Archive for May, 2009

Recap: (6) Short.

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

 

Overview: With The Cavs having no answer for Dwight Howard or consistent flow on the offensive end, they were blown out in Game 6. The Season is over.

Bullets:

I started writing about basketball in November of 2007. I started my first blog in June of 2008. This blog was started in January of 2009. These are the hardest words I have ever had to write as a basketball writer.

This was our year. We won the most games. We had the best player. Orlando and Boston both had major injuries. You don’t get many years in the NBA. This was one of ours. And we lost. It still hasn’t sunk in for me yet, but it’s just so painful. The Cavs won’t get many more chances like this. 

So, what happened? Nobody thought we would lose this series. Nobody. Here are my thoughts, in order, although there’s really not much I can say right now.

Game 1 was our Waterloo. It was. We knew coming into the playoffs that our advantage was that we wouldn’t have to win a big game on the road so long as we stayed strong at home. We didn’t. LeBron had an incredible game. We could’ve won. We should’ve won. James gets an and-1 on Howard. Varejao bites on a down-fake and gives up a three. James gets doubled on the drive, gives it to Mo, swings it to Delonte, no basket. That’s a sequence that will play in my head over and over and over and over and over again for at least a year. Game 4 was winnable, too. But really, it’s the loss at home that was the cause of the Cavs’ demise. That’s the one to remember. 

A thought branching off of that: this team was good enough to win a championship. Absolutely. They couldv’e beat this team. Rashard Lewis misses one end-of game three, it’s headed to Cleveland for game 7. Rashard misses two end-of game threes, Cleveland wins. LeBron had the game-ender too, but I see that as more of an averted choke than a steal of a 50-50 game, but maybe I’m just a homer. In any case, you can’t afford to give a team this good two 50-50 games. Period. 

This was a tough matchup for this team. All the talk will be about what else the Cavs could’ve done offensively, with LeBron accounting for nearly half the offense and all, but the problem was the Cavs’ defense getting cracked. The Cavs had nobody to defend Dwight Howard, and that opened up this insane perimeter game. Everyone was ready to make the extra pass and the open shot, and that’s just ridiculously hard to defend when you have one guy who demands two defenders. 

And the Cavs couldn’t answer on their end. They’ve got one trancendent player, one 80th percentile scorer, one solid scorer, and grinders in the frontcourt. There was nobody other than LeBron ready to take the game, take the responsibility, be the man, make the defense react to them. 

As for this game, LeBron looked human. Dwight didn’t. He was so big, so strong, so fast. Even when the Cavs tried to double, he was into his move so quickly. He couldn’t be stopped. One good rotation from the Cavs and it was an open three. Four good rotations and there was still the extra pass and a good shot. This team simply cannot be defended without a post stopper. And the way this Cavs team is set up, they can’t out-score people. 

I don’t have much more to say, right now. This should be a magnum opus, but I don’t have one in me. We should’ve won. We were supposed to win. We didn’t. We couldn’t handle this team. They’re a great team, and play beautiful basketball. They cracked our defense, and our offense wasn’t good enough under pressure. Few are. 

I’ll have many off-season posts that deal with this, but for now I’m just out of gas. What a season. 66 wins, 8-0 in their first 8 playoff games, one of the greatest seasons ever, an MVP, so much attention for the first time. There’s at least one more go-round with LeBron and Co., and all signs point to many more. But you get so few years. So few. 

I don’t know what else to say. I want answers. I want vindication. I want validation. I want a smoke. I even want to see my ex again. I’m going to get none of those things. There will be lots of things said about this team. The trick is to not listen to them. This is a great player. This was a great team. They did great things. They brought so much joy. The memories they made will last forever. 

Last of all, I want to thank you guys. In one of the all-time phyrric victories, we crossed 100,000 total visitors today. That’s amazing. A 20-year old little kid getting that many people caring about what he says. You guys have been the best readers on the planet, and I appreciate it more than you know. Stick around for the off-season, and get ready for next year. It’ll be great. Until next season, guys. Peace.

-John Krolik

Game 6 Live-Blog Here At 8:30 PM ET

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

You guys know the deal by now-at 5:30, me and Zach McCann are going to live the blog on Game 6. Get excited and join us then.

Recap: (6) The Only Statement Is The State Of Being

Friday, May 29th, 2009

 

Overview: After getting and losing yet another gigantic early lead, this one by 22 points, the Cavaliers outlasted the Magic to stay alive due to an absolutely massive performance down the stretch from LeBron James. 

