You think you’re pessimistic about your squad? Pull up a chair. I am absolutely terrified of the 3-1 lead the Magic have. I remember T-Mac leading us to a 3-1 lead over the Pistons, running his mouth and blowing the lead. Those were entirely different circumstances as we were an eighth seed and probably shouldn’t have been up 3-1 anyway and no one on our team has been stupid enough to guarantee a series win. I’ve watched LeBron make shot after shot, and get call after call (which I’ll go into later) and I know he absolutely has it in him to score 60 points a game if he needs to for the next 3 games. Say what you want about Kobe in the clutch, but he blew a 3-1 series lead, has given up on his team in the past and conceded victory in elimination games. I don’t get that sense from LeBron. The days of him mailing a game in are over. As close we were to sweeping this series, we could also be down 3-1 and LeBron knows that. I am petrified of Game 5.
It's so bad that I’ve gone into this mode of thought: If we don’t win the title this year, we never will. Nelson won’t be the same after his injury, Turkoglu will opt out and LeBron will come back better than ever, which is scary. I’ve been so stressed out watching Orlando-Cleveland, I haven’t had the energy to get into Denver-LA. Seriously. I’ve caught a quarter here or there but I’m drained from rising and falling with every three pointer or foul called in our series. I don’t know if I can physically take anything less than a championship this year. I’ve tried to remember the last time I felt this way and I don’t know that I ever have. My teams have been so mediocre for the majority of my sports viewing prime, I expect failure and am a little shocked when we don’t fail. We’ve played an excellent series and I really haven’t even been able to enjoy it. If you care about your old pal Johnson’s well-being, you’ll root for Orlando.
Now to the officiating. I’ve seen some shaky calls in the glances I’ve caught of the Denver-LA series, but not enough to truly say the fix is in. Our series is an entirely different story. The officiating has been truly terrible. I’ve come to my senses about the non-call between Dwight-Vareajo at the end of regulation, but the call on Pietrus for "blocking" LeBron the play before was awful. LeBron initiated contact, with an elbow no less, tripped into Pietrus, yet Mike Peaches gets called for the foul. There’s truly no way to defend LeBron in the post and I mean that as a testament to his skills as much as to the help he’s getting from the refs. If he ever wanted to score 100 points in a game, all he would have to do is drive the lane 50 times. I’ve noticed Dwight try different strategies when LeBron comes into the lane, and all are futile. If he goes for the block, it’s a foul on Dwight. If he jumps straight up and down, it’s a foul on Dwight. If he stands his ground with his hands raised, it’s a foul on Dwight. He literally can’t win. I think he’s definitely hurt his case with the refs by whining after every call on him, but some of the calls are ridiculous. At the end of Game 3, when LeBron came down to shoot a three, but Dwight blocked it from behind and it was called for a foul. These are humongous guys moving at break neck speed so I can actually forgive that. What killed me was, they went to the monitor to watch a replay to figure out if it was a two or a three point shot. No angle on the replay showed that was a clean block? It’s annoying when a NFL ref blows the whistle then admits it was inadvertent or the wrong call, but it’s correct. Why can’t a ref admit a bad call and overturn it in the NBA? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m viewing things through a biased eye and there have been some questionable calls to go against Cleveland as well. You asked if the officiating for this series was worse than the 06 Finals with the Referees featuring Dwyane Wade versus Dallas. I’ve changed my stance on that as well. That was much worse, but only because Wade looks to attack every time. If LeBron attacked like Wade did instead of settling for jumpers, he’d go to the line 30 times a night. Think I’m kidding? In the first four games of this series roughly a quarter of LeBron’s shots have been from the three point line not to mention several more jumpers from a step or two inside the line, yet he’s been to the line 64 times. Shocked? I know. Dwight was shocked too.
When LeBron decides to drive, he’s going to the line. Period. By comparison in the first 4 games of the 06 Finals, Wade went to the line 51 times and only seven of his 93 shots were from the three point line. This doesn’t even include the last two games of that series where Wade shot 46 free throws combined . Until this past year, the three pointer was not an option for Wade. The options were mid-range jumper, drive to the bucket or...well that was pretty much all the options. If LeBron feels like driving, he’ll go to the line at least 25 times in Game 5. I’ve said it many times before so what’s once more: If Cleveland came out here and beat us by 30 every game and left no doubt who the better team was, I could live with that. I can’t live with officials deciding the game instead of the players.
Enough about yesteryear, tonight is where the action is. I'll go as far saying this: If the Orlando Magic are serious about winning a championship this year, we close out Cleveland tonight. If Cleveland comes back from a 2-1 lead, maybe we play the "We're down an All-Star and are just happy to be here!" card. A victory in Game 4 puts that out of the question. All the pressure is on Cleveland tonight. An elimination game in their house is a game they should win. If they win tonight, all the pressure is on us to close it out in Game 6. We can't let that happen. We closed out Philadelphia and Boston on the road and we should do it tonight. I'm really hoping for more of the same from Cleveland. I want LeBron to hit his first couple of three's. If he starts hot, there's not a shot he won't take. If he's taking shots, his guys are standing around and are cold when he really needs them in the 4th quarter. If his first couple of three's miss, he'll start driving and that's bad news for us.
I think we close it out tonight. I watched interviews with Hedo Turkoglu after Game 2, where LeBron's amazing shot gave Cleveland their sole victory, and after Game 4, where Hedo made some clutch plays down the stretch to seal a victory in overtime. Same expression on his face. I couldn't tell if they had won or lost. That's a good thing. If after that LeBron shot, Hedo hung his head and played "Woe is me", it meant we were just happy to be here. If he was a little too giddy after Game 4, it meant we were just happy to be here. Watch the post game interviews with Dwight and hear how he's not satisfied. Listen to Stan Van Gundy when he tells his team that if they they are "as good and as mentally tough as I think we are", we close this out in 5. If we think we don't need Game 5, because we can come back to Orlando for Game 6, we're in trouble. Tonight, I see a lot of shaky calls by the refs, some great plays by LeBron, a myriad of profanities at no one in particular from myself and a victory from the Orlando Magic.