE 4.0 114.0 108.7 104.8 48.3 12.9 13.0 34.5
ORL 4.0 116.0 99.0 117.1 60.6 15.1 8.3 23.8
ORL TOT 417.0 366.4 113.8 56.5 14.5 14.0 29.8
CLE TOT 405.0 392.1 103.3 47.9 13.0 17.5 27.0

The overwhelming factor in this series is the discrepancy in shooting percentage. The Magic have won the eFG battle in every game, and for those familiar with four factor analysis know that shooting is by far the important element. And just like in the Nuggets/Lakers game you have to be really good to overcome such a deficit. Cleveland’s only victory (game 2) coincided with the smallest difference in shooting (-6.2% eFG), and they were superior in rebounding and free throws.

The Magic’s eFG during the season was 52.0%, and they’re averaging a more robust 56.5% against Cleveland. Meanwhile they are holding the Cavs to 47.9%. In fact Cleveland has only bested their regular season average of 51.9% once (Game 1). So Orlando is getting it done on both ends of the floor. If Cleveland is looking for a scapegoat, they can point the finger at their backcourt. Mo Williams is shooting a paltry 36.6% (23-71, 6 3PM), while Delonte West’s eFG is a mediocre 48.9% (20-46, 5 3PM). LeBron James (55% eFG, 56-110, 9 3PM) will need more help from the pair if he’s going to dig his team out of a 3-1 hole.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

34 thoughts to “Cleveland Down 3 to 1”

  1. What has really impressed me about the Magic is that no one is afraid to take the big shot. Plus, as much as Stan VG is an incessant whiner, he’s drawn up superb plays in crunch time, which you can’t say for his counterpart Brown. Plus, Pietrus has been a revelation.

    Assuming the Cavs get bounced, for us to have any chance of getting LBJ we need to make the playoffs next year and hopefully showcase the talents of Gallo and our pick this year. Even then, our chances will be minimal, but at least we have something to sell besides NYC and D’Antoni.

  2. The Magic’s size is also really starting to show its worth in these grind it out fourth quarters and OTs — in addition to Dwight, there’s Lewis, Turkoglu, and Pietrus all clogging up the court and making the Cavs look small even with Ilgauskus playing.

    I was starting to sour on the 2010 talk, but Lebron’s teammates look absolutely worthless. Mo Williams just is not a legitimate second scorer and they could use at least two to complement Lebron. Cleveland better break the bank this offseason getting him some help.

  3. “Cleveland better break the bank this offseason getting him some help.”

    they can’t, assuming that Ilgauskas takes his $11.5M player option, they’re over $65M already. and that’s assuming Varejao turns down his $6.2M player option, not a sure thing.

  4. I was surprised they didn’t turn Wally S.’s expiring contract into a more useful player this year. I think it was Caleb who suggested Wally for Mike Miller last fall. It seemed like a good idea for both teams. Certainly someone wanted to take $13 mil off the books at the deadline.

    This summer they can trade Ben Wallace’s $15 million expiring contract to upgrade, if they are willing to “break the bank” as Dan suggests.

    Sign and trade for Boozer; Tyson Chandler/Peja S; Amare; Marion; etc…

  5. “Certainly someone wanted to take $13 mil off the books at the deadline.”

    I’m not sure that’s true with summer 2010 looming, Portland didn’t/couldn’t move LaFrentz either.

  6. Cleveland might be more willing to take on contracts now that they’ve raised some capital by selling 15% to Chinese investors. Best case that might even increase their revenue if they can make some $ in China.

    JJ Hickson’s development is also an X-factor for the Cavs.

    If you were Danny Ferry, what certain player, type of player, or position would you be looking for?

  7. well, to start, they could desperately use a center who can guard Howard one on one. both Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis were able to do this for Boston, so it can’t be so hard to find someone.

    in general, they need a second All-Star, like Orlando got in Rashard Lewis. Mo Williams as your second best player isn’t quite cutting it, even with the great LeBron as your main guy.

