LeBron really made his teammates better last night. Better benchwarmers, that is.
The Cleveland Cavaliers: I'll admit, I fully expected the final score of Game 5 of the Celts-Crabs series to be something like the actual 120-88 result...I just figured Cleveland would be the team to come out on top. I'd be willing to bet my collection of vintage Larry Bird body hair clippings that everybody not wearing green and white expected that. Cue the following pic from stephanie g:
This makes no sense. It was like the Cleveland players were the celebrity guest asses at an ass-kicking convention. I think Basketbawful reader Heretic said it best: "Dear god what a beat down. It was like the Cavs were Ned Beatty in Deliverance and the Celtics were the hillbilly screaming 'Squeal like a pig!'"
Over the past two regular seasons, the Crabs were -- in terms of wins and losses -- the best team in the NBA. During those same two seasons, King Crab was voted the best basketball player on the planet by people who are paid to be experts in these matters. In fact, LeBron's statistical dominance over his two MVP campaigns has been so great that number crunchers like John Hollinger have proclaimed him as Michael Jordan's equal...while still others have stated firmly that James will be considered better than MJ when everything is said and done.
To which I say: Really?
And can we stop blaming a lack of non-LeBron talent? After all, James is flanked by three All-Stars or former All-Stars (Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams and Shaq) as well as a handful of reasonably well-regarded players. And The Big Creaky (21 points, 7-for-11 from the field, 7-for-10 from the line, 4 blocked shots) was Cleveland's best player last night.
Oh, and did I mention that Cleveland coach Mike Brown has as many Coach of the Year awards as Phil Jackson? Heh, sorry. I needed the laugh.
So...what in the name of Spiderman's balls happened last night? I mean, some serious history was made: the Craboliers' 32-point loss wasn't just the franchises worst-ever playoff defeat...it was the largest margin of defeat ever in a Game 5 with the series tied in a seven-game series. And it could have been worse...the Celtics missed 10 free throws!
The Cavaliers, who were 61-21 (.744) during the regular season, became the first NBA team with a regular-season winning percentage of .700 or better to lose a home playoff game by at least 30 points.
The Celtics massacred the Cavaliers by 32 points in Cleveland in Game 5 just two games after the Cavs beat the Celtics by 29 in Boston.
It's the first time in NBA history that each team won a road game by at least 29 points in the same playoff series.
Cleveland failed on almost every front. The Celtics shot 55 percent from the field and 53 percent from downtown while the Crabs were converting on only 41 percent of their field goal attempts. The home team gave up 24 points off 17 turnovers -- some of which were totally unforced -- and got outscored 44-30 in the paint. The Crabs were also outrebounded by 41-31 and couldn't even accumulate more fast break points than their aging opponents.
And even though they don't keep stats on hustle and desire, I'm here to tell you that Boston outperformed Cleveland in those areas too. By a lot. About the only thing that went right for the Crabs is that they didn't suffer a mass outbreak of crotch fungus. As far as I know.
Admittedly, it was a throwback night for Boston's Menage A Trois. Ray Allen was an all-you-can-eat deal at the Sizzler (25 points, 8-for-13, 6-for-9 from downtown), Paul Pierce returned from the playoff grave and almost finished with a triple double (21 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists) and Kevin Garnett added 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting. When all three of those guys have it going, the Celtics are still pretty tough to beat.
Of course, the Alpha and Omega of Cleveland's woes centered around...
LeBron James: The line: 15 points, 3-for-14 from the field, 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 turnovers, and a complete inability to take control of the game. This from the best basketball player in our plane of reality?
I believe Charles Barkley has something to say on the matter:
Reality check: When a straight shooter like Sir Charles compared you unfavorably to noted playoff chokers like Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing, you, sir, have just suffered an in-the-bed bowel release of glorious and epic proportions.
Can we just admit that this was the biggest game of LeBron's life to date? According to experts, fans and statistics, the gap between King Crab and everybody else has never been wider. His team has never been as talented as it is right now. There is absolutely no excuse for what's happening. The Crabs have been given the pimp hand and then some in their last two home games...despite being the best team in the league with the best player in the known universe.
