Cavaliers vs Celtics: Round Two, Game 5 Numbers and Words

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I’ve been staring at my laptop for about 25 minutes now trying to figure out where to start with this one. One of the most pathetic efforts I have ever seen a Cleveland team put forth. It’s even more stunning to see the superstar we all pinned our hopes on come and out APPEAR to not care as the team suffered the most embarrassing loss in franchise history. So what do we do now? Do we hang our heads and turn our backs on this team? Or do we continue to hope and to stand behind LeBron James and this team? It’s up to us to decide what kind of fans we want to be.

–  Our opening quote for this game comes from the author of the “Rich Dad Poor Dad” books, Robert Kiyosaki: “The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” I cannot possibly think of a better phrase to summarize where we’re at now. There’s another saying that you only find out who your true friends are when you face adversity in your life. So too are we now finding out who the Cavs’ true fans are. I’d be willing to bet that most fans jumping ship on LeBron and the Cavaliers today are the same “fans” who merely started paying attention once LeBron got here. We’ll get to LeBron’s performance in a minute, but I wanted everyone to think about how we choose to handle diversity before we get started. 

–  Boston knows a thing or ten about adversity and about fan frustration and despair. They lived through the “Curse of the Bambino” and every time the team came up short, the weight of the entire city came crashing down on its sports teams. So imagine what the scene was like in Boston on the morning of Sunday, October 17, 2004 when the Yankees had just taken a 3-0 lead in the ALCS over the Red Sox by embarrassing them to a 19-8 tune. Do you think there was any more hope or reason to believe that morning than there is in Cleveland today? How about in the 2007 ALCS when Boston went down 3-1 to the Indians? Should they have turned their backs on their teams then? I won’t tell anyone what to do, but I can ask. I am asking Cavs fans to be better than that. We’re all angry and frustrated over Game 5, but there’s no reason for us to give up and turn our backs on LeBron and this team. I refuse to believe that the Cavaliers are incapable of winning 2 games in a row against Boston. Stranger things have happened. The Red Sox, as we all know, rebounded both times and went on to win the World Series. Hope doesn’t have to be dead in Cleveland.

–  On to the game itself. I don’t know what to say about that. It was inexcusable and there are no words that can explain what we just saw. The Celtics shot 55.5% from the field, scored 120 points, outrebounded the Cavs 41-31, outscored them 44-30 in the paint, forced 17 Cavalier turnover which led to 24 Celtic points. They got any shot they wanted. Whenever, wherever. The Cavaliers, as a team, rolled over and died.

–  One player I want to give credit to is Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He’s been asked to put a lot of pride aside in the playoffs, but on this night he was asked to produce, and he did. He made an immediate impact on the game, fighting for rebounds, forcing the Celtics to stay home for rebounds rather than breaking out on the misses, and blocking shots. It’s interesting that it was with a 2009 lineup of Mo, Delonte, LeBron, Andy, and Z the Cavaliers pushed the lead to 29-21 and looked like they were going to break the game wide open. However, with 9 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, Mike Brown brought in Parker for LeBron, Shaq for Z, and Jamison for Andy, and everything fell apart. The Celtics went on a 16-0 run to take a 37-29 lead and this game was never the same.

–  Is this what the Cavaliers acquired Antawn Jamison for? 9 points and 6 rebounds along with 3 turnovers in 31 minutes? We knew he was a defensive liability, but the offensive threat he was bringing was supposed to offset that. But when he’s getting destroyed by KG on one end, and being invisible in the offensive flow on the other end, he’s become a major liability overall to this team. It’s sad, confusing, and frustrating to watch yet another key player come to Cleveland and shrink under the pressure.

–  I’m going to do something few people are willing to do, and that’s give some credit to the Boston Celtics. Everyone somehow forgot how good the former champs are. This is not just the “Big 3” anymore. Rondo now makes them the Big 4, and they have key role players like Perkins, Davis, and (Tony) Allen who consistently step up in the playoffs. The Cavaliers role players shrink and disappear and fail to support the superstars. And when the superstars don’t show up to play like LeBron last night, you get a 32 point blowout at home. The Celtics are playing like a team, running their offense, working extremely hard on both ends, and imposing their will on the Cavaliers. Give some credit to them, because once they get a 10 point lead, their impressive defense makes it tough to come back on them.

