All right, I think I've regrouped enough to finally talk about this. At least, I'm no longer projectile vomiting every time I think about Cavaliers' gut wrenching dismissal from the playoffs at the hands of the Boston Celtics. I predicted Cavs in seven. Right number of games, wrong winner.
I still think the Cavs are the superior team, so what happened? Allow me to break it down in ten points:
1) LeBron James' 2-18 shooting performance in game one. LeBron couldn't score from the perimeter or the paint. No matter what he threw up there, it wasn't going in, including two last minute layup attempts--shots he almost always makes. He finished with 12 miserable points. Twelve. If he had just a bad shooting night, the Cavs would have won. He had a horrific, career worst shooting night. The Cavs went down 76-72.
2) Paul Pierce was just as bad as LeBron (2-14), but the Celtics still shot 40% in game one. The Cavs? 30%. Really, is it SO hard to make a jumpshot on the road?
3) After an impressive first quarter, the Cavs made little effort to do anything in game two. 68 year-old Sam Cassell came in and completely changed the tone of the game with his shooting. Enough said about this debacle of a game.
4) After an amazing quarter and a half in which they played gritty defense and inspired offense and built a 15 point lead, the Cavs inexplicably relaxed on both ends of the court. The poor shooting Rajon Rondo made consecutive, uncontested three pointers to get his team back in the game by halftime. The Celtics very gradually pulled away in the second half, winning the game by seven.
5) Delonte West played one of his worst games as a Cavalier game five. Rondo finished with 21 points and 13 assists. West, who needed to let Rondo have room on the perimeter, instead allowed his opposite number to shoot floaters in the lane or find open big men for uncontested dunks and layups. Inexcusable.
6) Cavs' big men were continually late on rotations and slow on the backboards in game five, allowing Kevin Garnett and, worse, that tub of guts Glen Davis to dominate the middle in the fourth quarter.
7) The Cavs immediately fell behind 14-4 in game seven, a Celtics lead they would cut to a single point late in the fourth quarter, but one they could never surmount, losing 91-86.
8) Paul Pierce, after six quiet games, freaks out for 41 points in game seven. Every shot he took seemed to go in. LeBron, who put up 45 of his own points, could not stay with Pierce, particularly through high screens and picks.
9a) Every single bounce went Boston's way in game seven, particularly when it came to Pierce, from his misfired three pointer that somehow bounced ten feet off the front of the rim and fell through, to a late free throw that almost shattered the backboard before bouncing in. Oh yeah, then there was the Kevin Garnett brick that ricocheted straight out to a squared up Pierce, which he calmly swished for another three. And then, of all things, there were the two fourth quarter Boston airballs that somehow ended up in the hands of 87 year-old, unretired P.J. Brown, both resulting in backbreaking Boston scores. Clearly the sports gods love Boston. Why, I don't know. Paul Pierce said that the ghost of Red Auerbach was watching over them. Piss on you, Paul Pierce! Am I a sore loser? More and more as I write, YES!
9b) Three phantom calls at the end of the first half of game seven became six Boston free throws. I told my brother that if the Cavs lose a close game, look back at those three calls made when the Cavs were in the penalty. I do believe the Cavs lost this game by five.
10) Cleveland shots did not fall late in game seven. LeBron missed an open three that would have given the Cavs their first lead. West missed an even more wide open three. By the time Sasha Pavlovic swished one of his own, it was too little, too late--that geriatric P.J. Brown had already stolen our hope away.
So there you have it, sports fans. Cleveland loses, Boston wins. Again. Yet another punch to the gut courtesy one of our teams here in northeast Ohio. In spite of everything, I'm going to do my best to ditch this loser attitude that Cleveland fans share and, increasingly, thrive on. I know that it won't be long before we win it all, and I still think the Cavs will be the first to break through. So, it follows that I close this post with that common refrain:
Wait'll next year!