I feel like this is becoming a recurring theme here, but: I hope I’m wrong.
I desperately hope I’m wrong, but I just can’t shake the feeling that last night we were all “Witnesses” to the death of professional basketball in Cleveland.
Maybe “death” is too strong a word. I do not think the Cavaliers will leave Cleveland. Perhaps the phrase “the plunge back to below-average-at-best-mediocrity” is better. Odd, it doesn’t make me feel all that better.
Whatever you want to call it, we witnessed it unfold at the end of Game Six.
As a performance, it was not as eye gouging to watch as Game Five. The effort was improved. Mo Williams decided to finally show up, for the first two quarters at least. Anderson Varejao played with a Cribbsian effort.
And that’s about all I can positively say about Thursday’s game. LeBron James did drop 27-19-10, so maybe that’s not entirely fair. If you just looked at the stat line, it reveals what would normally be a heralded performance. But we had more than the stat line. His body language throughout the game, at the end of the game, and post game seemed fishy. I don’t think I’m talented enough to put a finger on it directly — but something just didn’t feel right.
With the season on the line and about 1:30 on the clock, we were down by 9. Say what you want, but that is a three possession game. You do not just quit. I wanted to throw up when I saw that they didn’t go for the foul, that Mo Williams trotted up the floor, and that they passed the ball around until someone finally decided to shoot a three — and that person was Anderson Varejao!
Sure, that falls on everyone — the Coaches for not signaling to foul, Mo Williams for not hustling, etc. But as the leader of the team, the buck stops at LeBron. None of that happens if LeBron says it doesn’t happen.
It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around this whole ordeal.
Just three games ago, the Cavs beat the Celtics like they stole something. And it was on the road! We imposed our will. It had all but appeared that we just put them in their place and seized control of the series. Unfortunately, those were a long three games ago.
The next three games:
- Game Four: A missed opportunity. We had the ability to close the door on the series. If we go up 3-1, taking two games in Boston, there is no way the Celtics come back. It was a missed opportunity, but the odds were still in our favor to win the series.
- Game Five: The turning point. With the momentum of the series hanging in the balance, the Cavs struck out. And struck out looking. There wasn’t even a swing-and-a-miss. The Cavs played indifferent, apathetically, disengaged, or just straight up quit. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t really matter. There was no explanation for it. It was an embarrassment. And it will be a stain on LeBron’s legacy that can only be washed away with a championship for Cleveland. If he leaves for greener pastures and wins a championship, there will still be that stain of leaving a city and its depressed fans in the dust with that lackluster performance.
- Game Six: The “Yep, That Really Just Happened” moment. Game Five was historically upsetting and it stunk worse than a baby skunk’s diaper. But the series still wasn’t over. Sure, it plenty of fans heads it was over. But the Cavs still had a chance to redeem themselves. Optimistic fans (like me) talked ourselves into it. We can come back, that was just a speed bump. A really big speed bump. Well, it was a brick wall. After a decent first half, the Cavs had one mini run to get it to within 4 in the fourth, but gave up. Our last shot attempt was an Anderson Varejao three pointer. LeBron shakes hands with everyone like its all good, even gives a couple fist pumps to Boston fans before we catch a video of him shedding his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey. Yep, that really just happened.
By the way, how do I know LeBron didn’t give it his full effort this series?
Last year, LeBron left it all on the court. He put the Cavaliers on his back and gave it everything he had against the Magic. It was inspiring. By the end of Game Six in Orlando, he was running on empty. When they finally lost, he didn’t want to be on the court. He definitely didn’t want to congratulate the team he just went toe to toe with and whooped on him. He was too competitive to accept it.
A lot of pundits called it “unsportsmanlike.” Bullsh*t. I guarantee half of those pundits have stormed away from a racquetball game because they were a little pissed by the way it ended. Let he who hath not scorned a loss cast the first stone.
Personally? I loved it. It showed me that he left it all on the court, that he gave it his best effort. He was steamed. I get it. He congratulated them a week later when he cooled down. So whatever.
On the other hand, Thursday night he seemed a little overzealous with the handshakes. He was almost too ready to congratulate the Boston team. A little too ready to fist pump the Celtics fans who had just booed him and chanted “New York Knicks! New York Knicks!” everytime he shout a free throw.
A little too ready to slip out of the Cleveland jersey.
So to me, that showed me that something definitely was wrong with LeBron. He didn’t play with the same gusto. It was apparent both on and off the court.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, and I hope I am. But when thinking about the future of the franchise, all I could think last night was “I sure hope that Christian Eyenga turns out to be a beast.” Not a good sign.
The Cavaliers were the best team in the 2009-10 regular season. The #1 overall seed in the playoffs. The favorites to win a championship. The excitement in Cleveland was palpable. This could be the team that changes our city’s fortunes!
In a matter of three games (and to pin point it — the third quarter of Game Five), the excitement made a complete U-turn into utter fear for the future. This could be the team that cements our city’s misfortunes.
And we were all witnesses.
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