Saturday, June 02, 2007

The LeBron Game

Twenty-five straight points. Twenty-nine of his team’s last thirty points. That is impressive in a pick-up game at the West 4th Street courts, but in Game 5 of the Conference Finals, with the season on the line, that is the stuff of legends. King James lived up to his name, the hype, the pressure, and gave his outspoken detractors, myself included, a deserved stare down after the last of eighteen dazzling field goals, finally putting the Pistons away.

The list is well-documented, Magic playing center against the Sixers in the 1980 finals, Jordan over Ehlo to beat the Cavs, the Bird-Dominique showdown, star players taking their acts to the next level in big spots, career defining performances. Years from now James’ ungodly effort may top the list. Consider this, LeBron was a one-man show the entire game, not one other player on Cleveland was even a threat to take a shot, the Pistons are the best defensive team of this era and arguably built specifically to stop a LeBron James, and James did it every way possible. He shot the three ala Bird, hit Jordan-esque off-balance fade-aways over two defenders, sliced to the basket with Dr. J like finesse and grace, and threw down dunks with the same rim rattling power as Shaq. Did I mention he did this on the road.

James showed glimpses of greatness since coming into the NBA, finally took a big step forward by carrying Cleveland to big wins in Games three and four, but in Game Five he put it all together and the Pistons turned into unfortunate bystanders of the best NBA performance most of us have ever seen.

The job is not complete by any means. How the series ends plays a major role in James’ place in history. Cleveland, or better yet, the LeBron’s, need to close out Detroit to put the gold frame around the Game Five Picasso. Blow another 3-2 lead and there will always be the, yeah, but… associated with the 48-point deluge.

Do not count the Pistons out. They have clawed out of this same 3-2 deficit multiple times over the past five years. There is little chance LeBron can carry the same load again, or that the Pistons will allow him to dominate without more physical resistance. Maybe the rest of the Cavs can show up tonight. If not, I put my money on Detroit returning to the Bad Boys days and putting James on his back a few times, tightening the screws, and taking it to Game Seven. If the Cavs role players can, well, fill their roles, and take some pressure off James, they can ride the momentum right to San Antonio.

All eyes will be on Game Six. How do the Pistons respond? Does King James get any help? Is LeBron still in that unexplainable mental and physical zone? Saturday brings all the answers, more historical perspective on the developing legend.

… Lots of people will not forget where they watched “The LeBron Game”. Thursday’s night epic double-OT game nabbed a solid 4.8 national cable overnight rating, pulling a dominant 19.6 and 17.4 respectively, in the Cleveland and Detroit markets. Yes, that was David Stern thanking the good Lord for LeBron James, and begging for one more win.


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