By Jake Appleman/@JakeAppleman
A typical postgame scrum surrounds LeBron. Reporters ask questions. LeBron answers them. Quickly. Confidently. Well.
He knows the game like few others and has an uncanny ability to mix cliched responses with incisive analysis.
If this was verbal tennis, LeBron would be Pete Sampras, smooth and methodically excellent at the task at hand. Practice makes perfect. Pregame. In game. Postgame.
It’s what makes the lingering silence after the first “Uhhhmm…” such a fun change of pace.
It’s what makes the second “uhhh….” so cool.
He’s actually stopping to think in the moment. Instead of being bowled over by a fast moving train of thought, you can actually watch the process.
How did this happen? We kept it simple.
“LeBron, how would describe your performance tonight in one word?”
“Uhhm………………Uhh………………My performance tonight, it was OK. Two letters, I guess. That’s one word.”
A few laughs. Well played.
I ask LeBron this following Friday night’s 100-95 victory over the 76ers because I’ve been tracking his play and bolding the word, or words, that seem most befitting of each sequence.
Why do this? With injuries to Shaq and Antawn, LeBron would need to assert his will on the game even more than usual. It would be throwback to the days when he had less help and it would be nice to see how he played following a six-day layoff.
Anything else you need to know? The first half featured more dunks than a Dunkin Donuts Shop, with cops in it, dunking donuts, while talking about butchered House of Pain lyrics. The second half featured defense. Quite the juxtaposition.
–LeBron throws chalk in the air. Some in the crowd applaud.
–Fouls Andre Iguodala on a long jumper. Offers a “who me?” look.
–Finds J.J. Hickson for a baseline jumper. Easy assist.
–Lets Brand sneak behind him for a layup. Not his man, but the mindset playing defense with one early foul is interesting.
—Look-away dime to Mo Williams for a corner three.
–Good change of pace on a far-too-easy drive to the cup for two. Good spin on the layup as well.
—Drills a wing three off a feed from Anthony Parker.
—Loses Iggy on defense, who throws down an alley-oop.
—Minimalist boxing out in transition D. Brand gets a put-back.
—Slick feed to J.J. Hickson, who drives baseline for a reverse throw down.
–Follows Iggy into the paint on a drive. Not great dribble penetration recovery but enough to potentially block the shot. Ball out of bounds to the Sixers.
–With one foul, he doesn’t challenge Lou Williams enough on a dunk. Not the result you’d want, but a wise decision.
–Good close-out on an Iggy jumper. Gets a hand in his eyes.
—Unselfish pass in to Powe down low. Doesn’t yield anything, but a good look to the substitute starter nonetheless.
–Pulls up for three on the break. It’s good.
–Bricks another pull-up three. Heat check. Fail.
—Poor team defense leaves his man, Iggy, open for a corner three.
—Dives to the rim. Mo’s pass goes to Parker, who drains a corner three. Good space-creating.
—Excellent speed leaking out in transition. Fouled by Sammy Dalembert. Almost gives himself a three-point play opportunity. He hits both free throws.
—Sweet look-away to Anderson Varejao for an easy two-handed flush.
–Draws the defense in on penetration; in the air he finds Hickson with a nice feed underneath. J.J. travels.
—Excessive shake-and-bake while iso’d with Sammy Dalembert. It’s actually pretty funny. Gives the ball up to Delonte twice. Delonte scores. Good patience.
–Iggy drills a three over him. Close-out looked alright. I was still recovering from some Carlton Banks jumbotron madness.
—Finds Anderson Varejao on a drive. Mr. +/- cleans up his own mess.
–Iggy drills a baseline fadeaway over him.
–Cuts baseline past Thad Young for a ridiculous two-handed reverse flush.
–Iggy leaks out and draws a controversial foul. Foul ends up being on Delonte. LeBron can stay on the floor.
–Drives into the lane. Misses a floater. Good idea, but poor transition D; Iggy throws down a mosnter one-handed alley-oop. He has 14.
–Comes back and gets into the paint, drawing Iggy’s second foul.
–Iggy gets out in transition and throws down a sick dunk over Jamario Moon. Assignment?
Summation: 12 points 5 assists, 1 rebound and one wicked wild west shootout brewing with Iggy, who has 16. He gives the crowd the spectacular they came for, sometimes at the expense of defense. The creativity and the unselfishness he’s known for are on full display.
—Re-enters halfway into the quarter. The crowd buzzes.
–Matched up with Rodney Carney. Even more rest perhaps…
–A nice feed to Anderson Varejao is nullified by a 3-second violation.
–Grabs the rebound and steamrolls down the other end, drawing the foul and almost converting another three-point play. Misses both.
—Well executed penetration and dish to Jamario Moon cutting baseline for a dunk.
–Give-and-go hand-off with Anderson Varejao, goes back to him for a hook shot.
–Frustrated shrug at the sight of another defensive breakdown.
