By Vincent Thomas
Sam put it best in his email (Friday) when he said that, no matter what happens in Game 6, it won’t be as “historically gratifying” as Game 5. And I dug that, totally. But when we think about it, it’s quite possible that Bron, Kobe, Wade, Durant or some of the other ridiculous talents will turn in performances to, at least, rival what he did in Game 5; just as there are previous performances keeping it company in the Pantheon. But I’m pretty amazed that LeBron has managed to overcome a suspect coach and a mediocre supporting cast and make it all the way to the Finals at the age of 22. I simply don’t recall a player as young as Bron handling biz in this manner with the paltry support he gets and it’s unlikely it’ll happen again. Game 5 was folklore, but Game 6 is truly HISTORY; it’s historical. The Cavs’ 98-86 series-ending win had its moments thanks to my l’il brother Daniel Gibson, but the actual game wasn’t memorable; the advance to the Finals, however, is monumental. Before we get to Bron and what lies ahead, here are some observations and reactions from the game, working our way from the negative to positive…
— As I’ve said before, it’s a chore to watch Mike Brown and Flip Saunders coach basketball and it’s taxing and pointless to submit laundry-lists of their missteps. With that said; what was really good with Flip, this series? It was kinda jarring to see this coach of a veteran squad digging so deep in his bench that he pulled Nazr Mohammed off the pine. Son hadn’t played one minute for the whole series, then all of sudden he’s out on the floor. Word? You thought that was a clever move, Flip? The rotation was jilted all game. And what of Mike Brown? Hard to diss my man when his squad is playing for the Chip, but Craig Sager hit us with a revelation. Midway through the 2nd quarter, Sages reported that Danny Ferry came down to the bench and implored Brown not to let the malfunctioned clocks distract the squad (as it obviously was). Ferry basically treated Brown like a rookie, a customer. Would he have come down to offer such sage advice to Popovich or Avery or Nellie or a respected coach? Nope.
— The good people at Quicken Loan Arena must’ve copped those clocks from Uncle Ben’s Pawn Shop.
— Sideshow Bob had a pretty slick spurt in the first quarter and then got too big for his britches and started getting extra; hence the behind-the-back dervish on the break that ended with the game’s most awkward shot. The move was even more egregious since Bron was on the wing. This would have made sense, however, if Damon Jones was on the wing.
— Let’s talk about Jones, briefly. Is he really a professional guard? How can this be when he’s not able to dribble facing his defender? No lie, if Damon tried to take Dikembe off the dribble, he’d get ripped. This is why he dribbles with his back to the defender no matter who’s on him or where he is on the court. It’s embarrassing. He has no court vision and couldn’t check you or me in a pick-up game. So if Jones isn’t knocking down long-range jumpers – which he hadn’t been doing all series – exactly what is he good for? Damon Jones and Eric Snow represent the Cavs’ perimeter “depth”. That should concern people.
— I’m still dumbfounded that Sheed committed that frustration-foul on Bron, sitting him down for the game, with his Pistons down 81-69, facing elimination. I’m a ride-or-die Sheed Fan. That’s my dude. But that move was ridiculously foolish and selfish. His antics went from the unprofessionally juvenile level to professionally criminal getting double-tech’d and ensuring he wouldn’t play in the Game 7 had his team managed to overcome his bratty absence and come back for the win. Truly perplexing. I wonder if irony will have his shenanigans ultimately ensure that his tirade (somewhat warranted given Sideshow’s continued game of charades) also serve as the last time we see him, Tay, Rip and Chaunc on the floor, together, in Pistons uniforms.
