With tonight's Sox-Twins game conflicting with Game 4 of Cavs-Magic, and with LeBron James in full blown "watch me play or you will regret it forever" mode, I have thought better of submitting a Sox-Twins recap, in favor of a Bill Simmoms-esque running diary of Game 4. Originality be damned....let's do this!
(Just for the record, since the Magic's tragic dismantling of my beloved Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, I have jumped on the Cleveland bandwagon so hard that I may have broken the wheels and shattered the axles...and I don't feel bad about it. And you can't make me. Needless to say, if you are looking for objectivity and an unbiased perspective, you came to the wrong place.)
8:39 - Gametime! Time to put on my Ray Allen jersey and vehemently root against the Mag-er, um...for the Cavs. Damn it all.
8:40 - Defensive 3-second violation called on Orlando 11 seconds into the game, which goes over with the crowd about as well as a fart in church.
8:49 - Dwight Howard makes 3 of his first 4 free throws. By the law of averages, I can now guarantee that he will miss a free throw late in the 4th quarter. You heard it here first.
8:53 - Riveting commercial shown for the upcoming WNBA season, which leads to one thought: there's still a WNBA??
9:05 - Ben Wallace enters the game for the final minute of the 1st quarter. This would be of no consequence, except for the startling notion that he is Cleveland's highest paid player. Does this boggle anyone else's mind? Amusingly, during the final minutes Wallace shared the court with Wally Szczerbiak, another graduate of the Barry Zito School of Unspeakably Absurd Contracts. Their best basketball days are far behind them, but they are clearly still in the prime of their extortion careers. The NBA, where amazing happens.
9:12 - Enthralling pre-2nd quarter interview between Craig Sager and Cleveland head coach Mike Brown. I would have more to say about it, but I was too distracted by Sager's blazer to comprehend what was actually being said. Staring directly into the sun is easier on the eyes than prolonged exposure to any of Sager's outfits (somewhere, Don Cherry smiles).
9:14 - Cleveland begins the 2nd quarter with the gangbusters lineup of Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, Delonte West, and Mo Williams. In a related story, Cleveland in currently losing.
9:19 - Viewers across the country are subjected to a marathon coming attraction for The Hangover, and viewers across the country curiously all become slightly dumber.
9:44 - Cleveland has put together an impressive late 2nd quarter run to claim an eight point halftime lead, capped off by two 3s by Gibson (where has he been this series?). Apparently the offensive game plan during this stretch was "run the offense through LeBron." Funny how getting the best living basketball player more involved in your offense can yield positive results. No wonder why Mike Brown won NBA coach of the year.
9:47 - Cleveland 58 Orlando 50. Despite the collective will of every viewer, we are subjected to another Craig Sager interview. I think he was interviewing Mo Williams, but I'm fairly sure you need sunglasses similar to those given to patients recovering from cataracts surgery to view the TV clearly when he is on screen (which can be quite stylish, as demonstrated by the always dapper Hasheem Thabeet).
10:16 - Despite a hot start to the 3rd quarter by Orlando, Cleveland weathers the storm to score on aggressive drives to the basket on consecutive possessions (by Williams and West), followed by an Orlando turnover, which leads to an uncontested Anderson Varejao dunk. Stan Van Gundy then calls a timeout, looking about as happy as a vegan in a steakhouse.
10:22 - Rafer Alston banks in a 3, and H-O-R-S-E players everywhere know that it was all luck. You can't fool us.
10:24 - Delonte West posts up Hedo Tukoglu. Let me clarify...6'2 Delonte West posts up 6'10 Hedo Tukoglu and scores. Translation: Hedo Tukoglu is an overrated bum who doesn't play defense. No, I'm not bitter.
10:29 - LeBron nails a fadeaway 3 with Mickael Pietrus in his face, for his first "I am LeBron James and I am better than you" moment of the game. More sure to come.
10:33 - We have another Ben Wallace sighting! He nearly fumbles a beautiful pass from LeBron before tossing up an awkward hookshot over his shoulder that he has no business shooting and has no chance of going in. Fortunately, and much to the chagrin of Magic fans, Dwight Howard bails him out by goaltending the shot. Good work Ben, way to earn that $14,500,000 per year.
10:39 - Another insufferable Sager interview, this time with Stan Van Gundy, the only person in Amway Arena (and likely, all of Florida) that rivals Sager in terms of horrendous clothing. Nobody pulls off the black T-shirt under a suit jacket look quit like Stan Van, who admits in the interview that they made no halftime adjustments. Fantastic.
10:50 - Orlando has put together an 8-0 run to establish a 91-83 lead. In a related story, beleaguered Cleveland fans everywhere are having flashbacks of Michael Jordan's shot over Craig Ehlo in 1989.
10:51 - Mickael Pietrus blows an uncontested layup, as karma finally catches up with him for all those shots he hit during the Celtics series.
10:53 - Dwight Howard finally unveils his patented "take two huge steps across the lane and fling a hook shot over his shoulder at the approximate speed of a major league fastball" move, which somehow does not go in. Shocking. If you ever attend an Orlando game, please make a concerted effort not to sit behind either basket, as it's only a matter of time before one of those haymakers shatter the backboard and send shards of glass flying towards the crowd at mach 4. You were warned.