 

Bullets:

Well, the opening stretch was really good, but there was some Iron Sulfate going on there. The Cavs opened up 8-8 on shots outside of 15 feet, and the Magic started out 5-11, just to give you an idea. So the fact that we didn’t come close to sustaining that pace isn’t the biggest of surprises. 

Really, defense was the entire difference between the Jekyll-and-Hyde 1st and 2nd quarters. Early on, the Cavs were getting turnovers and pushing the ball, disrupting entry passes and not letting the Magic get into any sor of offensive motion, and pushing the break and not being afraid to step into jumpers on the other end of the floor. I’m not sure why all the press on this series seems to be about what’s happening on the Cavs end offensively-112 points with these two defenses should mean a BLOWOUT. 

And the Cavs were doing a lot of chasing in that second quarter. They still have nothing approaching an answer for Dwight Howard. Watching the game, I felt like we shut him down tonight. Box score: 24/10 on 8-10 from the field. He is just a freak and a monster, and I don’t see how to stop him without fouling him out. 

The Cavs went under a lot of screens and let Hedo get his instead of letting him initiate the offense and get everyone else involved, and he stepped back into 29 points on 66% TS, but ultimately only had 2 assists and was never able to get Rashard going on those 3/4 Screen-Rolls they love. It was a good strategy. I think. Although Hedo’s not quite at the level like Dwight is where you concede him his 25+ points. Anyways, we won.

Rafer Alston hit his first shot, and promptly missed his next 9, and enjoyed a game-low +/- of -20. The law of averages, she is a tricky mistress. 

Mickael Pietrus is just dangerous. Everyone, Cavs and Magic alike, are flat-out terrified of him whenever he steps out onto the court. Mickael, you have earned this video.

(In fact, does the Magic starting lineup fit as well as any into the Always Sunny role distribution for a gang of five? Dwight is the Muscle, Rashard is the Charm, Hedo is the brains, Rafer/Pietrus is Wild Card, and Courtney Lee is the useless rookie/perimeter defender. And by charm, I mean finesse player. And yet I digress.) 

Offensively, the Magic were not good tonight. This is the first time all series I’ve really felt like they were jacking up threes indiscriminately, and outside of Hedo and Dwight being beastly there were not a lot of good things happening. Not a lot of ball movement, only one pick per possession, and only 12 assists. I’d like to say that was our defense, but mostly it looks like impatience and frustration-the type of stuff that happens more often on the road. Gulp. 

Ben Wallace had no points and finished with a -19 in 16 minutes. Joe Smith needs his minutes. Like, right now. 

Mo Williams stepping up and drilling 6 absolutely huge threes. A few on the step-back, one huge one in the fourth off the back-screen corner dive the Cavs love and have gone away from, a few on ball movement, awesome. Absolutely huge contribution from him. Although he went 1-5 from two-point land, and needs to recognize that Dwight is too fast and long to give him space on his little pull-up behind a screen. 

Boobie Gibson with three huge threes, all off of penetration, all of them timely. Boobie, I have literally been waiting to use this picture since the day I started this site and have not had an appropriate opportunity. Tonight, you earned it. Also, I really want to use the picture. This shirt not available in stores.

Delonte West started out confident and making drives and using his quickness advantage to set himself up for mid-range jumpers, but lost some confidence in the second half and still can’t seem to find the touch on his corner threes. 

And now we have reached LeBron James. Holy Lord. I mean, he wasn’t really even feeling it all that much this game. It’s just talent and will. Zero returns to the post, very little of him off the ball, just him going to the hole or pulling up for a mid-range J and not letting the team lose. 

Where do you want to start? 37/14/12 against the best defense in the league? Are you joking me with that line? Is that real? Led the game in points, assists, rebounds, and offensive boards? Had as many assists AS THE MAGIC? (A note for those who think the Cavs were the team with stagnation problems in this game)

Scored or assisted on 61% of the team’s points. And the team scored 112 on the Magic. 

And with the team a quarter away from elimination, down four with :39 seconds left, the Cavs outscored the Magic by 14 with LeBron taking the ball at the top of the key and scoring or assisting on every Cavaliers basket. Step-back jumpers. Move after move to the basket. Ridiculous feeds. The whole thing. That’s absolutely unheard of. In an elimination game, in the conference finals, against the league’s best defense. That is absurd. There is no way that should work. It’s never worked before. But it worked tonight. 

