What the fans witnessed before, and during, this game was Cleveland at its worst. A humiliating collection of events certain to become punchline examples of why the rest of the country only sees Cleveland as a decayed, lowly place to live.
The Leaky Scoreboard
The stands were full, players warm and starting lineups announced. Like every Cavs-Heat game since 2010, the Q was rocking with electrified fans. National writers were tuned in to watch the greatest player in the NBA, playing on the hottest team in the NBA, against the spurned ex-girlfriend who badly wants a second chance.
Then the game was delayed for 35 minutes because the scoreboard was leaking...carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide? What the...?
The players retreated to their respective locker rooms while fans and television viewers enjoyed a half hour of ringing sirens as the scoreboard was lowered to the floor, repaired, and raised back into position.
This probably wasn't the great impression the Cavaliers organization was hoping to deliver to LeBron James.
The Blown Lead
There is no hope of LeBron James returning to Cleveland when he opts out of his contract in 2014 if the Cavs aren't competitive. Playing without arguably their three best players in Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs started the game hot and by the middle of the third quarter had opened up a 27-point lead.
Then it all came unraveled. The Cavs didn't just lose the game, they historically lost the game. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal sums up the pain:
The Heat rallied from 27 points down in the third quarter, simultaneously making it the Heat’s biggest comeback of the season and the biggest lead the Cavs have blown in a loss in franchise history.
The Obsessed Fan
This was so remarkable that it's still hard to imagine that it actually happened. With 8:21 remaining in the game, a fan ran onto the court wearing a white T-shirt with the words "We miss you" written on the front, and "2014 come back" on the back.
The players handled the confusing situation professionally, and LeBron James actually patted the guy on the head before security hauled him away.
This incident supports the view that Cleveland fans cannot move on from LeBron's departure three years ago. Even worse, it sends a loud and clear message to the current players that they are nothing compared to LeBron James.
Taken individually, these events would have been a highlight on ESPN and forgotten. Combined, they gave us one of those awkward, humiliating nights that can't be explained.
Miami will return to Cleveland on April 15th. If the Cavs are serious about courting LeBron in 2014, then let's hope for their sake that this next trip goes better.
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