As fast at it seemed to come, its gone. The Cavaliers were exposed this series against the Magic as being exactly what they were all season long. I realized it after Game 3 but didn't want to say it. I didn't want to believe it. But its true.
The Cavaliers were a team that played hard night in, and night out during the regular season.
Sounds simple, but in an NBA where teams take regular season nights off on a routine basis, the Cavaliers never did during the regular season. No matter who was in the line-up they played defense, they attacked the rim, and they enforced their regular season will on their opponents. Some nights, they beat teams with more talent by out executed them. By out hustling them. By playing harder then the other team.
But in the playoffs, everybody plays hard.
Nobody takes nights off. With all else equal, talent wins out. And the Cavaliers simply do not have enough legitimate talent to keep up with the Orlando's, Lakers, and Nuggets of the world.
If you look, as I am sure you have, at the (3) other conference finals contenders, you will find 3-7 players on each team that would not only start for Cleveland, but could very well be the Cavs second best player.
Case in point:
Orlando: Howard, Hedo, Rashard Lewis, and Petrus would all be the second best player on the Cavaliers; specifically, they are all better than Mo Williams. Jameer Nelson might be as well, and at times Alston looked light years ahead of Mo, but I can't quite go their for sure.
Lakers: Kobe aside, Pau and Odom would be the second best player on the Cavaliers. Ariza would possibly start, and on an aside, Shannon Brown looks better than Daniel Gibson at this point in their careers.
Nuggets: Melo, Chauncey, JR Smith, would be the second best player, and Martin, Nene, and Birdman, would all start for sure.
What this brings me back to is the offseason: The Cavaliers needed to add a significant piece. Nobody thought that piece was Mo Williams at the time, and as the regular season wore on it looked like maybe he was. But he's not. At the trading deadline there was a clamoring to add a piece. I wrote about and supported Danny Ferry's move to stand pat on a number of sites, and I still can't blame Danny for the demise of this team, but it obviously needs something.
So on to the offseason. And the Cavaliers will likely add something, but to what nucleus. I have to imagine that Mo's confidence is no doubt shaken, and how will he respond? Z looks like he doesn't have too many starting center games left in him, and the Cavaliers have far from a top flight bench. Can you continue to start Delonte West and Mo Williams together? That back court kinda looks to small these days no?
So what do you change? What do you add? Who knows. But the Cavaliers need to do two things somehow if they are going to compete for the title next year. Get bigger, tougher, and more athletic inside, and get bigger, more athletic, and more consistent from the perimeter.
And while last night was tough. While people dressed in Cavs gear were ready to explode downtown last night, only to head home at 11, and while the disappointment of waiting another year stares us straight in the fact this morning, we still can't overlook the season the Cavaliers had. They didn't choke, they just aren't really good enough yet. The roster's not there, Mike Brown's not there yet, and the experience is not there yet, LeBron James aside.
This team overachieved this season whether you can admit that or not. And while the Cavaliers do have the best player in the world, he can't beat five good players by himself, and this is as much of an understatement as the fact that Cleveland hasn't won a championship in long time.