The TNT guys were absolutely in awe. When Kenny asked  Charles Barkley, who’s only one of the best scorers of all time and loved the ball from the free-throw line extended for face-up drives, if he’d ever been leaned on like that, Charles looked at Kenny like he’d just asked him where Ernie could score some PCP. They said “eventually LeBron will get tired,” which to Magic fans must sound like someone telling Roy Schneider in Jaws “Well, eventually we figure he’ll get full.” 

It shouldn’t work. If Rashard Lewis missed one or two end-of-game threes, it would have. As it stands, it probably won’t. There’s been a valid question around the internet: why are we seeing so much of LeBron James’ face when his team is actually getting beat? In part, it’s because people paid a lot of money for ad packages before the series started and made a dire underestimation of the Magic. But a lot of it is because LeBron James is trying to beat a 58-win team with the best defensive player and team in the league by himself, and he somehow hasn’t missed doing it by that much. It is unprecedented for an elite team to rely on one player this much over the course of a 7-game series. 

And so now the Cavs go to Orlando, where they haven’t won all year, to try and bring the series back to Cleveland. One road win. It might not happen. But if it does, the light does begin to emerge. There’s a shot. Not a bad one. Let’s see if we can pull it off.

In Case you missed It: Game 5 Live Blog

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Me On The Radio, Me on The Live-Blog

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

 

Here’s Me On The NBA Today Podcast This Morning. It’s fun stuff, listen to it and be happy. 

And at 8:30 ET, we’re rocking the live-blog again, this time over at Zach McCann’s Place. Be there or be square. And we’re taking reader comments this time, so feel free and compelled to chime in and get famous. See you guys then.

Recap: (7) All of a sudden, A big number.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Overview: In a hard fought-game the whole way, the Cavs barely took it to overtime and got outplayed in the period, losing by two to the Magic. The Cavs need three wins in a row to stay alive. 

Bullets:

All bullets are in stream-of-consciousness order. 

I mean, I don’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to say four hours ago and I don’t know what to say now. This was a winnable game. A very winnable game. And the Cavs lost it. The second very winnable game they’ve lost in this series. And now it’s 3-1. We’re a second away from being swept in this series. Times are bleak. 

I guess we start with LeBron, right? That’s what we’re supposed to do? Because LeBron and Kobe are the only players that matter in this postseason? Because everything that happens in the conference finals is a function of them? 

LeBron was amazing, great, the best player in the planet. But he was very, very far from perfect. Oh so very far. 

Do you focus on what he gave you? The best post play of his career in a big game, 44/12/7 on 58% TS against the best defense in the league? A game-tying play with four seconds left to play? Almost every point in overtime? Two threes in the extra period, one of them of a ridiculous fashion to keep the team in the game? If you Believe, there’s plenty for you. But if you’re brainwashed, if you’re determined to find fault, if you need to buy into the idea that LeBron and Kobe is what’s being decided right now, if every play is revealing his character, there’s plenty for you guys, too. 

Turnovers, too many turnovers, down the stretch. Going for the dagger jumper on the final full Cavs possession. instead of driving and trying to put the game today. Missing one of two free throws the possession before. If Hedo takes the clock down on the final posession and makes a shot with time expiring, this is an unforgiveable choke. But he didn’t. And it wasn’t. Same game, different story. If he’d made that final ridiculous 35-footer, and it had a chance, he’s got. But he didn’t. And he’s not. This is LeBron. This is Water. This is Water. This is Water. Greatness, unbelievable greatness, unprecedented greatness, but there are questions. There will always be questions. There is an argument to be made, with facts, against LeBron. Glen Beck has enough facts to fill an hour a day with his arguments. It’ll still be wrong. But the argument exists. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to talk about the game, which is my job. 

The team got stagnant offensively in the 2nd half. For long stretches. I called it at halftime of the live-blog, and I hate being right. I rarely am, so it’s not something I deal with often. All the good things near the end of the first half-LeBron in the post, LeBron off the ball, Delonte making drives-are things that the team the team loses confidence in in the second half. And LeBron driving to the basket against a defense that knows he’s coming has worked in many a stretch run. But not against the best defensive team in the league. And when it wasn’t LeBron pounding, it was Mo dribbling in circles, or Wally or Andy forcing a shot, or Delonte forcing a shot. Miserable offense 1-5. Miserable, miserable, miserable. 

