Monday, May 28, 2007

LeBron Has Me Getting Waaaay Ahead of Myself.

Without a doubt, we just witnessed the finest post season performance of young LBJ's career. Better than the debut trip-dub, better than the Washington buzzer-beaters, better than that three-game stretch against Detroit last year.

"Finally" isn't the right word, but it is the first word that comes to mind.

Bron in the fourth quarter was remarkable. Dunking on people, pull ups, step back threes. Did you expect all those shots - the jumpers, not the assaults on the rim - to go in? All of them? Even the step back? The pull up over Rip? You're a better man than me if your faith never wavered.

I know he has hit buzzer beaters in the playoffs before, but those were all around the rim. Hitting game-winning J's (or game-clinching, I should say) is on an entirely different level.

And the way he clutched up, pushing that two point lead to four, for all intents and purposes icing the game? That was an incredible shot: he had his entire body facing the corner, keeping he help defender still by hinting that he was going to pass (to the same spot that he hit Donyell Marshall in Game 1; maybe a subtle "screw you" to anyone who criticized that decision?) and then turned his body, as he was rising, toward the rim. Pure.

LeBron has insisted that it is going to take a team effort to compete with Detroit, and he's right, but even more than that, it is going to take performances like that. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled, geeked, pumped, excited, anxious I am the he has seemingly managed to find the middle ground between pure scorer and "just" table-setter. 32-9-9? Assuming the defensive effort stays constant, that is almost a guaranteed win (well, at least at the Q....I am aware that I may be getting a bit ahead of myself here; can't help it.)

After the game, Craig Sager asked if this was going to be the LeBron we see for the rest of the playoffs, and he gave about a 30-second answer, but I didn't hear anything he said after "yes" because I was running around the room, pumping my fist like amateur Tiger Woods.

It was more the way he did it than just that he did it. In Games 1 and 2, he fed his teammates early (and late) and then tried to play off them. He just can't do that; his supporting cast, God bless them, just doesn't have it in them. Game 3 was a 180: he dominated early and often and that opened everything up for everyone else.

(I can't believe I have written six paragraphs and I haven't screamed "BOOBIE!" yet. Unacceptable. Two HUGE threes. Cleveland's two most pressing needs are a shooter and a point guard. Did they find both? Good God, I really am getting ahead of myself. I'll try to reign it in.)

But back to LeBron - as much as he wants this series to be about the Cleveland Cavaliers, it will always be LeBron vs. Detroit. Anyone wearing a Cleveland jersey without a 23 on it might as well have "Extra" stitched above the number. The thing I was most unsure about - not scared, I guess, but unsure - was whether he was deferring to his teammates, both in the final seconds and throughout the game, because he was unwilling to stand in the spotlight by himself or because he truly believe in his teammates.

I think I have my answer. Did he looked even the littlest bit hesitant? That was a clutch performance, to be sure, but that was a
veteran performance. Moving teammates and defenders around like chess pieces and then taking over when it was needed. Game 4 can't come soon enough. The Cavs are pulling this shit off.

Maybe finally is the right word.

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