Game 5 Preview: LeBron's Last Stand? Star Has But One Card Left to Play
In case you missed Mike and Mike this morning on ESPN, Cavaliers-Magic: How One Series Could Change the Face of the NBA">didn't read my recent article on LeBron's future in Cleveland regardless of the outcome of this series, or missed today's Marc Berman's New York Post article on LeBron's chances of coming to the Big Apple which Mike and Mike promoted, speculation has begun to simmer about the future of Mr. All-World in Cleveland, Ohio.
While I don't personally believe New York is the best fit for LeBron, its obvious to me, as it should be to everyone else that he has bigger sights in mind and New York with their captive and Global influence is the place to max out on this potential of fame and fortune. With realistic Billionaire aspirations in mind, New York offers the biggest stage to achieve these Globalization goals.
Critics like Mike Golic argue that one doesn't have to be in this market in order to thrive evidenced by Peyton Manning in cowtown Indianpolis, Indiana, or Brett Favre in Green Bay, Wisconsin. However, neither had the marketing appeal or Globalized aforementioned apirations or desire to be such an icon.
In addition, the argument that New York, at 32-50 this past season isn't close to competing is bogus since any team that lands LeBron is not only an instant playoff team regardless of past record, but also as I explained in my article linked above, fellow Superstars like Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for example, will take less money to follow LeBron and turn them into an instant winner much like the New York Yankees do every off-season.
Should the Knicks get LeBron on July 1, 2010, they will instantly vault up to one of the top 3 seeds in the Eastern Conference and assuredly win the Atlantic Division much like the 2007-08 Boston Celtics were the pre-season pick to win it after an off-season of shrewed trades which landed them similar proven veterans in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett on a previously seen weak team.
By no means am I saying this series is over in fact, the entire basis of this article will argue against this thought. I picked Orlando to win in 6 and I am sticking with that, in fact, never wavering. I had Cleveland winning tonight's game all along.
I want to thank the NBA referees for surprisingly and uncharacteristically calling a solid game from start to finish in Game 4. While I criticized the referees perception of corruption prior to the game on the basis of game-fixing, (a belief that still stands), for one night they let the teams play and the outcome be decided on the court.
However, tonight's game is no exception and careful monitoring continue to be demanded for the integrity of the game. You see, there is one card that LeBron has left to play in his deck: the role of legend that will only elevate his lore status.
Should the series end tonight, LeBron's game 2 literal last-second game winner will fade into the abyss. People will perceive it as a fluke. Missing a similar Game 4 winner albeit some thirty-five feet away, doesn't exactly help his legacy along with is 0/1 Finals appearance record, but for someone who wants to not only be like Jordan, evidenced by his jersey number, but to better than him, he hasn't done anything to deserve this lofty merit.
Jordan wouldn't have committed eight turnovers in a single NBA playoff game, especially one with so much magnitude. Seven of these turnovers wouldn't have come in the forth quarter or overtime as the un-clutch LeBron's did in Game 4. Finally, Jordan would have made the shot that would have won the game.
Michael Jordan, LeBron you are not. At least not yet. No matter how much you or the NBA wish it to be.
Being only the ninth team to come back from a 3-1 Series deficit, especially this late in the playoffs, would do wonders in reversing this trend and further elevate his much celebrated, but premature, lore.
With the NBA's shady post-season history, don't discount this possibility, with ratings gained from a longer series as its motivation.
Don't believe the NBA is rigged? Incarcerated ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy admitted to Federal investigators during his 2008 investigation, that according to him, the 2002, and 2005 NBA series were indeed rigged.
A win tonight would allow for additional hype as talk of a comeback began. New York speculation which can only be perceived as "bad for business" would be temporary silenced. The NBA and marketers would be rejoicing.
Chinese Impact on LeBron staying?
Cleveland fans seemed to be elated, prior to these two loses on Orlando's home court that the sale of a significant portion of minority ownership in the team to a Chinese investment group would further facilitate LeBron to stay in town similar to how Houston Rockets Center Yao Ming is promoted in China. The Globalization perception that LeBron craves would now have a direct market to Asia.
I however, happen to think that his is hype based on no merit. Its the last straw they have should this latest title run end in premature failure. The bottom line is, should Cleaveland Cavilers lose LeBron, they might as well go back into the NBA version of the Witness Protection Program.
Two words Cleveland fans: Indians Baseball(prior to the 1990's). That is your fate and destiny should Mr. All-World fail to deliver at least once in these next three games for his team.