Real simple diagnosis: Here’s a ranking of who the best players on the floor were tonight:

1. LeBron

2. Dwight

3. Rafer

4. Hedo

5. Rashard

6. Pietrus

7. Delonte

We need somebody in spots 2-6. That’s just a fact. It’s just what needs to happen. 

Another thing: 6 threes from the Cavs. 4 by LeBron off the dribble. 2 by Boobie, one contested and one off the dribble. That’s zero sucessful drive-and-kicks. This is not how to crack that defense. Threes must be made. 

The non-LeBron unit: -8 in 4 minutes. 2-point loss. Terrible. 

Something my Dad told me a long time ago seems to ring true about the Magic team. My Dad had a friend who was in the military (disclaimer: SVG is right-basketball is not war. There are troops overseas risking their lives every day. This is a game. Important to rembember. But some principles ring true), and a guiding principle is that every soldier, no matter what the rank, should know the mission, and, at all times, should be qualified to make decisions when the chain of command breaks down. Every player on this Magic team is prepared to make the play, make the shot, at any time. Go under one screen, cut off one option, two options, and the man with the ball in his hands is ready to make the shot. The Cavs team is still looking for LeBron to provide guidance, to make the play. The Magic are functioning as a unit ready to take a good shot at any time, whenever it presents itself. That’s not risky basketball, live or die basketball. That’s how the game should be played. 5 players, all dangerous and waiting to make the play if it presents itself. 

Rafer Alston is the best example of this; the Cavs were sagging hard on Rashard and Hedo, going under Rafer and not helping off them in any circumstance. Rafer was ready to make the shots, and he did. Absolutely monstrous. That’s the play the defense allows, and the play that got made. You live with it, except now you’re down 1-3 and really not living with it.

What do you do against this offense? Tonight, they decided to cut off Hedo and Rashard and gave up looks to Dwight and Rafer. All night long, they made the plays. 3rd and 4th options ready to be 1st and 2nd options when the situation calls. 

A million little plays. LeBron misses a free throw down the stretch. Delonte slips running for a long rebound. Rashard hits a turnaround three. LeBron makes a turnover early in OT miscommunicating with Booibe. LeBron throws a fast-break pass to a Magic player. Boobie misses two open threes down the stretch. LeBron doesn’t get three free throws on an up-fake in OT, and Z gets a 2. Pietrus steps up and gets a three when the Cavs go under a double-screen in OT. Those are all more important than LeBron missing a 35-footer. 

On the final plays of the fourth quarter: LeBron drove hard. He didn’t really have a shot. He went down. He got the call. It’s not my job to discuss the refs. He got 2 points in 4 seconds. It was a good play. I’m just glad he made the free-throws. And Dwight didn’t get a call with contact under the basket. Not an automatic call. The game isn’t decided by message boards, it’s decided by the scoreboard. And both plays worked on the scoreboard. That’s all I can tell you. 

Delonte was agressive and did everything right except hit the threes off LeBron penetration that we needed to break this defense. 

Give Dwight Howard a lot of credit. Most big men go their entire careers, even Hall of Fame careers, without a clutch takeover like he had. There was no answer for him down the stretch, and he made the big free throws. The Cavs can’t guard him. This team, offensively, so dangerous. They’re like Lyoto Machida. They strike where you don’t expect it, and there’s no way to cover it all. The Cavs can play great defense for 4 rotations and still give up a good shot to the 4th option. 

Great job on the boards tonight from Cleveland. 

That’s all I can give you tonight. I’m sorry. I wish there was more. There’s just not. What I will say: Take care of business at home. Then, game 6, make that a must-win for Orlando. Sorry to be unladylike, but sphincters will tighten on Orlando’s side. This series is far from over. But it’s much further from being over on Cleveland’s side. We’re a second away from having been swept. But we’re alive. They still have to beat us, for 48 minutes, one more time. We won’t make it easy. I hope. 

You know what my friend’s girlfriend did to occupy her mind tonight during the game? She quilted. Equally silly, much less emotional pain. Go quilt. That’s as close I can come to giving comforting words.

Game 4 Live-Blog With Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The fun starts right here at 5:30, folks. Preview-wise, allow me to say in print and on record that Mo Williams has no business guaranteeing a victory. See you at 5:30, and feel free to use the comments as a preview chat. Joining me will be Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily, who will actually be live from press row in Orlando.

Recap: (7) At least it was recognizeable.

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

 

Overview: With the Cavaliers unable to make a jump shot or defend without fouling, the league’s two best defensive teams engaged in an ugly struggle that ultimately saw the Magic prevail.