  8. I know Im beating a dead horse, but I still cant believe how poor a coach Mike Brown is. Ive read alot in the past couple of years about how, besides bringing a diffensive attitude to the Cavs but really it was just by slowing down the pace to a crawl, poor a game coach Mike Brown is. If this series isnt a prime example of that than I dont know what is.

    4 games into the series and still not one adjustment made, if anything the Cavs are still getting beat by the same things every game. In Game 4 Lebron finally played some PF and covered Lewis at times, but in crunch-time what did the Cavs do??? Put Ben freakin Wallace on Lewis on the in-bounds play that Lewis hit the 3 on!! Even the guys on TNT after the game were all over that stupid strategy. There offense is looking as bad as it has been the past couple of years, nothing has changed. I thought they were better now since their record sure was great compared to the past couple of years but really it seems the improvement on offense was just the improved 3pt shooting thanks to Mo Williams and having Delonte West and Wally Sczerbiak all season long. But now that they cant hit 3’s, its the same Lebron on 5 offense.

    Plus I know this really has nothing to do with it, but did you see at the end of the games when the Cavs were in their huddle preparing to play D that an assistant coach, I think Chris Jent, was running the huddle while Mike Brown looked on like he was a player inactive peeking into the huddle in their suit and tie. How the hell can you be the Head Coach and be so un-involved during timeouts in the most critical time of the game?????? Obviously I grew up on watching Pat Riley coaching the Knicks and Jeff Van Gundy where watching the Knicks you damn sure knew who was the Head Coach and who was in charge. Again it is probably a stupid point, but I cant stand watching the Head Coach doing basically absolutely nothing. One reason I love D’Antoni is because he reminds me of Riley and VG and is obviously a fresh breath of air compared to the bewildered looks on the faces of Isiah Thomas and Don Chaney when they were head coaches of the Knicks.

    Again probably meaningless to point out, but I like watching my Head Coach and feeling confident that they know what they are doing, are really into the game and are in charge and have the team at the least prepared to play. Something Mike Brown instills none of, and judging from many articles Ive read about him as a coach Im not the only one who feels the same way….

  9. Seriously – I am hoping that Mike Brown being Cleveland’s coach and D’Antoni being our coach may be a deciding factor in the King coming to NY in 2010. I’m no basketball genius and even I can tell that he’s being completely outcoached by Van Gundy. I saw that timeout that BigBlueAl was talking about and noticed the same thing — what, is Jent the head coach? And on Mike and Mike this AM they played a clip from Hubie Brown basically saying that the reason no one else other than Lebron is getting involved is because Cleveland is running the same screen and roll play all game long — basically saying that Brown, and not Mo Williams and co., are the reason the Cavs are losing.

  10. “I’m not sure that’s true with summer 2010 looming, Portland didn’t/couldn’t move LaFrentz either.”

    Yeah, but Portland could use the expiring LaFrentz deal as much as anyone. They are players in 2010 if they get and stay under the cap.

    The Cavs were in “win now” mode. If they wanted a defensive big, why not trade Wally for Tyson Chandler after the original Hornet deal fell through? NO didn’t want young talent. Just expiring contracts. Seems like Ferry could have done something with the contract, if he was in fact willing to “break the bank”.

  11. I don’t know that the Cavs supporting cast is all that bad. They won 66 games this year and flattened their first two playoff opponents. I know people are hung up on scoring but Williams isn’t necessarily their second-best player – just second leading scorer. They have great interior defense, several good but not great scorers… a relatively young team that will probably win 60+ games next year.

    To me it’s a really interesting series – I can’t remember another year/series where one team just had the other team’s number. Not even Dallas/GS a few years ago.

    So far this year, the Magic are 5-2 against Cleveland, almost 7 points a game better. Orlando is terrific, but are they really “better” than Cleveland? They barely beat a crippled Boston team. They lost a pair to the Sixers. The Sixers! I’ve always thought the idea of matchups were a little bit overweighed.. that the better team would triumph. But this is definitely a counterexample.

    I do agree with the Mike Brown bashing. When a team can be as good as Cleveland is, and they’re this inconsistent, it falls on the coach. And their offense is really ugly.

