A few weeks back Scott was invited to debate whether Cleveland or Philadelphia was the more tortured sports town. I suppose after tonight Philly fans will demand a recount.
Maybe this is one of those wins. Maybe this is one of the defining moments in a season. Perhaps the Cavaliers will look back on this finish as the moment they turned a corner. I’m pretty sure critics will say they just got a lucky.
Make no mistake, had the Cavs lost this one it wouldn’t have been the fault of the officials. Cleveland surrendered a 12 point 4th quarter lead, and found themselves down by one when Zydrunas Ilgauskas took a LeBron James pass deep in the lane and laid it in for a Cavalier lead. A Philly basket later, Devin Brown hit a running floater over Dalembert with only 15 seconds left to regain the 1 point lead. The Cavs played solid defense, but Philly’s Louis Williams made a desperate shot off a deflected pass and the Cavs were down 1 again.
The sequence that followed will be debated all day tomorrow. (Longer if you’re a Philly fan I’m sure.) After the foul to give, LeBron took the ball at the top of the lane and drove with 3 seconds left. He was bumped from the right, and probably fouled on his left arm as well, but he pushed up a shot that was blocked to the left of the hoop where Devin Brown was breaking to the basket. Brown collected the ball and went up for a shot as Samuel Dalembert put his shoulder in Devin’s chest, and Andre Iguodala hit his shooting arm as Devin out the ball up towards the basket. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground, confetti flew, and the 76ers ran off the court celebrating.
Problem was the game wasn’t over. A foul was called, not on LeBron’s drive, but on Dalembert against Devin Brown. The refs went to the replay to make sure that the foul occurred before the shot, which the replay confirmed. The officials called Sixers back on the floor, the confetti cleared and Brown to the free throw stripe. Cleveland had been 11 of 19 before Brown calmly stepped up and knocked both shots through the net. Cleveland 91, Philadelphia 90. The Sixers had.2 left on the clock, but couldn’t get the shot off in time. Ballgame.
LeBron had 27 points in 42 minutes, Zydrunas 22 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Devin Brown was benched in favor of Sasha Pavlovic (who injured his ankle and had to be helped from the court) but came off the bench strong with 13 points. The Sixers made 11 of 17 shots in the fourth quarter scoring 31 points, but came up short when Brown’s second free throw went through the net.
Sixers forward Iguodala was upset afterwards-
“You feel like you just got seriously slapped in the face,” Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said. ” It was like we had the ‘W’ and it was marked off.”
The Cavaliers clinched the 4th spot with the win, and guaranteed themselves home court advantage against the Wizards, who beat Indiana.
(Thanks to Odenized for the video.)
(Edit: Also, for Philly’s take on the matter, head over to The 700 Level. But be nice, we like those guys. After all, we have a lot more in common that either of us would care to share…)