 

Bullets: 

At least it was a return to the status quo. After playing the two games in Cleveland in the bizarro world: LeBron having a monster game and the Cavaliers losing, the Cavaliers unable to get stops, both teams scoring at will, Rashard and Hedo looking like Michael and Scottie, LeBron making a ridiculous three-point game-winner-the Cavs and Magic both played their games. 

Dwight was loose inside but wasn’t the monster that he was in game 1, getting loks inside and hitting the occasional hook but mostly overpowering his way into the paint and getting fouled and making a decent proportion of his free throws. 

The good news in this game: the diagnosis for why we lost is much easier for why we lost in game 1 and blew a huge lead in game 2. 

It’s pretty simple, folks: you’re not going to beat the best defensive team in the league if you’re not going to be able to make any jumpers. And this team simply could not make a jumper. The team went 5-26 from three-point range, and you have to remember that this is a drive-and-kick team. Mo couldn’t get it going, and he still hasn’t been a force in these playoffs. LeBron couldn’t hit a jumper, missing easy looks and settling for tough ones all too often from the perimeter. 

Only one field goal from Andy, who wasn’t making the good cuts, was comitting stupid turnovers offensively. And he kept himself off the floor with stupid foul after stupid foul on the defensive end. Z didn’t get established in the post and couldn’t hit a jumper. Delonte’s confidence came in spurts offensively and he comitted an uncharacteristic four turnovers. And 0 points from guards off the bench. 

This team was flat-out miserable offensively. The only thing that came close to an offensive strategy that worked was having LeBron barrel to the basket, bounce into Orlando defenders, and draw what were frankly questionable foul calls, finishing with 41 points but needing 40 attempts to get it. That’s not going to get it done against a defense this good. The backcourt had 9 turnovers against 6 assists and 9 fouls against 10 field goals. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. The team got outplayed tonight. In a way, it’s liberating. 

Defensively, the team did made the adjustments it needed to and kept Hedo and Rashard from killing them, but allowed the Magic to get deep way too much and couldn’t stay disciplined on the perimeter, putting the Magic into the bonus early and often. The Magic shot 51 free throws in this game. I don’t remember arguing one foul with passion. And I remember shrugging my shoulders and laughing on quite a few of the calls that gave us our 35 free throws. 

So the good news is that none of these problems are unsolveable. The bad news is that they’re the kind of problems that come from playing on the road. Role players missing shots and losing confidence offensively, role players getting frustrated and making stupid plays defensively. There’s a reason that 14 of this team’s 15 (legitimate) losses in the regular season came on the road, and those are pretty much the reasons. 

But the Cavs already gave away a game at home, and nearly gave away two. So they need to break the staus quo at least once in this series if they want to go to the finals. They’ve got a chance on Tuesday. Hopefully they can right the ship, but the fact is this team has been outplayed in all three games. All they really want is the split of these two, and they’ve got more than a decent chance. But the problem with giving away games is that acceptable losses like this one just aren’t all that acceptable anymore.

Recap (7): One Second, One Season

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

 

Overview: Once again, this game defies overview. Instead, we give you three recaps for the three parts of this game:

 

Act 1, Beginning of the Game to 7:11 in the Second Quarter-Cavaliers look dominant.

The Cavaliers came out looking absolutely fantastic, like they wanted to get this game out of the way with nothing in the way of muss or fuss and go do the real work in Orlando. Offensively, they were getting out on the break at every opportunity, establishing Z in the post early, Delonte was making tough drives on his man to stop Orlando from being able to zone up on LeBron, LeBron was taking it to the hole early and often and looked like he didn’t want to settle for a single thing, the ball was moving and everyone was playing off of each other, and the Cavaliers got a 30-point quarter on the best defensive team in basketball.

The defense was even more impressive-the Cavs stopped being deathly afraid of three-pointers and giving good, strong double-teams on Howard and then rotating hard and smart to the three-point shooters, never letting Rashard or Hedo establish themselves off the dribble, and making great recoveries to prevent easy layups when penetration ocurred. Hedo and Rashard had absolutely nothing going, and the Cavs were cruising.

The bench even put together a great run to start the second quarter; Pavs had some beautiful drives to the basket, everyone was going tough to the hole and drawing fouls instead of settling for jumpers, and Joe Smith hit a three. LeBron resting, Cavs up 23, crowd insane, series tied. Right? Wrong.

