Dwight Howard channelled his inner Hakeem as he absolutely destroyed the Cavaliers' front court on his way to 28 points on 9 of 11 shooting and 18 rebounds. He also tacked on 4 assists, 4 blocks, and 4 steals, coming quite close to achieving the elusive "5x5" stat-line. However, it was against the Cavs and therefore you have to discount it just a little bit. After all, he was being defended by Samardo Samuels and Ryan Hollins. Keep in mind, I use the word "defended" very loosely here.
Truthfully, the Magic did not even play that well. Fortunately for them, they were playing the Cavaliers. I believe we all remember how Orlando's combination of lights-out 3-point shooting and domination down low with Howard disposed of the Cavs in 2009. Two years later, not much has changed for the Magic. A lot has changed for the Cavs. Anderson Varejao used to put forth a valiant effort in attempts to at least slow down Howard, but now Cleveland has absolutely no idea what to do. Without Varejao, Byron Scott was left with J.J. Hickson, Hollins, and Samuels to cover Howard and it's pretty clear how that worked out.
Now comes the part where I desperately search for positives to take away from Monday night's game. I have come up with two things that are definitely encouraging, and one thing that is kind of, sort of, encouraging.
First off, there are only 13 games left until the end of the season. This is definitely encouraging to any Cavs fan, because it means the end is near. As expected, the Cavaliers are limping, injured and embarrassed, to the finish line. Baron Davis missed Monday's game due to a sore back and the Cavs don't really seem in any hurry to bring him back. The end of the season means the Front Office can focus solely on determining the course of action for the future. As you all know, the Cavs will have two lottery picks in the upcoming draft, and have certainly been watching the NCAA tournament to scout some future Cavaliers. Furthermore, we still have the $14 Million TPE from the LeBron James deal and some valuable expiring contracts (specifically that of Antawn Jamison). Dan Gilbert has made it clear that he is determined to deliver Cleveland a winner and that will (hopefully) mean a productive off-season.
Next comes the character of this team. The Cavs did show some grit and determination in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter against the Magic. Instead of folding and losing by 30+ (again), Daniel Gibson and company led a somewhat furious comeback to cut the lead to single digits. Ultimately, the comeback attempt fell short, but it does reveal that these guys are buying what Byron Scott is selling. Having players that are determined and willing to play hard for a coach each and every night is a good sign. With such little talent it won't necessarily lead to wins, but it's a good start, alright?
My last point which is somewhat encouraging regards Christian Eyenga. He had a pretty decent night, scoring 12 points on 9 shots. The bad part about this is that he remains hesitant to do anything other than shoot outside jumpers. It's hard to argue with the results, but for such a freakish athlete, it'd be nice to see him driving and dunking on people more often. Of course, this is nothing new. The coaching staff and Eyenga's teammates have been preaching this to him all year and changing your style of play is not something that will come quickly.
The Cavs are off tonight and host the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night. Look for Brook Lopez to dominate whoever the Cavs decide to use on him. Fortunately, Deron Williams appears to be out for this game. Hopefully Baron Davis will come back for that game, and hopefully I won't struggle to stay awake during it.