Cavaliers 97, Magic 93

Initial thoughts: After falling behind early in the game against the league’s best home team the Magic battled back and looked like they just might steal one on the road. But just as expected, LeBron hit some big shots down the stretch and the Magic came up short. I really don’t think losing a game at Cleveland is something Magic fans should be worried about. Only one team has managed to beat the Cavs at home this year. Rashard Lewis provided basically nothing, which seems to be turning into a nightly occurrence. If the Magic are serious about making a playoff run, they need Lewis to snap out of it, and fast. I know Lewis is a star, and the Magic can’t exactly pull him, but if he’s not going to score and he’s not going to rebound, why have him on the floor? Because of the Celtics loss to the Celtics Bulls, the Magic still sit only 1/2 game back of Boston for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Magic play their four of their next five against teams under .500, and the one +.500 squad? The Celtics. Orlando can really control it’s own destiny at this point, and even though tonight’s game would have been nice to get, the loss isn’t the worst thing in the world. Key Figures: 43 — The number of points LeBron James finished the game with. Add in 12 rebounds, 8 assists and four steals and it’s pretty easy to see why The King might be the best player on the planet. 13 — The number of points for Dwight Howard. Sometimes I think Dwight’s teammates worry a little too much about hitting the outside shot and forget about the big man in the middle. It’s not like the Cavs were doing anything special on defense, Dwight just didn’t get enough opportunities in the post. He attempted only ONE shot in the second half, and ZERO shots the entire fourth quarter. 7 — The number of assists by Hedo Turkoglu. Turk did a nice job of driving to the basket and finding his open teammates. His total may have hit double digits if Rashard Lewis was knocking down his jumpers. 6 — The number of blocked shots by Dwight. Once again the future defensive player of the year did a nice job defending the hoop. During the fourth quarter LeBron wasn’t even looking to go to the hoop because he knew Dwight was looming. 3-of-15, 0-of-8 — Rashard Lewis’ shooting numbers. It was another ugly shooting night for Lewis, who can’t seem to buy a bucket. 19 — The number of points for Courtney Lee. Not bad for a rookie who was being guarded by King James all night. 30 — The number of days until the NBA Playoffs begin. I can’t wait. Four Quarters: First: Good — Closing solid After getting down by as much as 11 points, the Magic got a clutch three from Hedo Turkoglu to trim the lead to five. After Hedo’s shot, Mickael Pietrus also had a nice play, drawing a charge from LeBron James with just .9 left on the clock. Bad — Falling behind early The Magic dug themselves quite a hole early in the game, trailing by as much as 11 points. It’s hard to knock off the best home team in the NBA when you fall behind in the early going. Second: Good — Dwight’s aggressiveness Dwight did an excellent job of taking the ball at Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the offensive end. It even resulted in a few testy moments between the two, but it’s still nice to see him taking his frustrations out on the other team, rather than the referees. Bad — Mo Williams flopping Dwight got whistled for an offensive foul late in the first half when Mo Williams slid under him away from the ball. I hate when calls like this are made against big men in the NBA. The big guys have a hard enough time controlling their body as it is, so I don’t think the refs should reward floppers like Williams with a call in that situation. Third: Good — Rafer’s shooting The Magic grabbed the lead early in the third quarter, mainly because of two three’s by Rafer Alston. When Skip is making his shots it really opens the floor for the rest of the team. The shots also gave the Magic some valuable momentum in a quarter in which the Magic led by as much as nine points. Bad — How do you stop a speeding train? Following a turnover by the Magic with 3.3 seconds left in the third quarter, LeBron James took the ball from half court all the way to the hoop for an uncontested layup as the buzzer sounded. It capped a 6-0 run for the Cavs to end the quarter and cut the Magic lead to three. Fourth: Good — Interior defense The Magic did a nice job of keep LeBron out of the lane for most of the fourth quarter. The result? LeBron decided he was going to make three’s and buried a clutch shot from way outside that ultimately decided the game. I’d much rather the Magic lose on a shot like that than an easy dunk by a driving James. Bad — Jordan rules It was Courtney Lee caught in the air against LeBron James, and I think we all know how that call was going to go down. Lee didn’t get much of James, but it was enough to get the superstar the call. Random Thoughts: Battie or Varejao? Every time I watch the Cavs play I think of this trade from July 23, 2004: Orlando Magic aquire Tony Battie and two future second round picks (2005, 2007) from Cleveland in exchange for Drew Gooden, Steven Hunter and the draft rights to Anderson Varejao. No offense to Battie, who has been serviceable, but can you imagine the Magic front line if they had Varejao? He would be a great compliment to Dwight, and unlike the other power forwards on the Magic roster, he might actually try to get a rebound. When is it a bad time to go green? I know we’re all rooting for the Celtics to lose so the Magic can earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but don’t you think Boston should get credit for a win since the Bulls stole their jerseys? I’m so sick of teams wearing odd colored jerseys, and as an Oregon Ducks fan, if I’m tired of your jerseys, you know you have problems. Normally I wouldn’t complain about the Bulls sporting the green since it is St. Patrick’s Day, but when they’re playing the Celtics, I think it’s just a dumb marketing ploy. Looking ahead: No rest for the weary as the Magic head north to play Milwaukee. The Bucks are in a dog fight for the final playoff spot, and the Magic have to avoid a big letdown tonight in Wisconsin.

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