Act 2, 7:11 Q2 to 6:14 Q4: The Cavaliers Collapse  

From here, everything got bad. Dwight was never really a factor offensively (intruiguing), but Rashard sure as hell got going. And the Cavs just could not defend without fouling. The breakdown was defensive, no doubt about that; it seemed like we were always chasing somebody, and open looks kept on manifesting themselves. Offensively, it was pretty much LeBron doing all the work and driving the lane time after time again; there just weren’t people stepping up to make the big shots, the floor kept on getting smaller and smaller, and turnovers were happening and the defense was just not able to get set and lock in at any point. Hopefully the pendulum swings the other way in Orlando, but this is just a freaking dangerous offensive team, and we need to figure out a better way to deal with them. Hedo is just so good at worming his way into the lane, and Rashard never stops moving and just doesn’t miss those open shots. It happened slowly, with a three coming off a Cavs basket or a Cavs turnover leading to free throws, but the Magic crawled all the way back to make it a tie.

Act 3, 6:14 Q4 to 0:01 Q4: The Stretch Run

LeBron made a layup to tie the game with 6:14 to go-those were his last points until the final second. Offensively from there, the Cavs went to LeBron going to the lane on pretty much every play, and the Magic were sitting and waiting, clogging the lane and forcing the kick-0ut. Mo and Zydrunas made two HUGE jumpers here to put the Cavaliers up by three each time, and for a second it looked like we were going to escape after all. But then Mo missed the single easiest look of his career (HE WAS ABLE TO SEAM UP THE BALL), Pietrus and Mo traded layups, and the Cavs, with a possession that could have put the game away, had LeBron get fouled on an attempted back-door lob and get stuffed on the drive.

Then Big Ben got absolutely lost on a screen and allowed Hedo a practice three to tie the game, and LeBron took about 11 steps, and the Magic had it with 34 seconds left, and Pavs gave a cheap foul on the perimeter to give them the last shot. Hedo made a tough runner in the lane with a second left. Game over. Cavs collapse. Season on the ropes. LeBron’s last shot was a travel.

Encore: 0:01 seconds left.

There was no rhyme or reason to the final play. On Wednesday, LeBron James had the best playoff game of his career. Not only was he driving the hole, he brought out the post-up moves and couldn’t miss a jumper. He was making every play down the stretch and sealed it with a beautiful and-1 drive that saw the league’s MVP and DPOY meet each other at the rim and the MVP come up bigger. Then Varejao didn’t keep his hands up in a no-three situation, Gortat came on a smart double, Delonte missed an open short-corner three, and the coronation was over.

On Friday, the funeral was a second away. The Cavs had blown the biggest lead of the playoffs, and were about to lose two in a row on their supposedly infallible home floor. LeBron’s lack of a reliable jumper had been exposed down the stretch when he was forced to drive into a waiting defense and got absolutely stuffed, and then, with the season on the line, he did, of all things, travel. (Even worse than the crab-dribble; LeBron took about 7 steps. That was less a walk than a hike.)

If Hedo Turkoglu takes literally one second longer to make his move, King James’ coronation takes another year, at least. But he didn’t. And Hedo bit down to cover the possible lob instead of preventing a run-out to the three-point line at all costs. And LeBron hadn’t made a three all night. For that matter, he’d only made two jumpers. And he’d only made one buzzer-beater in his career.  And never in the playoffs. And never from three. None of that mattered when the ball went through the net and landed. Lights on. Wrist extended. Game over. Series tied. Season Alive. 

Greatness , even superlative greatness, without perfection is the reality that we’ve all been forced to confront since Jordan left. Ever since the Bulls won six straight tiltles whenever #23 played a full season on their side, we’ve been searching for someone to take that mantle, to be infallible when it matters most. We’re still looking. Nothing is black or white, not even in this series. LeBron is one three away from being the undisputed hero of the playoffs and another away from being the biggest goat. As Wednesday shows, no one game can be perfect, even if it’s one of the best ones you’ve ever seen. 

On Friday, Cavalier fans finally understood the magic of the last-second shot, how it can have even more meaning than a 49-point game or 29 points down the stretch in a row or an And-1 with 30 seconds left that should seal the game. There are no perfect games. But there are perfect shots, perfect moments. On Wednesday, LeBron James had the best game, overall, of his postseason career. On Friday, he made the best play of his career. One was great; the other perfect. And it’s perfect that can finally make questions so away, if only for 48 hours.

A chat with Ben Q. Rock of Third Quarter Collapse

Thursday, May 21st, 2009