By Royal Decree
Posted Aug 1 2007 2:46PM
But I've never been to Cleveland.
Because of one of the greatest individual playoff performances ever, I may get to complete the Central Division tour.
Thank you, LeBron James.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. The series isn't over. The Cavs have a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, the exact same deficit the Pistons erased against the Cavs in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals. So, nothing's for certain. I made the argument in February the Pistons were the best team in the East, and I still think they're the best team in the East.
But the Pistons have no one with the all-around talent of James, a 22-year-old who bent Detroit to his will like a strong man bends an iron bar.
King, that was some kind of hurtin' you put on the Pistons in the Cavs' 109-107 double OT thriller on Thursday night. I mean, 25 straight points in the fourth quarter and overtime. You scored more points than all but TWO of Cleveland's previous eight second-half quarters in this series. And your overall digits? She may be a brick house at 36-24-36, but 48-9-7 is what gets the basketball fan's heart racing. That, and how you did it: with authority and without mercy on a variety of dunks, scoops, layups, shake-and-bakes and the occasional pull-up in a Pistons player's mug.
After your three to tie the game at 107, TNT showed a slow-mo replay that stayed with the Pistons. You should have seen the look on Lindsey Hunter's and Chris Webber's face. Hunter had to pick his jaw off the floor, while Webber had the "You S.O.B.!" look.
(On a side note, LeBron's Game 5 genius will give those who argued that LeBron should have taken the last shot in Game 1 a salient debating point, also known as the, "See, I told ya so" response, as in: "See, I told ya if LeBron took that last shot in Game 1, we'd be talking a Spurs-Cavs Finals right now.)
Easy there. Because of what LBJ did Thursday, the possibility of a Spurs-Cavs Finals increased. What LeBron did, well, that was an all-timer right there. You have Mike's 63 in 1986, but the Bulls, as I paraphrase Robert Parish, "still lost." There's Clyde Frazier's 36 points and 19 assists in Game 7 of the Willis Reed game. You also have Magic's stunning 42 and 15 in Game 6 against the Sixers in 1980. Isiah in Game 6 of the 1988 Finals. You have Mike's 55 against Phoenix, which Sir Charles mentioned on Inside the NBA after the game. And then ...
Well, once we revise this, I'm sure LeBron's performance can carve out a place of honor somewhere in the 60.
Yet, can LeBron carry the Cavs to a Finals appearance, basically, by himself? From the looks of it, he may need to. While he got a great supporting performance from Daniel Gibson in Game 4, it has taken two Herculean performance by James for the Cavs to win Games 3 and Game 5. James outscored Cleveland's other starters by 10, with Zydrunas Ilgauskas the only other started to reach double digits with 16.
That, however, may be too much to ask. You know Detroit will give the Cavs different looks on Saturday in Game 6. The Inside the NBA crew rightfully roasted the Pistons for not forcing the ball out of James' hands by double-teaming him immediately. Or as NBA.com's own Michigan native and Pistons fan, Jeff Dengate e-mailed after the game: "How does Detroit not lay a lick on a guy who pumped in 25 straight?"
I don't know, but it wouldn't have happened in the old Bad Boys days. What are Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn doing these days? The LeBron Rules, anyone?
James did rule; and for the first time in forever, Cleveland sports fans can root for a guy who can now do the one thing to other teams that has been done countless times to Cleveland teams and their fans.
He can break your heart.
And with two games to win one to get to The Finals, Cavs fans -- with fingers crossed -- hope James can prevent another Cleveland sports heartbreak.