11:00 - Alston misses a wide open 3 that would have ben an absolute dagger. Instead, on the ensuing Cleveland posession Anderson Varejao converts an old fashioned 3 point play, cutting the lead to 3. Hedo Turkoglu is called for traveling on Orlando's next posession (thats right, travelling was called in the 4th quarter of an NBA playoff game), officially sucking all of the life out of the crowd. This might have affected the game if Orlando's crowd wasn't 20,000 65-year-old retired couples.
11:06 - Pietrus launches an ill-advised 3 (which absolutely would have gone in during the Celtics series), which leads to a Cleveland fast break and a thunderous dunk by LeBron. The momentum is clearly shifting, and Stan Van Gundy is fine tuning his resume so he can have it on monster.com by midnight. Luckily for him, since Mike Dunleavy is still employed, the job market for NBA coaches is clearly recession-proof. Phew.
11:07 - Howards attempts two crucial free throws with 1:43 remaining in the 4th quarter, making only one of two. See post at 8:49.
11:08 - Delonte West (6'2) drives directly at reigning defensive player of the year Dwight Howard (6'11) and scores. I have given up hope trying to understand this game.
11:10 - With the ball, trailing by 1, with 20 seconds remaining, Orlando elects not to call a time out, resulting in another dubious 3 point heave by Mickael Pietrus that undoubtedly would have gone in against the Celtics. Of course it misses, and the ball goes out of bounds, last touched by Cleveland. 6.4 seconds remaining, Orlando's ball, Cleveland up by 1. I am officially sweating, but not nearly as much as Stan Van, the Godfather of the Flop Sweat.
11:15 - Rashard Lewis drains a turn around 3 on the inbounds play, hitting an incredibly difficult shot and actually making Stan Van look like a competent head coach in the process. 4.1 seconds remaining, Orlando by 2. Damn it all.
11:17 - The stage is perfectly set for another epic LeBron moment, a la the final shot in Game 2.
11:18 - LeBron is fouled with 0.5 seconds remaining by Mickael Pietrus, as karma continues to slap him directly in the face for his dastardly deeds committed during the Celtics series. Meanwhile, LeBron steps to the line for two of the biggest free throws of his illustrious career.
11:18 - Free throw number 1.....swish. Phew.
11:19 - Free throw number 2.....(after spending approximately 7 minutes on the rim)...good. Phew.
11:20 - 0.5 seconds left, tie game. Orlando has time for a desperation catch-and-shoot. These are the moments that make playoff basketball so special. Any NBA venue would be brimming with electirity and anticipation. Unfortunately, the entire crowd of Floridian geriatic retirees has been asleep since 10:30. Bummer.
11:21 - Orlando lobs the ball up for Howard, and it is broken up by Varejao. A foul could have been called on Varejao, but for once the officials elected to let the players decide the game in overtime, rather than let a bogus foul alter the course of NBA history. Refreshing. In the meantime, someone apparently woke the crowd up, and I have never seen so many enraged old people in my entire life. You would think that someone just cancelled the early bird special at the Country Diner or set fire to a MacGyver DVD box set. End of regulation, tie game.
11:29 - Orlando comes storming out of the gates. Apparently, inbetween the end of the 4th quarter and the start of overtime, Dwight Howard went on eBay and purchased some low post moves.
11:31 - Orlando by 6 with 1:23 remaining in overtime. Things are not looking good for Cleveland fans, who have likely suffered a collective coronary at this point.
11:34 - With 39.3 remaining, LeBron hits another 2 clutch free throws, almost sadistically preserving a modicum of hope for crestfallen Cleveland fans.
11:35 - 21.0 remaining. With a 2 point lead, Dwight Howard steps to the line for 2 free throws, and makes them both. The 25 fans under the age of 50 are going wild.
11:41 - Zydrunas Ilgauskas hits two free throws to cut the lead to two. Seems like too little too late at this point.
11:42 - Rashard Lewis hits two free throws to give Orlando a 4 point lead with 6.4 seconds remaining, effectively putting the game out of reach.
11:44 - LeBron hits a ridiculous desperation 3, cutting the lead to one. Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in! Unbelievable. He refuses to let this team lose. He is going to need to see a chiropractor this summer for carrying this team the entire postseason. On the ensuing inbounds play, Cleveland fouls Orlando with 3.2 remaining. Warning: If you are pregnant or have high blood pressure, do not watch NBA playoff basketball.
11:45 - Rashad Lewis misses the first (!!!) and makes the second (#$@!$). 3.2 to play, 2 point game, one final chance for something incredible to happen.
11:46 - The arena's loudspeaker wakes up the crowd, and they make an attempt to feign interest in the game, despite the fact that they won't be coherent again until they wake up at 5:42 AM for their early morning bridge game.
11:46 - LeBron catches the inbounds pass at midcourt, dribbles twice and puts up a desperation half-court jumper while fading to his left....an incredulous silence befalls Amway Arena...the ball homes in on the rim...and it goes begging. Ouch.
11:47 - Final score: Orlando 116 Cleveland 114. Ugh. The NBA, where frustration happens.