I have a few thoughts on the game as well as the situation in which the Cavs and LeBron find themselves but they're quite a mess and often contradictory.
On the surface, I'm pissed off. The entire team didn't bring their A-game (or B-game or C-game) and LeBron's effort (or lack thereof) really stood out. I'm also sad and quite disappointed that LeBron's last game in the city Cleveland was a 30 point blowout where he was outscored by four of Boston's five starters. It's one thing to lose a playoff game at home, but at least go down swinging (at the very least could you seem pissed off or concerned in your post game remarks? At least act like you're mad you lost).
However, I'm also glad. Yes, glad I say. I nearly paid $150 for a ticket to Game 5, but passed because I really couldn't afford it. *Whew* Good call, right? Man, if I would've paid $150 for the pleasure of watching them lose to the Boston Celtics by 30 points, I don't know what I would've done, but it probably would've involved some type of murderous rampage.
I heartily endorse this open letter from Brendan Bowers of Stephien Rules:
After the Heat won that title, and they argued Dwayne Wade was better than you, it used to make me angry. When they said you couldn't win the big one after that team of stiffs you took to the finals got swept by the Spurs, the ignorance of that comment made me laugh at the time. When you went for 40+ in game seven at Boston, and the Cavs fell short, I looked towards the airballs hoisted by Wally Szcerbiak and asked how much more you could do on your own. And last season, after your squad won 66 regular season games only to fall to the Magic in the ECF, I argued in hindsight that Orlando was a mismatch. But now, tonight, in a game where a statement from you was paramount, you might as well have been sitting next to your agent and Coach Calapari because you didn't even show up on the floor. This one tonight LeBron - a game 5 at home you had to have where instead you allowed your team to be blown off the court by 32 - this one is totally and completely on you. You might have one of the best marketing teams in the world 'Bron 'Bron, but not even they can spin this any other way...failing to compete or provide effort in arguably the most critical playoff game of your team's franchise history is now a part of your legacy. And whether you care or not, that's something you'll be taking with you wherever it is you end up going from here on out.
(read the whole thing).
Is it overstating things to lay this loss at LeBron's feet? Maybe, I mean, it's not like any other Cavalier looked comfortable against Boston's defense. But here's LeBron's final stat line: 15 points (3-14 FG, 9-12 FT), 6 rebounds, 7 assists and a +/- of -22. LeBron's didn't make his first basket until halfway through the third period (on a leak out/cherry pick) and he finished 1-12 on jumpshots (0-4 from behind the arc). My buddy (who did spend the $150 to see them lose by 30) sent me this text at 8:35: PM "3:37 in the first LeBron has yet to shoot... Are we concerned? Yes."
Bitch about the coaching or the other Cavaliers. Fine. But no one forced LeBron to play passive and settle for jumpers. Yea, you don't always make every shot, but LeBron shouldn't have only 6 shot attempts midway through the third period. That's all heart and desire. And that's all on LeBron. (Remember this summer when LeBron worked on his post moves? Good times).
But really, no one on the Cavaliers played well. Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison each finished with 9 points and continued to get abused by their Boston counterparts (16 points, 2 boards and 7 assists for Rondo and 18 points, 6 boards from KG). Anthony Parker finished with 14 points but was forced to do too much (he should never be driving to create a shot with the shot clock running down) and Shaq finished with a very empty 21 and 5. Off the bench, Delonte had a bad game, Varejao was only mildly effective and J.J. Hickson and Jamario Moon combined for 11 minutes.
The only Cavalier who played like he gave a damn was Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Big Z (in what could've been his last game in Cleveland) came off the bench and scored 5 points (2-3 FG) to go along with 3 boards and 4 blocks. He hit his first jumper and converted a 3-point play at the end of the half to cut Boston's 9 point lead to six (50-44). In the second half, Coach Mike was grasping at straws and gave Boobie some run, hoping to find another spark but with little results.
