Sunday NBA Playoffs Roundup
Cleveland 99, Detroit 78
Is it possible to advance too quickly, losing your edge and accumulating rust while other teams duke it out, stay focused and stay in rhythm for the second round? That's about the only challenge facing the Cavaliers, after dispatching the Detroit Pistons in four yawners.
Detroit's jump-shooting proclivities and its defensive troubles caused a stunning mismatch in free-throw dynamics in the series: The Pistons, as a team, attempted 58 foul shots and made 48. Cleveland was 97-of-125 from the line, with LeBron James going 47-of-59 all by himself.
What was a 66-16 regular-season record for the Cavs now is a 70-16 mark overall, with a goal of 82 victories to earn the championship trophy.
The natural parallel for the Pistons is the Atlanta Braves, a franchise that sustained excellence for a decade and a half yet, like Detroit, broke through for just one victory. The Braves reached the postseason 11 years in a row and in 14 of 15 seasons, but the only time champagne flowed after their final out was in 1995. That October, Atlanta beat Cleveland in six games, with pitcher Tom Glavine earning the playoff MVP honors. The rest of the time? Atlanta lost four times in the World Series, four times in the NL championship series and five times in the division round.
Just because Detroit as an organization is ready for renovation and reinvention, some of its parts still have life in them. Ben Wallace with Cleveland, Chauncey Billups with Denver and former coach Rick Carlisle, who predates the franchise's 2004 championship and now works Dallas' sideline, are positioned well for second-round duty.
Orlando 84, Philadelphia 81
If ever there was a late-game situation to entrust Dwight Howard with the Orlando Magic's fate, it came in Game 4 against Philadelphia on Sunday at the Wachovia Center. Orlando and Philly were tied at 81-81 after Samuel Dalembert's catch and slam with 14.8 seconds left.
So naturally, Van Gundy has Hedo Turkoglu dribble down the clock on the perimeter and launch a three-pointer when he only needed one point. A mere 1.1 remained on the game clock when Turkoglu's shot swished through. Guess the element of surprise still matters -- Turkoglu had been struggling in the series so far, especially in the final quarter. But after averaging 11 points in the first three games, and totaling only 10 points in the fourth quarters on 3-of-14 shooting, the 6-foot-10 forward went 3-of-4 Sunday and finished with 17 points.
At least the final play wasn't a pick-and-roll, the set in which Orlando had been successful lately in stymieing Turkoglu with extra defenders. Philadephia had been so effective in frustrating him that Turkoglu was getting resigned to being a passer in this best-of-seven series. Now he's got a best-of-three in which to return as a scorer.
The Philadelphia team that dug out of its fourth-quarter hole Sunday was the Philadephia team we came to know in the regular season: A quick, push-the-ball unit that did better without Elton Brand than with him. The 76ers unleashed their fast break during that 12-2 run in Game 4 and, in the two games in Philly, had a 33-13 edge in fast-break scoring while playing in front of their home fans. In the two games in Orlando, though, their advantage was a modest 21-17, so we'll see how comfortable they are pushing the pace down in central Florida.
The two Andres, Iguodala and Miller, combined for 139 points in the first three games and had five performances of 20 points or more in six tries (Miller scored 15 in the opener). But this time, they scored 13 and 17 points respectively, getting much tighter coverage.
Did you see Donyell Marshall's creaky, cringe-inducing attempt to drive to the basket? Now we know why he's devolved into an arc loiterer.
Maybe it's just me, but Philadelphia's Reggie Evans -- with the bushy beard and the shaved head -- could play the flashback scenes if anyone decides to make a Kimbo (MMA) Slice bio-pic.
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