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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