Just for the hell of it, here's a detailed breakdown of LeBron's fail fest:
Not too long ago, I went on a mild but heartfelt rant abusing everybody who was rushing (yet again) to compare LeBron to MJ. My argument -- and, if you know me at all, this isn't a new one -- is that the numbers don't and cannot tell the whole story. There are aspects of the game that simply cannot be quantified. Determination, killer instinct, the near sociopathic desire to obliterate anyone standing in your way. In those areas, Michael Jordan had no peers. LeBron, for all his amazing talent and sheer physical ability, isn't there. Isn't even close, really.
He has his moments. Game 3 of this series was one of them. LeBron had a true "Kneel before Zod!" moment and destroyed the Celtics almost by himself. But that was one game. Win or lose, Jordan used to do that almost every game. MJ was terrifying. LeBron can be terrifying. There's a difference.
Said James: "Of course their defense had a lot to do with it, they were aggressive, but I missed a lot of shots I usually make. You don't see this out of me a lot, so when it happens it's a surprise. But they didn't guard me any differently."
So...the Celts' defense had a lot to do with it, but it didn't.
More LeBron: "I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have a bad game here or there, you've had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it's easy to point that out."
Wow. On a Douche Scale of 1 to 10, that quote ranks "Captain Douche 'Bags' McDouchebag of the Star Ship Douchebag." Approximately.
Still more crabby patties: "I put a lot of pressure on myself to be out there and be the best player on the court, and when I'm not I feel bad for myself because I'm not going out there and doing the things I can do. But I don't hang my head low or make any excuses about anything that may be going on, because that's not the type of player or person I am."
Puppets aside, let’s have a discussion about legacy. LeBron James's legacy.
It's taking a hit.
So we’re only seven years into his career, a relatively small sample size. But Tuesday’s flameout in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals – the franchise's worst home playoff loss in history -- should raise some red flags and force some tough questions. And this is the biggest one: Is he cut out for this yet?
Is James cut out to win when the stakes are at their highest? When will he be ready to truly assume his place among the game’s best, the kind of recognition that only championships can provide? I'm beginning to wonder. Winning in the playoffs is hard. But the great ones do it, and do it repeatedly against top-notch competition.
If James's Cleveland Cavaliers can't get past the aging Celtics, and they are hanging by a thread down 3-2 going into Thursday's Game 6 in Boston, this is what his last two seasons will look like: Two league MVP awards. Two years leading his team to the best record in the NBA. Zero trips to the NBA Finals. That doesn't compute.
No. It really doesn't. And the crowed booed. It actually booed. Whether the fans were booing the team in general or LeBron in particular isn't 100 percent clear, but it was still a surprising display by a nervous bunch that has been terrified about LeBron's impending free agency since last season.
This is what Cavs games will look like next
season if LeBron bolts this summer.
Do the people of Cleveland deserve this? Why does God hate Cleveland so much? Why?!
Two summers ago, [the Knicks] hired a guy whose whole job is basically to [get LeBron to New York]. His name is John Gabriel, and he invented the pull-out-all-the-stops, research-intensive approach to free-agent schmoozing when he was general manager in Orlando. Technically, his title is director of pro scouting and free agency, but it really should be "guy in charge of showering love on LeBron James."
Gabriel keeps detailed files on your likes, dislikes and habits. He's even been rehearsing for you. Remember last summer, when the Knicks were pursuing free agents Jason Kidd and Grant Hill? Those overtures, a Knicks insider told us, were just a recital for the performance you will get. The team never realistically considered signing either of them. When the Knicks dimmed the lights and announced Hill's name on the PA as he came out of the tunnel onto the court during his visit, they were really thinking of you. Gabriel is so good, the plan almost worked too well. Hill's agent told us that Hill gave the offer "very, very serious consideration."
Ah, the sweet smell of utter, helpless desperation. You know, I have a friend who once literally removed his underwear in the bathroom of a strip club and put them in the back seat of his friend's car so he could increase the potential for a "happy ending" during a lap dance...and even he's shaking his head at the Knicks right now.
Chicken feet: Mmm...just like mom used to make! God, I had a horrifying childhood.
Lacktion report: Today, chris provided an itty, bitty lacktivity update: Michael Finley made 1.1 trillion (1:05) for Doc Rivers, while JJ Hickson pinched out a pair of fouls in exactly 4 minutes for a +2 suck differential.