Overview: Too painful to do.
I wanted it all to stop. For 8 days, all we’ve been hearing about is how great this team is, how LeBron’s coming up against Jordan, how the argument for best player alive is over, how the Cavs have a yellow-brick road to the finals and the championship. And it was too soon. All it does is make this more painful. I love it, but only after we’ve won a ring.
Of all the painful things in this game, the worst by far is this feeling: it doesn’t count. LeBron James, the best player alive and our savior, had what may well have been the best game of his career. I will go there. It’s not just that he posted a playoff-career high 49 points on a ridiculous 70% shooting percentage against the league’s best defense in the regular season, with 6 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals, and three crushing blocks to go along with it. It’s the way he did it. His bread-and-butter drives to the rim weren’t even there in the first half. There were beautiful post-ups. Open threes over an unsuspecting defense. Getting out on the break. Breaking down the high double-traps early with beautiful passes to find cutters. That stretch in the 2nd and 3rd quarters where he simply could not miss a midrange jumper. If the Cavs could’ve pulled this one out, we’d get to mythologize this game and salivate over what we just saw for the next full day, and this would’ve gone into the record books as one of the truly amazing games of his career, which is to say one of the most amazing games of any career.
But history is the propaganda of the victors, and the fact the Cavs came up one measly point short means this is a game that should be forgotten. Anderson Varejao bites on a rocker-step fake from Rashard Lewis and gives up a three-pointer on a man he was in position to run off of the three, and Delonte West misses an open look from the short-corner, and all of a sudden we’re forced to somehow find fault, to look at those three free throws LeBron missed in the fourth, to say that he maybe should’ve pulled up for the jumper instead of letting the double-team come and letting the ball get forced from his hands. It’s not fair. But that’s basketball, and life. This is one of the best games I’ve ever seen played by an individual. But for all history cares, he might’ve well gone 0-30. Part of me wishes he had.
If we’d won, I’d probably do a full breakdown of just how amazing LeBron was in this game. But it just all feels like a moot point. Let’s talk about everything else.
Good things: Andy Varejao. Having him make those back-cuts was a great way to break down Dwight cheating onto LeBron and forcing him to stay out of the paint, and it really helped that first-quarter run.
The big culprit in this game was Delonte and Mo just not making those open shots. Mo was 1-7 on threes that weren’t 75-foot buzzer-beaters (how big did those three points end up being?), and those are shots you just have to make. Delonte wasn’t much better, going 3-8 from three and only 1-5 from two-point range. We need backcourt scoring to win if it’s going to be an offensive game. It’s that simple.
Defensively, we were just not sharp. I’m fine with what happened in the first half, with the Cavs shutting down the three and letting Dwight get his in single-coverage situations. But in the second, penetration started happening, we didn’t get a hand in the face on every three, and guys got free for open looks. You can bet that MB is going to be harping defense all day tomorrow. We fouled too much and put them on the line.
Just by the way, Third Quarter Collapse my ass.
This is where I’m supposed to be calming about what this all means, because it’s only the first game and all. This one is bad. It’s about as bad as a first game gets. We’ve lost some of our swagger at home. Game 2 almost becomes must-win. In close games, you either get it or you don’t. We didn’t tonight, and we’ve lost a 50-50 game. We now have to beat an elite team on the road, something we haven’t shown we can do. We wasted an absolutely phenominal performance from LeBron James. But you should be able to win on the road if you’re a championship team, and some things will even out; you can’t count on LeBron (or anybody) being that good for the rest of the series, but Mo and Delonte should get better and Rashard and Dwight should lose some of their fire.
Really, it’s more important to chill out on a Macro level. In the fourth quarter, I was literally in physical pain. My heart rate was so bad I thought I was going into cardiac arrest. I was audibly hyperventilating. Even before the game was over, I was thinking: I’m not sure that I can do this anymore. This hurts. Bad. Some of it is “playoff basketball” and the fun of sports, but this just isn’t healthy. This team can lose. They are humans. They could well win on the road.
According to the comprehensive source Two for the Money, gambling addicts keep gambling because they need to feel that they’re still alive after they’ve lost all their money. On a much smaller scale, that’s the only thing approaching a positive I can take away from this. We lost. At home. In a close game. With LeBron rolling. But we’re only down a game. And there’s still a lot of series left. And my life is, if I can chill for a second and try and get out of my own head for a second, relatively the same as it would be if Delonte had made that shot. It sucks because this team especially, and LeBron, feels like we need validation, a championship on a macro level to bless the team and all it’s fans faith as worthy and a win tonight for LeBron’s performance to be truly great. But the true fans know both things are true regardless, and…God, I just want to win on Friday and for it to happen right now.