While Tuesday night’s embarrassing loss to the Boston Celtics was disheartening to say the least, Cavalier fans can all take comfort in the fact that it was only game 5.
When the final buzzer rang out in Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs were put out of their misery from a 32 point loss.
The #1 seed Cleveland Cavaliers, who finished the regular season with the best record in the Association, were absolutely embarrassed on their home court in what could be remembered as the biggest game in Cleveland basketball history.
The elephant in the Q since the beginning of the year has been the future plans of LeBron James. Now, with the train seemingly coming off the tracks in Cleveland, the national media is circling like a venue of vultures. Experts and bloggers alike are all questioning the James Gang’s ability to advance and eventually win the big game. Fans are crying foul at the player that they have worshipped for the past 7 seasons. Things aren’t right for the Cavaliers right now. Not right at all.
But what seems to be the problem in Cleveland?
As I pointed out before the series began, Mike Brown needed to step his game up and it appears that he has done the opposite.
According to reports by Cavs beat writer Brian Windohorst, Mike Brown has lost the locker room. A fall out between Coach Brown and the players began to bubble up in the 4th quarter of game 4 when he kept Shaq on the bench, despite the big man’s pleas to come back in the game down the stretch.
Some local pundits have claimed that the infighting between player and coach has spilled out on the court. Players’ frustration with Mike Brown’s rotations, substitutions, and overall decision making ability has caused a tension on the bench that is overwhelmingly apparent.
Some suggest that this team tanked an all-important game 5 to spite Mike Brown. I can not imagine that is the case. If it is, I will be sorely disappointed with these athletes who get paid millions and millions of dollars to play a child’s game.
Secondly, Mo Williams is more of a liability to this team than Heather Mills’s leg was on Dancing with the Stars (). At the start of the second half, the Cavs came out of the locker room down 50-44. They matched up Mo Williams on Ray Allen to start. Here is a transcript of the first minute and 7 seconds of the second half;
12:00 – Start second half
11:37 – Ray Allen offensive rebound
11:26 – Ray Allen makes 23-foot three point jumper
10:53 – Ray Allen makes 25-foot three point jumper
By the time Usher got back from his halftime bathroom break, the Cavs were down 12. Coach Brown called a time out to reassess the Mo Williams situation. Coming out of the time out, Brown matched Williams up on Rajon Rondo to keep Ray Allen from abusing him anymore. Things didn’t get much better for the wine and gold:
9:47 – Rajon Rondo makes driving layup
9:30 – Rajon Rondo defensive rebound
8:29 – Rajon Rondo makes 14-foot jumper
7:26 – Rajon Rondo offensive rebound
6:54 – Rajon Rondo makes driving layup
5:56 – Rajon Rondo makes layup
Time out Cleveland. 67-52 Boston. Enter Daniel Gibson. Great shift, Mo.
Since the dunk, Mo Williams has disappeared.
He cannot guard his counterpart point guard, and that has caused a domino effect on the rest of the defense. Anthony Parker is forced to chase Rondo around the gym, tiring him out on the offensive end of the floor making him an ineffective spot shooter, which is essentially his biggest strength.
When LeBron bodies up Rondo, Parker is faced with the task of guarding the bigger, stronger, better Paul Pierce. It is a no win situation with Mo Williams on the floor at the defensive end.
These problems have been identified and national media claim that they are seemingly too difficult to overcome this late in the series. Will the Cavaliers be able to come up with an answer for what is preventing them from realizing their dream of a championship?
The answer is LeBron James.
LeBron James needs to clear his head and recognize where he is currently at in his career. He has been in the NBA for 7 years, and in the biggest game of his professional career, the MVP showed up and s**t the bed with a 15 point performance on 3 of 14 shooting.
In the post game interview, LeBron’s demeanor mimicked his play on the court; lethargic and uninterested. Facing the brink of elimination in what was billed as “LeBron’s year”, The King looked as if he could not have cared less.
The plus/minus ratio in the NBA looks at the number of points that your team scores compared to the number of points your opponent scores while you are on the floor.
In the regular season, LeBron’s plus/minus ratio was the best in the league at almost 9 per game. In the Boston Celtic series, LeBron has a ratio of -11.
What that means is that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been outscored by the Boston Celtics by 11 points while LeBron James has been on the floor.
The national media have been annihilating LeBron over the past 12 hours. CBSSports is calling it an “identity crisis”. ESPN claims that LeBron is a “King on the Brink”. Countless analysts have called out everything from his character to his heart to his ability.
And the series isn’t even over yet.
If Thursday night’s game 6 ends with a Celtics victory, LeBron will be branded a loser. The burden of not being able to win the big game will shift from the city of Cleveland to the broad shoulder of #23.
The debates between LeBron and Kobe will be moot. The comparisons to Michael Jordan will be laughed at. The mystique that is LeBron James will be tarnished.
And I don’t think that’s going to happen.
We are talking about LeBron James. LEBRON FREAKING JAMES.
LeBron can take one of two roads on Thursday night in Boston. He can pack it in and spend the game floating to the corner while Mo and Antawn and Shaq try to win this game.
He can rub his elbow and scowl at his coach at every given opportunity. He can turn his back on his team and his town and risk tarnishing his ever-growing legacy by not giving 100%.
…Or he can be THAT LeBron James. That LeBron James that won the Most Valuable Player award in a landslide. That LeBron James that averaged over 30 ppg on the road this season. That LeBron James that is mentioned in the same breath as Michael and Kobe and Magic and Larry, despite not a single ring on his finger.
That LeBron James: “The Chosen One.”
In game 6, with his back against the wall, I would not bet against LeBron James and his team. The Cavs are only 1 win away from forcing a game 7 at the Q.
If the Cavs are able to force a game 7 at home with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on the line, there isn’t a player on the planet that I would want leading the charge more than LeBron James.
That LeBron James.► Read more articles written by DT.
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