    On the other hand, it all reminds me of the ’92-93 Knicks – 2 games into that playoff series, the Knicks were 5-1 on the year against the Bulls – all similar games, and it just looked they were a little tougher and a little bit better. Then the Bulls won the next 4 and order was restored.

  12. no, matchups are huge, Detroit would have likely knocked out Orlando for the third straight year if they’d met again this postseason (Detroit won all three regular season meetings).

    and if Mo Williams isn’t Cleveland’s second best player, who is? Ilgauskas, with his sieve-like post D and no post game? Varejao, with his inability to score from outside of 2 feet? Delonte West, who was given away by the very smart Oklahoma City management as a spare part a year ago? their bench has entirely disappeared also, it’s a very sad attempt at a supporting cast.

    “They have great interior defense”

    well, right now, the lack of a guy to guard Howard one on one is killing them. Boston gave Orlando fits because both Perkins and Davis were able to shut down Howard on their own, Cleveland has to double or Howard abuses them. that’s not a strength, it’s a weakness, and would likely be the same against LA if they got there.

  13. I don’t think Detroit would have beaten an Orlando team that is up 3-1 on the Cavs in a series and easily could have swept them. But that’s just me…

    Its a group effort after Lebron I think. I would say that West, Ilgauskas, Varejao, and a healthy Ben Wallace probably all have a similar claim on being the second best Cav. Mo Williams is in there too, but he is definitely overrated, because of his scoring ability. But the Cavs were the third best defensive team in the league, something it’s difficult to give Mo much credit for. I have said it many times but the story line about him being responsible for their improvement this year is bizarre to me, considering how good they already were in the playoffs last year before he arrived.

    Howard is having a great series and also shooting over 70% from the line, but his scoring is pretty much in line with his season averages (although his rebounding has been unbelievable in the playoffs.) I think what has really hurt the Cavs more than Howard is the fact that Orlando is 42-98 on its three pointers, while the Cavs guards can’t find the range at all.

  14. I would say it’s fair enough to call Mo Williams the Cavs’ second best player, but I also agree with Owen’s group effort statement: the distance between Williams, West, Z, and even Varejao is minimal (can’t say I ever expect to see Ben Wallace return to form, but who knows).
    3s are definitely a huge part of the story. Look at regular season vs. postseason averages for Cleveland’s supporting cast: Williams (.436 v. .321), West (.399 v. .323), Z (.385 to .154), Wally (.411 v. .125), Boobie (.383 v. .273), and Sasha (.410 v. .250). I don’t know what the explanation is (I do see a number of possibilities), but that’s pretty crazy.
    66 wins probably led to an overrating of the Cavs’ supporting cast, but now the opposite may be true. It’s a solid group, but certainly not elite and could stand an upgrade. The PF spot is where they could really use a strong well-rounded player. We’ll have to see if JJ Hickson can develop into that guy.

    I’m very intrigued to see if Presti can live up to the wunderkind label, but I don’t think the fact that he ditched West can be used to analyze West as a player. I don’t remember the details of that deal but it definitely looks like a mistake for Presti (whose guards top guards behind Westbrook are Earl Watson and Kyle Weaver…).

  15. re: Detroit, let’s not get carried away… I might have underrated the importance of matchups, but right now we still have #1 seed vs. #2 and #1 vs. #3, which is pretty much how it is every year… looks like “best” vs. “not as good” is still a lot more important than the matchup. Orlando vs. Cleveland looks like the exception to the rule, IMO.

    re: Delonte West, it might have been a semi-mistake for Presti that he valued him too low, but might have figured that it wasn’t worth paying the guy $5 million a year to go from 25 wins to 28.

    Not sure that Cleveland is having an especially hard time with Howard – they seem to be doing about as well as expected. He’s tough for anyone. But only to a point… he’s a great player but only a good offensive player. Biggest difference this week is he’s hitting FTs.

    Cleveland is an excellent defensive team, and it’s not because of Mo WIlliams, Wally Sczerbiak and Delonte West (tho West is fine).

    Of course, Orlando was the #1 D in the league this year. It’s not shocking that they’ve given Cleveland a tough time but here’s where coaching is a factor – Brown just hasn’t been able to adjust.

