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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Orlando's Magic Act: Disappearing Defense

I made my first visit of the 2005-06 season to Quicken Loans Arena (home of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers; formerly known as Gund Arena) on Friday night. The inside of the facility has undergone some notable changes. The one most visible to the public is the jazzed-up overhead scoreboard--the stats and images are so crystal clear that they seem to jump out at the viewer. The scoreboard includes a big +/- indicator showing whether the Cavs are leading or trailing. The secondary stat boards and the video displays ringing the arena have also been upgraded and look very sharp. The change that most of the public may not get to see but is visible to media members and other credentialed personnel is that the walls in the interior hallway have been repainted and now include a gorgeous mural depicting the various Cavaliers who have made the All-Star Team over the years. It is very important for the NBA and its teams to acknowledge and appreciate the former players who made the game great. The Cavs will further honor the team's history with a World B. Free night later this month.

The product on the floor has also been upgraded nicely. Granted, the Orlando Magic have a distinctly lottery-bound look, but the Cavaliers dismantled them most impressively on a night when LeBron James had a subpar game--16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 6-17 shooting from the floor. I doubt that the Cavs have won many games in the past two seasons when LeBron puts up those kind of numbers, a tribute to the team's improved depth. Orlando outshot the Cavs 43.5% to 42.2% but got blown out 104-82 because the Cavs grabbed 25 offensive rebounds, eight of which were taken by center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. "Z" led both teams with 22 points in 29 minutes. As a wise man once noted, it is not enough for the defense to force a missed shot; the defense's task is not complete until the rebound has been secured. In his postgame standup, Orlando Coach Brian Hill summarized the Magic's dismal play thusly: "I was disappointed right from the beginning. We talked about the things we were going to have to do: shut down the points in the paint, take away their second chance points, and keep them out of their transition game...I'm not sure if I have ever been involved in a game where the other team had 25 offensive rebounds. I could be wrong. I thought right from the beginning of the game that our concentration level or energy level was not where it needed to be. They exploited us."

posted by David Friedman @ 12:29 AM

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