I'm by no means worried about the Cavaliers current three game losing streak. The Cavs beat the Magic the first two times they played this season, and to expect a season sweep of Orlando would be a bit greedy, especially while trying to work Jamison in on the fly. And while the loss today was disappointing, there were certainly some positive developments, of which I'll get to below. But first, I have to say this: its time for Anthony Parker to do what he was brought in to do for this team - provide depth at the guard position...off the bench.
Delonte for Parker:
With all this change going on as the Cavaliers re-assmeble for the stretch-run, you might as well make one more now and go with it: re-insert Delonte West into the starting line-up. He played 35 minutes a game last season, and if the Cavaliers are going to get where they need to go this time, he needs to play those minutes again...and play them like he did last year.
The Magic bigs didn't beat the Cavaliers today - like they did in the ECF - the guards did. Nelson, Reddick, Pietrus and Carter combined for 51, Nelson scored 18, and Carter scored 8 late in the 4th quarter with Parker on him to seal it. This is after Billups, Afflalo, and Smith combined for 43 in the loss to the Nuggets, and the duo of Jackson-Felton combined for 45 in the loss to the Bobcats. Now this is some of Parker's fault, but not all of it. Mo Williams is going to give you what he gives you defensively - and that's not a ton - but for that reason, the Cavaliers off-guard needs to be an above average defender. And while Parker's getting as many stops as he can, unfortunately its just not enough, and this will continue to be exploited if it doesn't improve. Delonte has the 'potential' to improve the back-court defensively, but he needs to play more than the 24 mpg he averaged over the last three to do it.
Antawn Jamison sighting:
After going 0-12 from the field against the Bobcats, Antawn Jamison re-assured everybody in Cleveland that they weren't premature to celebrate his arrival. He simply looked good - scoring 19 points, grabbing 8 boards over 31 minutes - before fouling out late, and it was refreshing to see a guy not named LeBron score in a variety of ways for the Cavaliers. From three, from the post, mid-range, whatever, he looked kinda like that other All Star caliber player we've been clamoring for over the last five years. Look for him to not only get more comfortable over the next couple weeks, but not before too long, expect Jamison to be option number two for this team, and a quality one at that.
Shaq's got beef:
If this Superman thing does nothing more than fire Shaq up to the point where he plays like he did today, then I say throw as much fuel on that fire as possible. Shaq looked like a man possessed at times, and the longer he can manage to be on the floor against Howard, the better the Cavs chances are against him. Shaq's made Howard work in these three match-ups, and work hard. Something he wasn't used to after previously running free last season against the Cavs, essentially unguarded. Shaq basically matched Howard's output in the two previous meetings, and he put up a real solid fight again today against the young fella - going for 20 and 5 on 9 of 10 shooting as compared to Howard's 22 and 16 on 7 of 15 shooting. And I'll add this, for whatever its worth, Howard's a superstar to be sure, but there's no way I'd bet he plays like Shaq did today when he's a 17-year NBA vet.
Box Score: LeBron, LeBron, LeBron
I always think its funny when I look at the box score and it shows the points, assists, and rebounds leader and it just reads LeBron's name three times. I don't really know why I think its funny, and it happens just about every game, so I'm not even sure why I'm writing this if only to say that it is always a little disappointing to lose when LeBron puts up numbers like 33-9-6. Sure, he did turn it over 5 times, missed 4 FT's, and went 1 of 6 from three, but he should be allowed to do all that and still get the win when he still manages that type of stat line. His totals were good for the game high in points and assists, but more importantly than all that, maybe he found some help in the second half by way of Antawn Jamison. Because like Tony Kornheiser said...you're right, never mind.