–  So ok, lets talk about LeBron James. I have never seen a worse performance in the playoffs by a superstar of his stature. Worse than anything was that he had absolutely zero fight in him. No urgency. This is why everyone suddenly thinks that LeBron doesn’t care. Again, I have no words to explain it. I don’t want to justify it because it deserves no justification or excuse. As the NBA’s best player, you have to have a bigger impact on a pivotal game than that.

–  HOWEVER…..and I know this probably isn’t going to make me popular amongst the general populous of Cleveland, I am not going to let one series stain my perception of LeBron. I still remember in 2006 when Cleveland actually had a chance to beat a Pistons team they had no business even being in a series with. It was LeBron who put up 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists in a losing effort. Did LeBron not care then? Was he a loser then? Or how about Game 6 against Boston in 2008, an elimination game in which LeBron put up 32/12/6 to force a Game 7. Did LeBron not care then? Or even his epic duel with Paul Pierce when he put up 45 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Was he a loser who didn’t care then because his team still lost? Even just last year in the ECF against Orlando when he averaged 38.5 points, 8.33 rebounds, and 8.0 assists while his entire team crumbled around him. I guess that’s a player who can’t win and who doesn’t care and is ok with losing, huh?

You can call me a homer or whatever you want, but I know what LeBron is capable of and I’ve seen the competitive fire in LeBron. It was a cold statement when LeBron said that he spoils people with his game. He shouldn’t have said it. But he’s not wrong, either, and the reaction of the media and of fans alike is proof of this. People find it so incomprehensible that LeBron would actually have a couple bad games that they look to anything they can find to give them reason. Some people suddenly say LeBron has one foot out the door. Others say he’s doing this just to play with us so he can play the hero role in Games 6 and 7. Still others have implied that he’s doing this to get rid of Mike Brown (as if he couldn’t just say the word and get rid of Brown any time he chooses).

I’ll just say this. Something is wrong with LeBron right now. I don’t know if it’s his elbow, his relationship with the team, the coaches. Whatever it is….something is not right. If he can sort it out in the next couple days, this team is absolutely capable of coming back and winning this series. If not, we’re about to enter one of the most chaotic times Cleveland sports has ever seen. And for a lot of people, it’s easier to just write off LeBron and say “Screw him, he doesn’t care”. The truth and reality of the matter is deeper than that. Who knows what’s going on with LeBron, but I’ve seen enough out of him over the last 7 years to know he 100% cares and 100% wants to win. I hope whatever is wrong with him can be fixed before Game 6, and I’m not ready to give up hope just yet.

–  Finally, going back to my original quote…people are defined by how they handle adversity. We’re going to learn a lot about the Cavaliers in Game 6, and we’re going to learn a lot about Cleveland sports fans based on this series. It’s my hope that Cleveland fans are just getting it all out of their system and will then take a deep breath and rise above the conspiracy theories and name throwing. If the Cavs lose, big changes are coming. That much is certain. Dan Gilbert and Danny Ferry are not going to let this slide. They will make the changes that this franchise needs. But lets not worry about that until we have to. This was not an elimination game. The Cavaliers still have a very good chance of winning this series. Yes, some things have to change for that to happen, particularly LeBron’s effort. We need more from LeBron for the Cavaliers to have any chance. I’m not going to say the Cavs will win this series and LeBron will step up his effort. There’s an equally good chance the Cavs just lose in Game 6 and the real fun (sarcasm) begins. But until that happens, I’m hanging onto….well, not just hope, but expectations. I expect LeBron and the Cavaliers to play better in Game 6. I hope they prove me right.

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Photo: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Christopher

    Matt#2 – i don’t agree with his way of handling the postgame or his injury. He seems much more comfortable allowing the city to sit and wonder rather than stand up to the podium and just say it…

    1. “i am hurt, my elbow is tweaked and on short rest it isn’t feeling strong.”

    2. “Tonights performance is on me. I am the leader, I am the star. This team was built for me by me and I need to take the reigns.”