However, at the end of the day, it still comes down to LeBron. He's the MVP, he's the Chosen One, he's the straw that stirs the drink that is the Cavaliers and he laid an egg in their biggest game of the season. Am I defending the other guys? Of course not. But as both Brian Spaeth and Bowers said, it wasn't like Michael Jordan started games looking to set up Horace Grant or tried to get Craig Hodges going. He dominated and the other guys followed suit. Even now, this series is still there for the taking but only if LeBron goes out and actually takes it.
I just don't know how badly he wants it.
(This is why I've spent the last 5 years bitching about LeBron's penchant for dagger threes, wasting the shot clock and complaining about lack of post moves. LeBron kept trying to hit that big trey to get the Cavs back into the game, but it never materialized. Hitting a step-back, fade-away trey looks badass when it goes in, but I'm pretty Doc Rivers and company will live with the results. When you wait to make your move until there's 6 seconds left in the shot clock, you've then put pressure on yourself to execute perfectly. If the ball gets tipped or you slip or whatever (not out of the question, Boston does have a good defense), you're now throwing up a bad shot to simply beat the clock (which you chose to waste). Did James ever once post up Ray Allen or Paul Pierce? Of course not).
The specter of LeBron's pending free agency hung over the entire arena like a guillotine on Tuesday night. With the Cavs heading back to Boston down 3-2, it's entirely possible that this was LeBron's last game at The Q. I've always said that I think LeBron will stay but if they bow out in the 2nd round with only two wins, all bets are off. I'm not going to say he had one foot out the door or anything like that, but I'm a little concerned that LeBron's only good game of the series came in front of Jay-Z and Beyonce in Game 3.
Maybe if the Cavs lose, LeBron is out the door. I won't say good riddance or anything like that; LeBron James is certainly the best thing to happen to the Cavaliers in their 40 year history. But I hope he's aware that Game 5 stays on his permanent record. If he bolts (effectively killing basketball in Cleveland, by the way) for a bigger market, this stink bomb will be his lasting legacy in his home town. LeBron has the skill set to be one of the all-time greats but he's not guaranteed anything, let alone multiple titles.
LeBron and the Cavaliers haven't figured out how to win as the favorite. They've played great when they've been overmatched with nothing to lose (like against Detroit in '06 and '07 and Boston in '08) but thus far have stumbled to play well with title expectations. (One of my issues with Coach Brown is that the Cavs don't have they're own style. Everyone loved Cleveland's depth because it allowed them to play any style they needed. They could go big, they could go small, they could speed up the game or slow it down. They could match up with anybody! But what's their best lineup? Why do they always have to be the ones adapting to the other team? You're the 60 win team, force opponents to play the way you want to play).
Winning is a skill that you have to learn. You can't take plays off, you can't let teams stick around and you can't give away games. LeBron and the Cavs do all these things, regularly. They gave away both Game 2 and Game 4 with bad turnovers and poor execution, but seemed unconcerned because they were only tied 2-2. At the start of Game 5, neither Paul Pierce (21 points, 11 rebounds) or Ray Allen (25 points) had played a great game. How long was that going to continue? These guys have won a title before and letting them hang around is playing with fire.
All that being said, despite the dire attitude, this series isn't over yet. Yes, the Cavs have put themselves in a horrendous position, having to win Game 6 on the road simply to force Game 7, but it's not impossible. It's entirely possible that the Cavs will win this series. I'm going to be interested to see how LeBron responds to the criticism he's going to receive over the next two days.
I wonder if Bill Simmons would say that Cleveland fans are at rock bottom:
You will have to be stripped of any and all hope, and then -- and only then -- will you see a light. That's the way these things work. When the Red Sox won those eight straight games in October '04, the beautiful thing was that streak went against everything I ever believed in. It was so improbable, and so ridiculous, that it somehow made sense.
Absolutely. If we are going to shed our baggage, it has to happen in exactly this way ... this ludicrous, preposterous way. And it's the only way.
The Cavs are down 3-2 and heading back to Boston is what could be LeBron's walk year. The Cavaliers look disinterested, Mike Brown looks lost, LeBron just mailed in a critical Game 5 all while Boston looks like they smell blood.It's not over. They've dug themselves a pretty deep hole but they're not dead yet. LeBron still has a chance for a rebuttal.
Win-or-Go-Home. Let's see what ya got, Bron-Bron.