Friday, June 01, 2007

The Ascension

Okay… forget about it. Unless the Detroit Pistons can mount an incredible effort and somehow combine Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, and re-sign Ben Wallace by tomorrow and throw him in the mix, too, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to the NBA Finals. Holy cow, did you see LeBron James just overpower the Pistons? They threw everybody at him, and he STILL scored Cleveland’s last TWENTY-FIVE points (and 29 out of their last 30). He’s still not quite there yet (witness the incredible fall-away jumper he hit with a minute to go in overtime, followed by a step-back airball the next time down), but ~whew~ he’s coming on strong (which is an understatement).

I’ve had my doubts about LeBron, forgetting that he’s only twenty-two. There are still questions about his competitiveness, or more accurately, his “killer instinct.” The end of Game 1, of course, is the example everybody points to, passing up an opportunity to tie the game up to kick out to Donyell Marshall for a missed three-point attempt. I thought he should’ve taken his own shot, especially considering that he was two feet from the rim, but his early-season no-show was the biggest blip on the radar. He did come a long way last night, because he looked forceful and decisive (except for that airball).

He’s so fast and quick and strong, he’s the Shaq of perimeter players – he’s a freak of nature. 6-8 and 235-240 lbs. means he’s bigger and stronger than Jordan and Kobe. He’s faster and more athletic than THE all-time big guard, Magic. He can get by almost anybody and those he can’t, he’ll jump over or go through. He’s ridiculous.

I still think the Pistons should’ve won the game. They should’ve doubled LeBron off of every ball screen and any time he started to penetrate. I still don’t know how LeBron went from twenty-seven feet at the top of the key to getting a layup for the winning shot. Detroit is a superior team, but don’t play nasty defense like the “Bad Boys” used to or even how they used to under Larry Brown. LeBron should’ve been knocked on his ass (of course, the Antonio McDyess ejection might’ve allayed anything like that) and forced to get the ball to his teammates (which is what happened in Games 1 and 2). His scoring streak to finish the game is the obvious answer to what his teammates can do, because even when they did get decent looks, they just couldn’t finish against the Pistons.

I’ll play devil’s advocate and also say that the Pistons don’t look like they can score if their life depended on it. I’m still not sure what the hell they were doing with 9.5 seconds to go at the end of regulation, and Chuancey Billups takes a fling at a three-pointer to win the game. And Tayshaun Prince getting the ball at nineteen feet and then either trying to back in or face up and drive (HELLO! Get a right hand and stop going left all the damn time) is a great situation, except for the fact that he’s not a great scorer (but that reverse slam he had was nasty!).

Regardless, the Eastern Conference Finals has become a little more interesting. It is sad though, that again, individual play is winning out over team play (or so it would seem). Tune in tomorrow for Game 6 in Cleveland… Should be a doozy.

P.S. – Does Chuancey Billups look tired and worn-out to anybody else?

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