–More frustration following an Elton Brand tip-in that came off of Iguodala penetration. He’s all like, “guys, why can’t we get stops?”
—Fantastic bounce pass to Anderson Varejao for a transition layup. Perfectly weighted, if you wanna get all soccer about it.
–Gets into the paint. Draws contact. Splits the pair to end the half.
Summation: LeBron scores one point. He helps move the ball per usual, but tones it down following the first frame’s fireworks. Sixers score 23 for the quarter and the Cavs D still looks bad.
–Comes around a screen, bricks an elbow jumper. Interesting way to start the third after being so quiet in the second.
–Seemingly slow help closing out on Elton Brand’s missed baseline jumper.
–Matched up with Jrue Holiday, like at the end of the second quarter. Funky matchup.
–Poor pass to Leon Powe. Batted down, turnover.
–Cuts backdoor, misses a tough layup. Cavs get the o-board. He drains a wing three.
–Zips all around the place offering help, before lunging at Lou Williams’ corner three. Traps Brand baseline following an offensive rebound. Eventually harasses Jrue on a drive to the rim. 24-second violation. Effort.
—Whips a nice pass out to Anthony Parker. Corner three, no good.
–Watches and swipes as Iggy drives for a transition deuce.
—Rims out a pull-up three.
—Offensive foul on Jrue Holiday. Did LeBron draw it? I don’t know.
—Soft pass out to Mo for a three. Brick.
–Cuts backdoor for an alley-oop from Anderson. Crowd ooh’s.
–Left-handed wrap-around-your-own-ear skip pass to Jawad Williams leads to a missed Mo Williams three.
—Stays with Iggy on drive to the cup, but Iggy finishes.
—Misses a corner three.
—Doesn’t challenge Thad Young on a breakaway dunk.
–Misses a wing three with the shot clock winding down.
–Iggy drills one over him from the top-of-the-key.
—Finds Jawad Williams, who drives and hits a step-back jumper.
Summation: Sixers come back from 11 to take the lead. Not a lot of positives to impart; he missed a few shots, passed the ball perhaps a little bit too much and didn’t engage Iggy in the shootout. And 7 team turnovers in a single quarter hurt. A lot.
—Stays half-and-half on a Jrue drive to the hoop. It seems indecisve but the result is positive: a Sixer turnover.
–Sets up Delonte, who misses. Then Moon misses a three off a LeBron skip pass. She’s a brick…house.
–Misses a step-back three. A whole lot of settling.
—Swats at a Thad Young shot; it misses but Sixers get the rebound. Cavs get the next stop and he shares the board with Andy.
–Good ball denial leads to a Sammy D turnover (bad pass) and a Moon bucket in transition.
–Good form on a boxout of Sammy D, but SD is too tall and grabs the board.
–After Iggy turns on the afterburner to get to the line, another look of disbelief from LeBron. Not that he was even guarding AI on the play.
–Finds Mo off a flare screen, then Moon with the kickout. Moon hits the three. Cavs take the lead. It’s a whole lot of creating.
–Initiates a long ball movement sequence with a two-handed over-the-head skip pass to the corner. Delonte misses a three, but the Cavs get the quick board, and the Sixers have suddenly forgotten about him, so he sneaks backdoor and throws down two handed alley-oop dunk.
–Steals a pass thrown to Sammy D like a free safety. Great athleticism.
–Runs an intricate route, complete with a very well sold fake, on a slice to the hoop. Fouled. Splits the pair.
–Recovers to swat Iggy’s dunk attempt out of bounds from behind.
—Helps to space the floor on a Mo Will dagger three, off a high pick-and-roll with Andy Varejao. [He does this–helps to space the floor–a lot, but we’ll only mention it once.]
—Allows Thad Young to follow up his miss.
–Draws the D on a smart foray to the rim, but misses a complex layup. Thankfully, having drawn the defense out of position, Varejao cleans up the mess easily.
–Misses a wing three with Iggy sagged off of him. Lazy.
–An emphatic rejection of Elton Brand leads to a fast break. He’s fouled. Makes both.
—Thad Young scores on him in the paint. Lots of spinning. It’s like laundry.
—Contested pull-up over Iggy with the shot clock winding down.
—Almost grabs an offensive board off of a Mo Williams miss, but doesn’t. Gets a steal down the other end, though.
–Kick out to Moon for a wiiiiiiide open three. Good execution, but the shot misses. Sixers ball with 24.1 remaining, down 98-95.
—Gives Jrue baseline. Kid throws it to Delonte. Game over.
Summation: LeBron ratchets up his defensive intensity in the fourth quarter and the Cavs follow suit, eking out an ugly win. 7-18 from the floor, 3-10 from three, 6-12 from the line, 10 assists (could have been more) and six rebounds. It’s OK because of the 1 win.
As for this exercise, we’ll roll it with Bron’s answer.
It was OK.