— On Inside the NBA, Chuck made the factual point that Detroit didn’t play one good game for the whole series. Not one. This is, supposedly, the Class of the East and one of the elite teams in the L and they managed to play six straight terrible games – at the worse possible time. They hadn’t lost four in a row all season, until this series. It’s all pretty puzzling. When Tayshaun is capping off a series-long slump with plays such as his botched alley-oop (which seemed to be an easy bucket), something is wrong. When one of the most respected big-game players (Chaunc) turns in a 9 point, 1 assist dud in the season’s biggest game, something is wrong. When Sheed runs down the court (with 5 fouls) and doles out a frustration-foul, something is wrong. Dumars has shown himself to be a calculated GM. He judges situations keenly. This might be it for “these” Pistons, as Game 6 was a tremendous letdown performance from a team that had been nothing but consistent and reliable for five seasons.
— “We said we were going to make somebody else beat us, and the kid scored 30.” That was Chaunc’s reaction to Daniel Gibson’s incredible Game 6. The young dude dropped 19 in the 4th quarter. Of all Detroit’s problems, it was their continued lack of defensive rotation that was so hard to stomach, because these were the Pistons. So when they trapped Bron and he swung it to Gibson or he swung it to another player who then swung it Gibson; the young dude was consistently open. That’s how bad defensive teams rotate. The Wizards rotate like that (or more accurately: don’t rotate). Even still, a zillion props have to be thrown Gibson’s way. He’d been showing out all series and capped it with five treys (Did you see his extended pinky finger on the follow through of his last trey? Pimpin’.) With Bron semi-struggling from the field, Gibson’s performance was altogether clutch. In my Game 5 recap I said he was going to make a Deron-type leap in his second season, but that leap has already begun. Trust that, despite the Spurs’ stifling team-defense, Gibson is gonna abuse Parker on the reg. And lastly: I refuse to call a young man “Boobie”, specifically a promising young player that grew up in Houston. No man should answer to a word that if often used to childishly refer to breasts. That’s not goin’ down. Please help me ensure that this doesn’t go down. In fact I will personally implore Ben to devote the next SLAM nickname contest to Gibson. “Boobie” is not dope.
— Bron is amazing. I don’t use that word much, because I tend to associate it’s usage with teenage girls. And since they use the word to describe even the most mundane and trivial things (like a bowl of Cheerios or a Fergie ringtone), “amazing” has lost its import. But Bron’s feat of leading this rag-tag group of over-the-hill vets and inexperienced youngsters to the Finals…it literally amazes me, which is to say that it astonishes me with great wonder (definition courtesy of freedictionary.com). Whether it’s Bird, Magic, Russell, Unseld, Kareem, Wade, Kobe or any other young hotshot that lead their team (relatively speaking) to the Finals; they each did so with at least one other star somewhere near their prime. Bron’s next best player is (who?) Hughes (?), Big Z (?), lil Danny Gibson (?)? Exactly. The futility of the current Eastern Conference factors heavily, but let’s be honest: the Nets had three stars and team of vets and Bron & Co. took care of biz; Detroit was Detroit and Bron & Co. handled biz. The young dude put together three sterling performances (Games 3, 4 and 5) and a stalwart Game 6 where he didn’t shoot well, but stayed aggressive and got his points on the line (14-19), ran the offense (8 dimes) and was the main reason for Cleveland’s 53-33 rebound advantage (14 boards); all this while doing precocious things like getting in Gibson’s chest and exhorting/extolling him for his long-range blackout. For about the past two seasons, I was of the thinking that if you replaced Bron with Wade, the Cavs would be better off. But Bron’s performance in this series has shown different. The Spurs may not admit it, but they’re concerned. This 22-year-old man-child is a bonafide crisis.
Congrats to the Cavs and congrats to the city of Cleveland. They suffered through those Mark Price-Mike Sanders-Craig Ehlo-Brad Daugherty-Ron Harper meltdowns in the late 80s/early 90s and then the Fratello Cavs and the cellar-dwellars of the late 70s/early 80s. Now the folks in Cleveland have a financially/commercially resuscitated city and a revived franchise led by the greatest young star the sport has ever seen. Life is good in northeast Ohio.