    3. “I don’t understand Coach’s rotations. We need to play like the defensive powerhouse he has taught us to be.”

    instead we get “I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have 3 bad games in a 7-year career, it is easy to point that out.”

  • Tim Couch

    Lebron hasnt done anything for the fans aside from racking up individual awards- If he would have signed last summer maybe we have better role players like Ariza committing to CLE. If we win a championship its because of Lebron and if we never get there its also his doing in one way or another

  • Matt#2

    Clown Baby,

    The Cavs extra actions concerning Lebron James do not put upon him a responsibility to win. I would run fast and far from the clutching undertones in the suggestion of it. And if I were the Cavs, I would disavow any inkling of that suggestion. In my book, it’s bad romance.

    To say that he has not pressured himself anyway is contrary to what I think I’ve seen of him.

    Showing anger/emotion may be a way that some show that they care. Maybe not for some others, and maybe not for all great players. Did you, for example, see KG interviewed after the Cavs blew them out? He was very mild.

    I don’t know what value to give “Most would disagree,” even if it were true. Do “most” know what great players do?

  • Matt#2

    Christopher,

    He said a heck of a lot more than your quote, and it was about basketball. As far as his frailties (and I don’t know if the elbow is all there is), I can’t say it would be wise to disclose those right now.

    Y’all can tell I’m basically pro-Bron.

    After what he’s done here, it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than “we all murder people” (Go Bucks) for me to put him in the stockade.

  • Christopher

    Matt#2 – you are right, he did say more than that. He also said “I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out be great and the best player on the court. When I’m not, I feel bad for myself.”

    Really feel bad for yourself? How about the 20,000 fans that paid a huge expense in a tough economic time to watch that performance? How about the owner that ha done whatever he can do to keep his star player? How about the first GM in CLE for a long time to pull off some of the best player aqcuisitions the league has seen. (meaning giving nothing for something)

    I can say that I have drifted away from my LeBron fandom with the past couple of years building towards his free agency attitude.

    LeBron says his idol is MJ, I don’t ever remember MJ holding the Bulls hostage for free agency prior to him winning his first title. Nor any of his other idols; Cowboys, Yankees, etc.

    Like I said before, he’s got an agenda of being a “billionaire global icon”. Maybe he should just focus on being the best basketball player ever. It seems when he does that, he proves it time and time again.

  • Matt#2

    Christopher,

    I think he has fulfilled every reasonable expectation of the fans, Gilbert, or Ferry. Utterly.

  • ClevelandSouth

    Dance with who brought you.

  • MattC

    Can I ask one question? Why are we dragging our fans through the mud as if we keep our team on a short leash?

    Need I remind you that the Boston fans who have seen an NBA title and World Series titles in the last 3 years were verbally crucifying their team in their own blowout last Friday?

    We have given it our all, spent money to go to games we couldn’t afford, screamed til our voices gave out, and this team and our alleged superstar haven’t repaid us in kind at all this playoffs. Face the facts: The team has played 4 good quarters of basketball once since at least March, if not shortly after the all star break: Last Friday.

  • stin4u

    @58 amen

  • Christopher

    @ MattC

    It’s a good thing Boston’s rag tag football team has never won a ri…….

    nevermind.

  • MattC

    @ Christopher : Touche… although I did narrow it to the last three years

    ;)

  • Christopher

    No touche’ necessary. You made a great point. Let LeMVP act like this in New York or Chicago and see how their media/fan base react.

