I’m not gonna say it’s impossible. Once upon a time, I watched Buster Douglas knock out Mike Tyson in his prime. I saw the ’95 Mariners damn near make it to the World Series. I remember Mankind surviving the Corporate Ministry and beating The Rock for the WWF belt. You all heard KG: Anything is possibuuuuullll.
That said, it’s looking grim for the Cavs trying to make it out of this 3-1 series hole to the Magic. And if/when Cleveland does take that fourth L, there’s one thing that I know will definitely happen in some circles that really needs to NOT happen:
Nobody had better blame LeBron James.
I know it may be fun for the psycho Kobe Cult members and everyone else who’s grown sick of the mainstream media’s season-long servicing of LeBron to see his team make an earlier-than-expected playoff exit. And it might make sense for them to blame LeBron, who is, after all, Cleveland’s alpha and omega.
But if we’re being realistic, there’s no way ‘Bron should take the fall for this one, and even the biggest LBJ-hater should know better. Going into tonight’s Game 5, LeBron is averaging 42.3 points, 7.3 boards and 7.3 assists against Orlando while shooting 50.9 percent from the floor. He hit the game-winner in Game 2; he was the sole reason the Cavs even had a chance in Games 1 and 4; and he kept them within striking distance in the fourth quarter of Game 3. And did I mention he’s averaging FORTY-TWO EFFIN’ POINTS?
While the “His teammates didn’t step up” company line might sound like just another media excuse to absolve LeBron of any criticism (especially considering those same teammates helped ‘Bron win 66 games in the regular season and rip through the first two rounds of the postseason), it’s nonetheless 100 percent accurate. I’m not saying ‘Bron has been perfect in this series — he was turnover-prone late in Game 4, and he’s missed some big free throws here and there — but, damn, what else can he do? If Mo, Delonte and Boobie aren’t hitting open shots, how long is LeBron supposed to keep passing to them? If guys aren’t moving on offense, how long is LeBron supposed to stand next to them before he just attacks the basket himself?
By now it’s obvious the Cavs don’t match up well with Orlando. Their small backcourt has trouble dealing with the physicality of Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus. Their plodding forwards are getting stretched out by Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Their no-vertical-having center and his creaky feet are trying to hang with the most athletic center the game has ever seen. Cleveland’s biggest advantage is LeBron, and he’s more than done his job. If it was Kobe dropping 42-7-7 or Chris Paul getting 30 points and 13 dimes a night with their teams down 3-1, nobody would be placing any blame at their feet.
The difference? LeBron is just coming into that stage of his career where everybody not only expects the world from him, they aren’t satisfied if he only gives them 90 percent of the solar system. The same critics who will get on Vince Carter for “settling for jumpers” also say LeBron isn’t taking enough jumpers. The same critics who get on Joe Johnson for not being selfish enough also say LeBron needs to pass the ball more.
Sometimes you just can’t win. LeBron knows that, and those who defend him against overzealous nit-pickers know that. But if LeBron ends up taking the hit for losing this series, where he’s dominated about as much as one man can dominate a five-man sport, that lesson will never ring more true.