The King and I
The Pistons were not going to let LeBron single-handedly torch them two games in a row en route to the NBA Finals. Detroit succeeded, holding LeBron to a modest 20 points, on a more humane 3-11 shooting night. However, James again showed he is the total package, snatching 14 boards, burying 14-19 from the line, and dishing eight assists. The assist total does not do justice, as James drew double teams, then dished off, leading to open shots two passes later, or trips to the foul line.
Unlike Game 5, the rest of the Cavs showed up to play on Saturday night. Daniel Gibson rewarded King James’ faith by burying five three’s, and eventually burying the Pistons with a career-high 31 points. Before the game started, if you told Flip Saunders the Cavs offense would hinge on a rookie second-round draft pick that average 4.6 points this season, he would have taken it and started packing up for Game 7. That is before Gibson turned into LeBron’s version of Steve Kerr and John Paxson, burying clutch outside shot after clutch outside shot. If Game 5 was LeBron’s official coming out party, Gibson used Game 6 to tell the world he is proud to be the King’s sidekick.
On the other side of the fence, Detroit simply fell apart. Rasheed Wallace needs to grow up. At 32 years old, with 12 years in the league, Wallace has still failed to harness his emotions, and realize his immense talent. ‘Sheed has to go down as one of the biggest disappointments of this generation. He is Dennis Rodman, except he does nothing but hurt his team with poor behavior. Rodman was an instigator and often forced opponents to lose their cool, and rarely hurt his team in important moments. Not Wallace. After losing his cool yet again last night, fouling out, then proceeding to notch his sixth and seventh technical fouls of the playoffs, any remote chance for a Piston comeback was over. Wallace officially gave up on the Pistons.
Chauncey Billups was not far behind. We need to revisit his “Mr. Big Shot” nickname. In Game 4, with the Pistons clamoring for a big bucket to finish off the Cavs and go up 3-1 in the series, Billups not only misfired down the stretch, he made rookie mistakes, throwing the ball away, giving up bad fouls out of frustration, and forcing up three pointers with plenty of time left of the clock. Rather than responding, Billups faded. After publicly calling out the Cavs after LeBron’s mammoth performance, Billups posted a whopping 9 points and 1 assist in the deciding game. I watched the whole game, and barely knew he was on the court. One questions teams must ask this off-season, is this the player you want to dedicate your salary cap to? I do not think so.
This series holds bigger implications. The Pistons run as the Beast of the Least in the weak Eastern Conference is over. Bill Russell handing the trophy to LeBron last night is the official passing of the torch. Rewind to 1991, Jordan’s Bulls finally got past the Pistons, then dominated for close to a decade. Only problem for the rest of the league, Jordan was a 27-year-old seven-year veteran, the King is a 22-year old four-year veteran. This run may last for a long time.
Even though the Cavs are heavy underdogs in the finals, it is great to see a young, determined group make a run, and a passionate city of fans finally win something. Its amazing to look at Cleveland’s ineptitude as a city. They have never been to the NBA Finals, no World Series since 1948, no Super Bowl wins, and countless legendary playoff failures. Finally, Cleveland Rocks!