There are two ways you can interpret the Cleveland Cavaliers’ completing their defense of their home court in Games 3 and 4, including Monday’s 111-102 win to draw the series level at two games apiece.
Either the Celtics, who have been outstanding at home but utterly putrid on the road in these playoffs (they are now just 1-6 away from Boston in the postseason while they’re 9-0 at home), are headed toward a seven-game series win in which the home team wins all seven games, and therefore there is no reason to panic or even to find anything we’ve seen so far in this series the slightest bit unusual…
…or LeBron James has “figured out the Celtics” and it’s going to be Cavs in 6 after Cleveland steals one in Boston in Game 5, in the process handing the Celtics their first defeat in a series in franchise history after they’ve gone up 2-0 to start the series out, something the Celtics have turned into victory 37 times before.
Or you could really glass-half-empty the situation for the Cavs and point out that the Celtics shot 41.2 percent from the field, 32.1 percent from three, and Scott Foster was the referee…and the Cavs still only won by nine.
But then again, LeBron James seems hell bent on passing Michael Jordan and Jerry West, who jointly hold the record for most 40-point games in a single postseason; West had eight in 1969 and Jordan had eight of his own 20 years later.
LeBron, who scored 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting in a game he was hell bent on winning by himself because wouldn’t you in his position given his SNL joke of a supporting cast, was a big factor in that once again.
Blaming the referees is a bit disingenuous; they were equal opportunity whistle-happy incompetents in this one, as the Celtics shot 23-of-30 in this one while Cleveland made 21 out of 29.
The simple fact is that nobody on the Celtics can guard LeBron. Nobody on the Raptors could guard LeBron. Nobody on the Pacers could guard LeBron. And nobody on the Warriors or Rockets can guard LeBron.
This is the series where we are witnessing why the GOAT is the GOAT. This is not Michael Jordan and two separate iterations of the greatest teams ever assembled. Nor is it Bill Russell and the unbeatable Boston Celtics in the 1960s.
This is a guy who’s taken G-League teams to the Finals and, when he finally got a star-studded supporting cast, won championships with them.
In terms of performance over perceived ceiling, LeBron is by far the greatest of all time; no other player, possibly not even Michael Jordan himself, could’ve taken some of these shoddy Cavaliers outfits and taken them even as far as the conference finals, never mind two wins away from an eighth straight trip to the NBA Finals for the player.
Oh, and it should probably also be pointed out that with one singular exception—LeBron’s longtime teammate James Jones—the only players ever to reach at least seven Finals were either Bill Russell or one of his teammates.
When you throw in the 2007 Finals appearance, the only player not named LeBron James to reach nine NBA Finals without wearing a Boston Celtics jersey and playing with Bill Russell? Jerry West.
And LeBron, even if Golden State kicks his teeth in, still has two more rings than West got.
And if all this seems like a gigantic digression from an uninteresting Game 4 that wasn’t as close as the score and was only even remotely competitive because Boston turned the ball over only nine times while Cleveland coughed it up 18 times, and nine extra possessions can do wonders to tighten a score in what is otherwise a blowout…
Well, that’s only because it is.
C’mon, NBA. Consider this stat.
Number of games decided by four points or fewer, Pacers-Cavs series: 5.
Number of games decided by four or less, total since Round 2 started: 4.
That is just shameful.
Your man of the match:
— NBA (@NBA) May 22, 2018
— NBA (@NBA) May 22, 2018
Tune in tomorrow, where we’ll have highlights of the Warriors’ pushing the inevitable to the fore…and thanks for reading!