A Few More Like This and Cleveland Cavaliers Can Kiss LeBron Goodbye

Ed CohenCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Here’s the scenario Cleveland Cavaliers fans have to hope for after Thursday night's loss to the Jazz:

LeBron James bumps his head on the door to the team airplane and suffers amnesia.

You don’t want James remembering this game—especially how it ended—because he’s liable to conclude that:

1. He is playing with clowns.

2. He has Bozo for a coach.

3. If he wants to win multiple NBA championships, as he's stated, he's going to have to sign somewhere else.

Better that the King's brain be mildly washed than he dwell on the the sins of his teammates throughout this game, which the Jazz won on a three-pointer at the buzzer by D-League refugee Sundiata Gaines.

The last half-minute was the worst.

With 32 second left, the Cavs were in a position unimaginable at a few minutes earlier— they were leading by six points. With 4:39 to go, they had been trailing by 13, 80-67.

In an ensuing 24-point blitz, James scored 18. His last field goal was a ridiculous 26-foot fade-away for three. Two more free throws by him made it 91-85 with 0:32 on the clock.

That should have been enough to ensure the win and enshrine this near single-handed comeback in The Legend of LeBron.

Didn’t happen.

Wasn’t his fault. 

Down six with less than half a minute to play, the Jazz turned to fouling intentionally.

Cavs Coach Mike Brown opted to have James handle inbounding. Anthony Parker and Zydrunas Ilgauskas made the catches and absorbed the fouls. 

Parker shot six free throws in those final 32 seconds. He made his first pair but hit just one of two in each of his next two trips to the line.

Ilgauskas, a 76 percent free-throw shooter, went to the line to shoot two with 5.6 seconds to play and the Cavs up by one.

By making both he could have assured his team of no worse than overtime.

He missed the first and made the second. That set up Gaines’s hoist at the horn.

As he watched Parker and Z miss their free throws in the clutch, James had to be thinking, "I would have made them." Which is far from certain. But he also had to be thinking his teammates should have made them.

Something else James may be reflecting on today is his coach’s end-of-game defensive strategy.

After going up six with 32 seconds to play, the Cavs promptly allowed guard Ronnie Price to take an uncontested three. He hit it, which cut the seemingly safe lead in half. 

Brown should have had his players body-up on anyone behind the three-point line and force them to drive inside the arc and take a two-pointer—even if that meant giving them wide-open looks or layups

The reason? It would have been much more difficult for the Jazz to to get two-pointers on three straight possessions all within 30 seconds than to get two 3's, which is what they did.

Letting Price hit that open three put them halfway there.

Cavs fans have to hope James can forget not just the regrettable end to the game but the rest of it as well. Almost his entire supporting cast let him down all night long.

Again and again, he set them up for wide-open jumpers. They missed almost all of them. Ilgauskas was 0-4 from the field, Parker 2-6. Point guard Mo Williams was 4-12. Shaquille O’Neal had four turnovers. (James had five turnovers but also five steals.)

Bottom line:

One has to wonder how much longer James is going to feel like carrying this team. This time it required him to score 18 points in four minutes late in the fourth quarter. And even that wasn’t enough to get a win.

Assuming James' head made it onto the team plane intact, it’s up to his teammates to erase his memory of this awful loss.

How to do it:

Play better, all game long but especially in the clutch.

If you don’t, you aren’t going to win a championship this year. You aren’t going to be playing with LeBron next year.

And the Cavs won't be worth watching for many, many years. 


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