Thursday, May 31, 2007
We Watched LeBron Grow Tonight
I realize there will be countless blogs clamoring about LeBron's pantheon performance tonight, and a 48-9-7 in two overtimes on the road rightfully should. Scoring 29 of your team's last 30 points in an all-but-series-deciding Game 5 tends to warrant web rarities like the eleventh-hour post from Deadspin. It was the type of sports moment you call your friends about. I don't think I've had one of those (in basketball, at least) since Durant's 37-25 at Texas Tech in February. I consider myself a pretty moderate Pistons fan, and I was rooting for the Cavaliers to notch the win just for NBA history's sake. The Eastern Conference is ailing right now, and it certainly doesn't help matters that most of the memorable games this 2007 playoffs have occurred past midnight in the eastern time zone. Here are a few of my takes on this year's version of the 2006 Mavs at Spurs Game 7.
No, I'm not ready to crown 'Bron just yet. I believe the Cavs will win Game 6 at home; I don't think I've ever seen such frustrated body language from Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups everytime 'Bron finished in the paint. Flip Saunders clearly decided to stick Tayshaun or Billups one-on-one from 25 feet, and if James passed that first line of defense, have the Wallace/Maxiell/Dale Davis/Webber combo step in from six feet. See, Detroit's biggest problem right now is that no one save Tayshaun is willing to step in and take the offensive foul when James hits that fifth gear. And who'd want to step in front of a 6'8", 250 lb. train? By using Tayshaun's arms to "contain" LeBron around the three-point line to force him into jumpers, they effectively gave James anything from twelve feet in. I don't think he even pulled up for a midrange jumper but once or twice in those final 25 straight points.
The most memorable thing I'll take from tonight is looking into LeBron's eyes (no homo) after that game-tying drive-and-dunk with 0:09 on the clock. Sure, the Trust me. It's an And One. was almost equally memorable, but, at that point, it became clear that LeBron James is going to win an NBA title. Several. Probably with this team. He cares. The last time LeBron was in San Antonio (November 3), he dropped a 35-10-4 in an 88-81 win. Sure, it was the second game of the season. But all year, he's made his teammates better and, more importantly, prepared for these crunch-time moments. Just keep me in the game until the fourth. It's almost as if he really only needed one meaningful playoff appearance to mature enough. Daniel Gibson? Ilgauskas? Varejao? Pavlovic? I'm probably not even spelling these correctly. And I'm penciling them in for two wins in the NBA Finals? You bet.