Monday, May 21, 2007

Start Your Engines ...

The NBA pundits get to start in on their favorite pastime after tonight's game ... LeBron bashing.

I swear, nobody takes more crap than LeBron when he doesn't play perfectly, and since he played far from perfectly tonight, he's about to get slammed. I expect to hear complaints that he didn't:

- Take the final shot
- Get to the free throw line
- Take over the game
- Snatch every Detroit shot out of midair
- Fly out of the building like Chazz Michael Michaels in Blades of Glory

I watched Jason Kidd play a game earlier this postseason where he remained patient until the very end, shot a terrible percentage against a double-teaming defense geared exclusively to stop him, scrapped and clawed on defense, and continually made passes to get his teammates good shots ... and the media nearly erected a statue on the spot in his honor. Tonight LeBron did pretty much the exact same thing and is about to get ripped to shreds.

Obviously, Kidd and LeBron are not the same player. The Cavs rely more on James as a finisher and need his points. That said, I thought he played pretty well tonight. In fact, I really don't have any complaints. He didn't take the final shot because he got a WIDE OPEN three for Donyell Marshall to win the game. That is exactly what you want in an atrocious road game; a chance to throw one in at the buzzer and get the hell out of there. Marshall had just drained six threes in the previous game and was only in the lineup (and is only in the league, really) because he is supposed to be able to make that shot. As Steve Kerr said, you can't argue with that shot. But that won't stop thousands of people from doing just that.

[Update: I don't think I made myself clear enough here. Obviously, the replays seem to indicate that LeBron had a possible play at the rim, but assuming a dunk or layup ignores two key factors: A) That he would get a call in the event of a foul, and B) that the Cavs would be happy going to OT. Speaking to the former, why on earth would LeBron be confident about getting a call? If anything, he was assuming there were no fouls at that point. Why risk getting mugged with no call when you can get a wide open shot for a teammate? Nevermind that LeBron isn't exactly the most gifted free throw shooter. In regard to the second point, it is an old adage that you play for the tie at home and for the win on the road. If LeBron dunks and ties the game, there is no way Cleveland wins in overtime. He made the right play and I can't be convinced otherwise, unless someone among us is like Desmond from Lost and can see into the future and is therefore positive that James made the basket, got a foul call, AND made the free throw. If someone is sure of all that, then I will concede that he should not have passed.]

As for the free throw shooting, it always cracks me up when that is used as a criticism of a player, as if they have any control over it. LeBron usually gets a lot of calls and that is part of the reason he averages 11 free three attempts per game in the playoffs (as we were told ad nauseam). But tonight he got no calls. He made one bank shot while wearing Rip Hamilton as a wrist band. One one play he pumped Prince into the air and got jumped on with no call. There were two or three drives where he just got hammered. What exactly is he supposed to do about that? The refs were swallowing their whistles tonight on both ends, so James adjusted, drew out the double teams, and tried to open up easy shots for his teammates. I thought he was successful in doing so. 9 assists against 2 turnovers is pretty solid. Plus, that was probably the best defensive game I've seen him play.

If you want to blame someone for the Cleveland loss, blame someone else. Seriously, take your pick. Mike Brown should have had James in the post or slashing on the wing rather than serving as the player/coach at the top of the key. Eric Snow should be better at shooting layups (as well as every other basketball skill). Larry Hughes should stop shaving points. Honestly, this Cleveland teams sucks. Don't blame LeBron for not being able to turn water into wine. He was being guarded by the whole Pistons team on a night when there were no calls to be had. I'd say his options were pretty limited.

Hopefully in between games he will work on his "jump from half court and dunk on the Detroit roster" move or maybe perfect those 75-foot turnarounds from the old Powerade commercials. Because he needs to take over the game, damn it. No excuses.

(By the way, we totally didn't need the Suns, Warriors, or Bulls to stay in the playoffs; the remaining four teams are so fun to watch.)


Anonymous said...

(By the way, we totally didn't need the Suns, Warriors, or Bulls to stay in the playoffs; the remaining four teams are so fun to watch.)

I literally laughed out loud when I read this. I couldn't agree more.

The NBA needs to wake up and start calling fair games. If they did, maybe the Suns would still be in it. Hell, I'm sure they would be. They could've won game 5 and likely would've won game 3, where Amare had horrible fouls called against him. He played 20 minutes and got 21 points. If he had been in another 10 minutes, God only knows what he could've done. And of course I wouldn't complain about the refs if they called it both ways, but when Duncan gets called when a player breathes on him and Nash can get hammered and they pretend its clean, there's something wrong.

Rick said...

Nash is my favorite player to watch anonymous, but how about a little balance. He sold the knee and the bodycheck incidents so hard it was laughable. I won't praise his acting ability because it's not that good. He tries though. And that utterly evil open court trip. My goodness. The chipiness went both ways. He should have been suspended for that trip.

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