As a disgruntled Kobe walked off the floor last night, Lebron James stood tall in front of a packed Quicken Loans Arena celebrating a 93-87 Cavs victory over the Lakers. King James proved that he was the best basketball player in the NBA (at least on this night).
Lebron toyed with Ron Artest much of the game as he scored 37 points, most of which came late in the fourth quarter as he continued to hit dagger after dagger putting the Lakers in a seven point deficit that they were not able to overcome (Pau Gasol’s two missed FTs late in the game helped to make sure Lebron's effort wasn’t wasted).
When it was all said and done the Cavs had taken two straight games vs. the Lake Show proving they had a legit shot to win it all should they meet the Lakers again for David Stern’s dream NBA finals.
While the playoffs are a different animal and the two victories over the Lakers in the regular season in no way guarantee a trip to the finals or a championship, the wins definitely boost the confidence of Cavs players and fans alike; knowing that not only can their team hang with the defending champions but beat them as well.
With a recent string of injuries plaguing Celtics forward Kevin Garnett over the past two years and an overhauled Magic roster that doesn’t quite have the same chemistry as last year’s finals team did, the Cavaliers have clearly become the class of the East. This doesn’t mean that an up and coming Hawks team or the Celts or Magic can’t return to form and upset/beat the Cavs in a seven game series but it certainly can’t help those teams chances knowing that the Big Diesel (or whatever he’s going by these days) allows the Cavaliers to matchup size for size with anyone in the league. Come playoff time a semi-productive Shaq could be enough to offset any of the Bigs that other teams may throw out there, the two games vs. the Lakers is proof of that.
All that being said, a possible run into June is a long, long time away for the Cavaliers. A number of unexpected variables like injuries, trades, and/or coaching changes for the Cavs or other teams could all factor into which two teams make the final dance.
However with the summer of 2010 coming up, Cavaliers fans should be hoping or actually praying for a championship in Cleveland this year more than any other. With the most talent James has ever had on his side and playing on a team that’s on a very short list of possible championship contenders, it is do or die time for not only the Cavaliers organization but the city of Cleveland as well.
If LeBron does his part (as he has for most of his career) and the supporting cast don’t match the hype come playoff time then we may see the end of the “Akron Hammer” in a Cleveland uniform come free agency in July.