  16. Cleveland was better this year largely because LeBron was better, he went from being an adequate defender to the runner up for defensive player of the year. I don’t ever recall him doing those signature chasedown blocks before this season. Mo Williams helped also, but the main factor by far was LeBron.

    Owen: “I don’t think Detroit would have beaten an Orlando team that is up 3-1 on the Cavs in a series and easily could have swept them. But that’s just me…”

    it really is just you, and an evident inability to believe how important matchups are at times. here’s their history from the last three seasons:

    2006/2007: regular season 4-0 Detroit, playoffs 4-0 Detroit.
    2007/2008: regular season 2-2, playoffs 4-1 Detroit.
    2008/2009: regular season 3-0 Detroit.

    is 17-3 enough of a sample size for you?

    “I think what has really hurt the Cavs more than Howard is the fact that Orlando is 42-98 on its three pointers”

    because since Howard has to be double covered, there’s almost always someone open. if you can single cover Howard (like Boston did), Orlando doesn’t get nearly as many open shots.

  17. Jon, I think LeBron’s defensive improvement is massively overstated. He was pretty much this good last year. This time last year I was calling him a way better defensive player than Kobe Bryant and getting mocked pretty heavily for it. His defense hasn’t changed much but the perception of it has.

  18. Why the Cavs are better, IMO:
    1. Varejao missed most of last season with an injury. (maybe a big reason why they got 9 games worse)

    2. Mo Williams arrived

    3. Last year was sort of an aberration – the year before they won 50 games and made the finals.

    4. LeBron getting better – yes, he’s awesome, but he was the best player in the league last year, too. You get 25 games better when you don’t have LeBron and then you do. Not when you have him, and he improves a bit.

    5. small improvements – more continuity after all the moves last year.

    re: Detroit and Orlando, that’s silly – those were great Detroit teams. Title contenders, when Orlando was a middling team. This year’s Pistons won 39 games. That they beat Orlando three times is a fluke.

  19. Who knows what Presti was thinking on Delonte West. I suppose it was a cap-move, and as Jon said West wasn’t the focus of the trade. In the end Presti lost the guy who would be his second best guard, and one of his only solid rotation players. West was also 24 at the time, so he could have been there once/if they rebuild.
    I think Presti’s already an above average GM, but with West and Noah (instead of Jeff Green) I think his team’s in a better spot.

  20. “re: Detroit and Orlando, that’s silly – those were great Detroit teams. Title contenders, when Orlando was a middling team. This year’s Pistons won 39 games. That they beat Orlando three times is a fluke.”

    well, we’ll have to disagree then. last year’s Orlando team won 52 games and easily won their first round series, then got stomped by Detroit in 5 games. the personnel are very similar this year on both sides, no Jameer Nelson, no Chauncey Billups, but mostly the same. Detroit beating Orlando all three meetings this year was no more of a fluke than how well Orlando has played Cleveland this season.

  21. So assuming the Cavs lose this series (and as it stands, I think they will), how do you think this might affect LeBron’s decision whether to sign an early extension or just wait for free agency?

  22. I don’t think he was going to sign an early extension either way, but zero chance he will if they lose this series.

  23. So far during this series Ive been very unimpressed by Dwight Howard’s D. I know he is the Defensive Player of the Year, but how many times is he going to foul out by just sliding over too late with his arms straight up in the air???? He gives up way too many And 1’s by doing this. Go for the freaking shot block!!!! If not then really foul the driver (mostly Lebron) and intimidate him so maybe he’ll think twice of driving the lane next time.

    I mean Ewing used to get dunked on all the time, but shit he would challenge shots and knock people on their asses. Plus, like almost all the players on those Knick teams, he did a very good job of taking charges. Howard is an excellent rebounder but I am not that impressed with his overall Defense. Dont get me wrong though, I’ll take him on my team any time!!!!

  24. Hey Mo Williams shoots 7-14 with 6 treys (71.4% eFG), the Cavs as a team were 55.9%, and they win. They still don’t seem to have an answer for Orlando’s offense, as the Magic shot 51.4% just around their season average.

