Smoke Over Cleveland

Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Sad. Pathetic. Embarrassing. Woeful. That was the Cavaliers last night, especially in the last minute of the ball-game. They looked so clearly the weaker team. They didn’t even put as much of a fight up as Miami did, and they went whimpering into the night.

Oh, and by the way, the Champ officially retires from this blog and from watching basketball in general. He was so devastated that he went to his back room and started hoisting heavy weights in order to relieve the mounting stress that coerced through his veins.

This was the biggest game of the season by any team. The implications implicit in the outcome. The stay-or-go saga waiting to be examined and reexamined whenever the Cavaliers were eliminated (which looked more and more likely as we advanced into May). If the Cavaliers lost, LeBron was gone. Now they lost, and it is still debated.

You cannot quantify Rajon Rondo’s impact on the game, well maybe you can. But, in the playoffs, it seems greater than any +/- could indicate or PER would demonstrate. Yes, the Big 3 stepped up a lot the last 3 games, but a lot could be from the Cavaliers’ game plan to unsuccessfully thwart Rondo, thereby opening up opportunities for the “others”.

The Celtics were clearly the better team this series, game 3 being a major hiccup for a mature team and the rest being utter dominance. I mean, this series wasn’t as close as it should have been and easily could have been. A lot of blame can and will be put on Mike Brown for stupid rotations, but the Celtics just beat the Cavs like they were the team with 61 wins. They executed better, hustled harder, and just outworked Cleveland.

And I remember complaining about the complaining to put Z in the game after the game 4 loss. I thought it would make no sense since Z hasn’t been an offensive presence since the Hawks series last season and he can’t defend. The athletic lineup gives Boston problems, not the lanky and slow one. Its the same reason that Shaq wasn’t effective in the series. Mike Brown will have nightmares of JJ Hickson on the bench, routinely looking up at Mike Brown for his number to be called only to be disappointed as Brown pointed at Z and made the switch.

This series was devastating. Just as a basketball fan the last few games have been terrible. I mean, I enjoy Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo a lot, but seeing the “King” this hapless in a playoff series is dumbfounding. Its cliché at this point to mention that, but its true. I don’t know if an injury was this hampering or something else was weighing on LeBron, but he wasn’t as great as he needed to be and usually is.

He is a player who can be counted on for 30-8-8 in the playoffs almost every night, but the past week has done little to affirm those notions. I’m in favor of Mo Williams being aggressive and initiating the offense, but this seemed out of desperation. He looked like he knew he was going to get some blame if this series ended last night. He wasn’t going to get eliminated without a fight.

Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

That is the type of attitude that is needed to stave of elimination. I didn’t witness that aggression and resolve to win from Jamison. I didn’t see it in Z. Moon showed some, then was replaced in favor of either Z or Shaq or Jamison. Varejao is always willing to bring that energy. Hickson had no opportunity, West made reckless and desperate passes, and LeBron was alright.

Now the future is here, much sooner than anyone would have predicted. All the major players in 2010 are done, well except Amare who has a tough series facing Bynum, Gasol, Odom, and hopefully Mbenga. Its been pretty obvious that the Cavaliers have the most to lose this offseason. At best, they stay the same and worsen through age. At worst, the franchise loses about $200 million in value, LeBron leaves, Z leaves, Shaq leaves, Jamison stays, and a new coaching staff is brought in.

Oh, that sounded pretty negative.

On the other hand, LeBron could feel mission unaccomplished and try to do this again, only with bringing in a new piece to work with through the magic of sign-and-trade (Bosh for Hickson, and/or Jamison, picks, and hopefully not Danny Green?). What are the odds of that? 2-5?

I just can’t believe this is when the future gets here. What’s worse is that the news will be on LeBron and his future instead of legitimate playoff series. Its the sexy story, the future of a dozen teams lie with where LeBron inks a deal.

Why can’t we focus on this Celtics-Magic series. Why can’t the fact that Perkins and Rasheed match up well defensively with Howard. Or that Rondo can match up with Nelson, something Felton and Bibby couldn’t dream of. Or that Matt Barnes sole purpose in his life for the next few weeks will to make Paul Pierce look confused/apathetic (or more so than usual). Or that Rashard Lewis cannot guard a motivated KG, or if Vince Carter will be motivated enough to chase Ray Allen around screens. Will Pietrus continue his absurd shooting? Will Redick have any impact? Will Glen Davis out-hustle Gortat? Will Rasheed actually produce? These questions need to be asked and will be answered before the series is won.

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