Thank God the NBA correctly rescinded Dwight Howard's phantom 6th "technical" foul in Game 4 for flexing his cartoonish muscles after a powerful move to the basket and finish. While he still has to be very careful the next few games, we can more confident in his ability to play loose and free without having to literally look over his shoulder at the end of every play or in questioning a call.
Ironic how yet another controversial technical, almost cost the Magic the game as it took overtime to decide the outcome.
While I still believe this foul is coming tonight via whistle-happy referees provoked into extending the series, at least it won't cost Howard to miss a crucial game 6 which even at home in Orlando, the chances of the Magic winning would significantly decrease, thus setting the stage for the aforementioned LeBron Lore Game 7 miracle comeback that the NBA so desperately covets.
Does anyone find it strange that the usually mild-manned Howard is suddenly racking up all these technicals at an alarming Rasheed-Wallace-esque pace?
In questioning the Howard technical foul, Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy responded with:
"Anderson Verejao wrapping his arms around the neck to me is a bigger deal than someone going..." (flexes muscles at live post game press conference).
That's the kind of classic stuff that you just don't get out of the fittingly-scripted, Los Angeles Lakers, monotone coach Phil Jackson.
More Van Gundy quotes
It wouldn't be an Orlando Magic column for me without a special SVG tribute to his memorable post-game press conference quotes.
On being asked what he was thinking on the Rashard Lewis play at the end of regulation in the 4th quarter prior to the two LeAst-second LeBron free throws, Van Gundy replied:
"What was I thinking? I was thinking we wanted to win. It was one Hell of a shot and thank God it was a three and not a two, otherwise LeBron goes down there with a chance to win it."
"I tell you guys all the time, you can watch for yourself. You can TiVo it. I'm not paying the league twenty-five-grand." (for criticicizing the referees over the Howard play).
Van Gundy did get dangerously close, I thought at one point during the press conference, in saying "You get the feeling our guy is a marked man" when referencing all those soft technical calls, but fortunately the usually-strict NBA missed its chance at that one.
Despite Tim Legler's warning of a possible offensive goal tending, I believe it was better that the second LeBron free throw went in forcing overtime as it appeared to me that Verejao was all but set to tip-in the apparent miss at the buzzer creating an un-inspiring Jon Paxson like moment for the ages where an obscure bench player plays the role of hero.
Honorable Mention: Game 5 Preview:
Without Rafer "Skip to My Lou" Alston, the Magic lose this game by fifteen, similar to the Cavs should LeBron ever score "just" twenty-five points.
The fact that he has to score forty a game just to give his team a chance to win (even though they have yet to do so going 0/3 in the process) shows just how far behind the Cavs are in this series and how weak LeBron's supporting cast is and how much superior he is by comparison.
Any wonder what a similar performance by the NBA's Mid-season Acquisition of the Year would do tonight, albeit the task will be harder in unfavorable Cleveland?
Anthony "12 Minutes" Johnson, as I am referring to him, referenced by Cavilers guard Mo Williams' Game 3 Post Game Press Conference has to continue to play a bigger role in his actual 14.7 minutes.
Please Coach Van Gundy, go back to Howard and work on the inside game similar to the first three possessions of the overtime all of which resulted in easy buckets for the big man. This same strategy should be applied throughout the game which will open up the perimeter for the successful three-point shooting the Magic have come to be too-reliant upon.
Yes, it worked in Game 4, but this is a new venue and while it worked for one night, its unheralded success (17/38 44.7%) isn't likely to continue at such a torrid clip no matter how much we desire it.
Congratulations to my boys for taking care of business in winning both games at home and going up 3-1 when I had thought the LeShot in Game 2 had the potential to swing the series.
While everyone from Van Gundy to Howard repeatedly acknowledged the series is not over and they cannot get ahead of themselves, perhaps it was Van Gundy himself who unsurprisingly put it best:
"The way I see it, we are up two at the end of the third quarter. They (the Cavs) are a long way from done."
Let's hope he's wrong and that lore has nothing to do with it.
Only then, will it truly be over. Until then, never say never. Not when the NBA has a stake and its best player and an entire franchise is at a crossheirs.
Let's hope he doesn't get that chance or the NBA, the satisfaction.
Credit ESPN Mike and Mike in the Morning, ESPN post-game press conferences, YouTube, Mr. Berman's NY Post article, "Cavs Struggles May lead LeBron to Knicks" NBCsports, and the AP for information and statistics which contributed to this article.
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