    If the answer for Cleveland is offense, because they don’t have another big perimeter defender to matchup with Lewis/Hedo, then maybe they should get more minutes for Gibson & Szczerbiak? Ramp up the offense, use your speed, run more off the ball picks to set the shooters open against the bigger Magic. Go small, hack a Howard with Z, Varejao, Smith, and Wallace. He’s shooting 71% from the charity stripe, and you figure that’s got to give sooner or later.

  25. yeah, Mo Williams was great early on, and Gibson hit some 3s late, that was all the help the King needed tonight.

    “maybe they should get more minutes for Gibson & Szczerbiak?”

    Gibson, yes. Szczerbiak, no, he’s a massive liability on both ends. Joe Smith needs to get some real minutes, Mike Brown is doing a lousy job this series.

  26. At 6’8″ and 240 lbs, I don’t think there’s much that would physically intimidate Lebron. He’s simply too big and fast to care.

    And despite his freakish athleticism, he hardly looks out of control when driving like Wade does. He’s so solidly built that I wouldn’t put an injury-free career past him.

    I’m an 80s child, so I don’t remember the early 90s or before. Have we ever seen athleticism in a man this big before? Shawn Kemp maybe?

  27. I think Magic Johnson is the only player who has combined that kind of size with those kinds of skills, and Lebron is clearly a much better pure athlete than Magic.

    As for Detroit and Orlando, no use arguing it but I would have loved to take that bet. Its very unusual for for a team with that bad an efficiency differential to beat a team as good as Orlando. I don’t know what percentage of the time it’s happened but I would say less than 10%. Detroit was a bad team this year, much much worse than in the past five years, with or without those three wins against the Magic.

  28. The key for the Cavaliers isn’t raising their eFG%, it’s limiting that of the Magic. There was a drastic change down the stretch in game 5 when James defended Turkoglu in the 4th quarter. Delonte West has had that assignment the rest of the series while James freelanced defensively, defending Alston and Lee.

    West obviously give up a lot of size to Hedo, but also requires Ilgauskas to show hard on screens. Howard rolls to the front of the rim, Varejao slides over to help in the post and leaves Lewis open for the short 3 in the corner. Duncan and Garnett might be able to defend that much space but I doubt if any other pair of bigs in the league can.

    With James defending Turkoglu, the screeners defender doesn’t need to show anywhere near as hard, leaving themselves in better position to defend the post, the help defender doesn’t need to leave an open 3 ball from the corner and James goes over top of the screen limiting Hedo to pass or drive for fear that a pull up jumper will be blocked from behind.

    It’s certainly not magic but it took the Cavaliers bench the better part of 5 games to figure it out.

  29. My goodness how many times is Mike Brown going to defend the Magic in the same manner? They’re doubling Howard just about every time down, which is just fueling the Orlando offense. I understand that Howard presents a huge problem for the Cavs, but at least differ your approach.

    His handling of Ben Wallace is just comical. Wallace gives up 2+ inches and a decade to Howard. And he’s just too slow to take Lewis on the perimeter.

    I got a chuckle whenever the announcers mentioned Pietrus outscoring the Cavs bench. Cleveland’s bench can’t score when they aren’t playing.

  30. in the end, it’s tough to criticize Brown too much. nothing would have worked, and LeBron finally ran out of energy after doing more than any single human should have to for the first five games.

    at least there’s no way he’ll sign an extension this summer after this debacle, so he’ll get to free agency next year. keep hope alive!

  31. I think Brown did a terrible job this series, but yeah, I also do think that the matchup was awful for the Cavs and there wasn’t much Brown could do (just that whatever he did do, he did terribly).

    Lebron shouldn’t feel too bad about this loss, though (for him personally, that is – he should feel awful about the team, which is great for the Knicks).

  32. Big oops on my part. I had thought that Mike Brown had actually figured out that he needed to put James on Turkoglu (or Lewis if they ran small) in game 5 during the 4th quarter. In actuality it was simply because West was hurting with a hip pointer. Game 6 and Brown reveals more of the same. Wouldn’t at all be surprised if Brown gets served his walking papers, not that the Cavaliers weren’t exposed but they certainly had enough talent to not go down in flames.

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