After four games, it’s clear: Cavs are confused

For four quarters, the Magic were overwhelmingly outscored in the paint on Tuesday night. But it wasn’t a bad thing. The Magic set franchise records with 17 three-pointers and 38 three-point attempts, and almost every single one of those 38 shots were quality looks. The Cavs became adamant on keeping the Magic outside of the lane, packing it in and limiting the touches for Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis. It’s really not a bad strategy, at least on the surface — the Cavs felt they were better off taking their chances with Mickael Pietrus and Rafer Alston hoisting up 22 three-pointers. The problem was, Cleveland completely abandoned this defense in the overtime period. Instead, they went small in OT, playing Anderson Varejao at center and relegating Big Z and Ben Wallace to the bench. This came after Ben Wallace was matched up with Rashard Lewis on the game’s biggest play (that, of course, turned into a go-ahead 3-pointer with four seconds left). Dwight Howard touches, Game 4 1st quarter: 8 touches, 4-6 FG, 11 points 2nd-4th quarters: 8 touches, 2-6 FG, 6 points Overtime: 5 touches, 4-4 FG, 10 points Credit: ESPN Stats and Information Magic 3-point field goals, Game 4 1st quarter: 2-6, 33.3 percent 2nd quarter: 4-9, 44.4 percent 3rd quarter: 5-10, 50 percent 4th quarter: 5-11, 45.4 percent Overtime: 1-2, 50 percent There was no rhyme or reason to the Cavs’ adjustments. I don’t mean to criticize Mike Brown, for he’s done a masterful job this season in guiding the Cavs to the league’s best record. You don’t have that much success on accident. That said, Cleveland has gone with a different crunch-time lineup in every game this series. We’ve seen Sasha Pavlovic — an underrated defender but no Shane Battier, and a guy who didn’t play in Game 1 — defend Hedo Turkoglu in the final seconds of Game 2, and Turk’s go-ahead jumper would’ve won the game if not for James’ miracle shot. As mentioned earlier, Wallace was guarding Lewis when he hit the huge three-pointer in Game 4. Wallace, a great post defender, isn’t comfortable defending on the perimeter, which may be part of the reason he was screened so badly on that play. Boobie Gibson and Wally Szczerbiak go from crunch-time to no-time in back-to-back games. It’s clear that that Brown and the Cavs have no idea what works in this series, and Ben Q. Rock said it best yesterday in his recap:

What’s clear about the Cavs, more than anything else, after this game is the following: they’re not sure what else they can do in this series. Coach Mike Brown dusted off Wally Szczerbiak, who did not play in Game 3, and put him out there for 21 minutes. Gibson made a cameo in the first half of Game 3; he played 22 minutes tonight. Meanwhile, Sasha Pavlovic earned a DNP-CD tonight after playing 25 minutes in Game 3. I don’t mean to demean Brown’s coaching, but it’s rather telling that he still can’t decide on a rotation that works against the Magic. It’s his team that’s being reactive, and not proactive, in this series. And that’s one reason why it’s in a 3-1 hole right now.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily