Game Over: Boston Celtics Advance

I didn’t think it would end this way.

I picked the Cavaliers to win this series in five games.  After Cleveland destroyed Boston in game three on the road, I figured I was right.  Then Rajon Rondo took over game four, LeBron struggled in game five and suddenly the Cavs were all but finished.

After watching every possession of game six, a few things stick out in my head:

  • How Mike Brown put Shaquille O’Neal on Kevin Garnett in hopes of, “forcing Garnett away from the basket.”  Great plan.  Garnett sank four easy midrange jumpers in the first quarter en route to an efficient, first rate performance.  I have no idea what Brown was thinking, but I think it’s time he found a new job.
  • How Kevin Garnett, who struggled mightily with injuries this season, set the tone for the Celtics from start to finish.  Starting with his strong first quarter and ending with his huge dunk to put the Celtics up 14 late in the fourth, he showed that he’s not too old to lead a contender.  Terrific performance by him.
  • How Rondo, despite a slow start, continuing his excellent series with 21 point, 12 assists and an overall well managed game.  Boston owes a large portion of their impending conference finals berth to him.
  • How both teams played strong defense, but the Cleveland’s offense clearly struggled more.  The Cavs make dozens of offensive errors, turned the ball over 22 times, and shot 38.4% from the field.  Boston’s defense was strong, and Cleveland’s offense cracked like an egg.
  • How LeBron notched a triple double (27 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists), but also committed ten turnovers and missed nearly two thirds of his shots.  He played well, much better than in game five, but ultimately not well enough.  Of course, I’m inclined not to dump this loss on him.

I wrote on Wednesday that the Cavaliers have nothing beside LeBron.  That’s why they lost game six, and thus, this series.  I know he missed 13 shots and turned the ball over ten times.  But a stronger supporting cast could have won that game.  Garnett put it best in a post game interview, saying the Cavs are, “a team fueled by one guy.”

Take it from Garnett, a Hall of Famer who knows what he’s talking about.  The Celtics knew they had to limit LeBron and crush the supporting cast.  They succeeded for the most part in both goals.  In game six, they got leading performances from Garnett and Rondo, solid contributions from the bench and good defense from everybody.  Ray Allen and Paul Pierce practically disappeared on offense for much of the game, but the Celtics overcame it.  That’s why they’re advancing and Cleveland is not.  Because the Celtics aren’t, “fueled by one guy.”

I think that’s enough about this game.  You all know what happened.  What matters most is what happens next.  Boston and Orlando will meet in what could be a bloodbath of a series.  Whether is goes four games or seven, I have a feeling that this series will be a physical, hard fought contest.

I said it once, and I’ll say it again:  I think the Magic are going to advance.  But I will concede that I expected Dwyane Wade and the Heat to hassle Boston, and I expected Cleveland to eliminate them in five games.  I was wrong on both counts, so I could be wrong about their match-up with Orlando.  We need to see what these teams can do.

But the big questions regard LeBron.  First, a question I saw on ESPN:  will this game define James’ career?  I say no.  He’s 25 and has his best years ahead of him.  I don’t think he’ll like Malone or Barkley.  He’s too good not to win a title.  This game saw a timid LeBron.  He should have driven the lane three times more often then he did.  But it’s out of character for James to timidly force jumpers.  I doubt this game is a sign of what’s coming.  James may just need to get over the roadblock.

Is LeBron going to leave?  Nobody knows for sure.  Based on his body language in this past game, I think so.  But I don’t even think he knows.  But I think it’s time for a change of scenery.  Cleveland will not win a title with what they have now.  Mike Brown needs to be fired.  Shaq needs to go.  Jamison may need to be sent away as well.  LeBron cannot keep playing in Cleveland while they try to get this formula right.  They can only fall short so many times before it’s time to go.

Where will he go?  I have no idea.  He could go to New York is a big possibility, but I think Chicago makes the most sense.  They already have Derrick Rose, a blossoming young point guard.  They have an imminent coaching change (and who wouldn’t want to coach LeBron?).  If James teams with Rose and Bulls surround them with strong defenders and role players (they already have some of both), that’s a team that can win multiple titles.  It’s not a certainty, but it’s a tantalizing possibility.

In Chicago, LeBron can play in a huge market, with a good fanbase and a better team mentality than than Cleveland’s (who anticipate disaster around every corner).  LeBron has played seven great years in Cleveland.  It’s time to move on.

But we won’t know what happens with LeBron for months.  Let’s let the Celtics have their glory for now.  They played the better game and the better series.  They didn’t have the best player, but they had the best team.

LeBron’s future is up in the air, and the decision will hang over everything else. Apologies to the Celtics, Magic, Lakers and Suns.  You guys may be the top four teams, but James is always a hot topic.  That is why, despite the fact that he’s watching the conference finals from home, LeBron is the greatest force in the NBA.  He hasn’t gone away.  He will never go away.  He’s LeBron James, the now and future King.

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