Still Fighting It

LeBron James missed his second consecutive game last night. Yet the Cavaliers were able to defeat the Spurs. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t due to luck or chance. It did have something to do with the Spurs not being as advertised this season, but that isn’t the point.

Given the knowledge that LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal would miss the entire game and Antawn Jamison, after scoring 17 points in 21 minutes would leave the game partway into the third quarter, and Manu Ginobili would look like Manu of old, scoring 38 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing 5 assists, who would be the obvious winner?

San Antonio, duh. But they weren’t, and some of that could be due to the fact that Manu stepped on the line to make a tying 3-point shot a 2-point shot that left them behind by one. And the fact that San Antonio is fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, a change from their usual 50 win seasons that had them jockeying for top position in the West.

But, the Cavaliers won despite all logic that would indicate otherwise. The Cavaliers, it should be mentioned, have a fairly deep roster. That was the case before the Jamison trade and remains so now. LeBron, as the past two games have indicated, is clearly the cog in the machine that makes it run. He makes everyone on the team have an easier job. He is who they look to during crucial moments.

But they are good enough to just get by for a couple games without him, not against the real good teams, but against the middle-of-the-pack teams they can stay afloat against. This was the same case with the Lakers sans Kobe, only to a greater degree. The Lakers are a much better team minus Kobe than the Cavaliers are minus LeBron (to clarify, they are not better without Kobe, but the team without Kobe is better than the Cavs without LeBron). That isn’t a knock on Kobe, but identifying how deep and talented the Lakers are.

And the Spurs are about as close to being dead this season as they are ever going to get (until, of course, they are eliminated). This whole experiment with Richard Jefferson has failed, and they know it. There were rumors that they had been trying to ship him before the trade deadline, trying to get something of value for him. And Tim Duncan unfortunately has looked somewhat his age this season (I say this despite the fact that he is averaging near 19 PPG and 11 RPG, pretty good for an old man).

Ginobili has been his near usual self this season, nearly and almost exactly matching his career averages in points, rebounds and assists. He has shown the usual flashes of brilliance and at times dominance that has come to be expected from the man.

But Tony Parker is now out for at least the regular season with his broken hand. He, as Ginobili, had his normal season thus far. But something clearly isn’t right. This despite the fact that Dejuan Blair has more than brought his everything this season, averaging nearly 8 PPG and 6 rebounds in barely 18 minutes. That is really impressive for a guy with no knees to speak of.

I can’t explain any of it, except the Duncan part. He is just aging.

“LeBron wasn’t playing, Jamison didn’t play the second half and Shaq wasn’t there. We blew a big one.”

-Manu Ginobili

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