Saturday, May 06, 2006

Advanced placement

Go ahead, call the Cavaliers lucky. Say they were the beneficiaries of a late-series meltdown by the Wizards.
Tell LeBron James how many times you thought he traveled during the series.
It doesn't change the fact that thrice when the Cavs needed a win, thrice when they were trailing with the clock about to hit zero, the Cavs came through. And that's why they will play the Pistons in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday.
Friday's 114-113 overtime win gave Cleveland the first-round win over Washington four games to two. It was the first time in 13 years the Cavs won a playoff series, ending the East's longest such drought.
LeBron took over in Games 3 and 5 with game-winners of his own. In Game 6, he deferred to Damon Jones, who had come in to the game for the first time just 14 seconds prior. After a pair of Gilbert Arenas free-throw misses to keep the Wizards' lead at 113-112, LeBron took the inbounds pass and was double-teamed up top. LeBron relayed the ball to Larry Hughes, who in turn found Jones open in the corner for the game winner.
Jones had been an afterthought during most of the series, eschewed in favor of Flip Murray because coach Mike Brown liked the matchup better. But the reason GM Danny Ferry signed Jones to a four-year deal last summer was so Jones could be available to take a shot in this very situation.
All the frustration and confusion fans like me had when Jones would jack up three-balls willy-nilly early in the season has officially subsided. It all makes sense now.
Jones has a five-year streak of playoff appearances going. He reached the conference finals with Miami last year. When Ferry shelled out owner Dan Gilbert's cash to attain Jones, he was buying the playoff experience, too.
In one vein, the Cavs squeaked by the Wizards, needing three game-winning shots and a pair of overtimes to advance. In another, they were as clutch as a team could be in their wins.
Now the Pistons await. It will be a much different series against a team that has an NBA title and Eastern Conference title in the past two seasons. As I have posted before, the defensive miscues the Wizards made are the defensive stops the Pistons will get.
All I am hoping for is that the Cavs give Detroit a competitive series and no one suffers any major injuries, though the bruise count will likely go up against a team as physical as Detroit.
The Cavs now have 50 regular-season wins and first-round victory to their credit. This season has now fulfilled what I wanted to see in November.

1 comment:

Sussman said...

Did you hear what LeBron said to Gilbert right before those two free throws?

"You miss both of these, you go home."