  • MattyFos

    Chris- Why would LBJ feel bad about his performance for the fans? The same fans who boo’d him last night, the same fans that are wishing he’d leave in a month and a half. The same fans who abandoned the Indians and the Browns in the past years. The same fans who disagree with his opinion that JJ should be playing more. Why would LBJ feel bad for any discomfort those hounds get? He owes us nothing, except his effort (which you could question in game 5) after the pure entertainment he has given us over the past 7 years. Exciting playoff runs, a surprise NBA Championship appearance. There have been some up and downs.
    Up- Washington series’ and Detroit.
    Down- San Antonio, Boston, and Orlando.
    Up- Pre game ritual and regular season, award ceremonies.
    Down- Last night.
    LBJ has earned an off night. He has spoiled us as fans. When he puts up a 25-5-5 stat line, I’ve been known to say… “That’s all”.. That is spoiled.
    Expecting a 60 win team and a championship team is spoiled.
    Asking for the most important player in Cavalier history to leave in a month and a half because we might lose to the Celtics is spoiled. Chris, I kind of pulled you into my rant. This isn’t exactly directed at you, so don’t feel that it is. But Cleveland fans need to wipe away their crocodile tears and wipe the snot of of their upper lips… give the guy a break!!

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    You know, MattyFos – It was said in the email piece, but LeBron played like butt last night, and his complete nonchalance about it in the presser afterwards is enough to earn no sympathy from me. And I don’t want him to leave. Yes – magically, it’s possible to hold those two (seemingly clashing) viewpoints.

    LEAVE LEBRON ALONE!!!

  • MattyFos

    Denny- You’re telling my on one hand you can want LBJ to stay but on the other you want to blame him for everything that goes wrong against Boston? You are ok with fans booing him and wishing he goes to NYC so he can not live up to their expectations?

    It seems like you just want to disagree with me. Yeah it’s funny, nice photo. Now seriously please bring an interesting opinion to this conversation or just stay out of it.

    Last night I said some unflattering things about LBJ’s performance, but then I grew up and I realized he can’t do it all himself. There are some serious concerns about his elbow; and as I’ve stated I fully expect the same performance out of him for game 6. The one day rest is killing his game. I hope against all hope that LBJ proves me wrong about the one day rest. There is nothing these fans deserve more than a championship (except maybe lessons in manners) and LBJ gives them the best shot at it in recent memory. These fans (me included) have suffered enough and most of them have turned on the only guy who’s given them a sniff at a championship celebration since 97

    I will await your attempt at humor as you try to avert my argument without actually addressing anything I say.

  • Nash

    All together! The cavs can still win this they just need to remember what got them here in the regular season and Lebron needs to remember he IS the MVP and can not be stopped in any asset of the game.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    @ Matty – “You’re telling my on one hand you can want LBJ to stay but on the other you want to blame him for everything that goes wrong against Boston?” Yes. These things aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s possible to be critical of someone that is important to you. It’s even possible to do so without wanting them to leave. See DP’s piece that published after this one – I agree 100% with everything he said there.

    “You are ok with fans booing him and wishing he goes to NYC so he can not live up to their expectations?” No. Now you’re just putting words in my mouth. I don’t “just want to disagree” with anyone, but people have differing opinions sometimes (WHAAAAA?) on things. There’s no need for you to get heated about the fact that I used an illustration and what I perceive to be humor.

    “Then I grew up” – I’m guessing this is a shot at me implying that I am being childish. I’ve thought a lot about LeBron and the team and etc. after Tuesday’s performance. I’ve done my best to not be emotional or silly about my feelings. More so than a lot of people I tend towards the rational rather than the emotional. Just because we may not agree doesn’t make my opinion childish, or mean that I need to put on my big boy hat – it just means that we don’t agree.

  • MattyFos

    I wasn’t implying you were being childish, I was implying some of the commentators who still wish LBJ would leave just so he could disappoint other fans were being childish. We all had the same reaction after game 5. We were all upset with LBJ. We all blamed LBJ. Rightfully so, after his performance. But after taking time to cool down and actually thinking about what it would mean to the Cavs if LBJ left, I would have hoped after 24 hours most everyone would realize we are better off as Cavs fans with LBJ playing in Cleveland than we are with LBJ playing in NYC or NJ.

    The picture was funny, BTW, it just seemed like you flew into a conversation I was having with myself, obviously, and it seemed like you were just trying to let cooler heads prevail. I actually don’t think we disagree about anything from game 5. I just wish some other people would actually consider, for a second, the result of LBJ leaving Cleveland. We have a right to be mad at his performance. But we can’t let one game cloud our judgment of him from the past 7 years, especially coming into free agency. We need to focus our attention on getting Mike Brown’s head on a spike.