That old axiom stands true tonite in Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals where Indiana travels to South Beach for a matchup with the defending champion Miami Heat. As the article was being written, the point was being reiterated almost verbatim by the mid day crew at 92.3 Sports Radio in Cleveland.
Akron native, former Cleveland Cavalier and current Miami Heat All Star Lebron James opened up a can of worms after Game 5 he probably never anticipated. Something the national media has repeated, yet refused to delve into.
James said he “kind of went back to my Cleveland days” in Game 5. “We were in wait mode in the first half, instead of going and getting it,” James said afterward. “I took it upon myself to stop waiting and just go.”
Nationally the media feels James’ 2010 team, his final year in Cleveland, was a disaster and proved to him the organization wasn’t able to put enough good players around him to win a title. So Lebron jumped ship and joined his “buddies” in Miami. Upon arriving James played to the crown, promising not just “one” title, but “two, three, four, five six and at least seven.”
Let’s take this chance to examine the Cavs team in 2010, and this years Miami team. Arguably it is said this is the best team Pat Riley has surrounded James with. Yet is it as good as many believe?
Certainly the Heat won 66 games this season. Included is a 27 game winning streak, the second best in NBA history. For the regular season, the Heat were one of the best yet 66 games won in a regular season isn’t unusual. 13 times it has been accomplished, including by the 2008-2009 Cleveland Cavaliers with Lebron James. That year the Cavs lost to the Orlando Magic, who surprisingly resembled this Indiana Pacers team the Heat are having trouble with.
That’s because the Magic were led by an imposing and dominating defensive center in Dwight Howard. At the time, Howard was “Superman” and wanted to play. He enjoyed the game and smiled everywhere he went. Not so unlike Roy Hibbert of Indiana. Hibbert is also a dominating and influential center. Someone in the middle who can stop James coming down the lane.
In fact, had it not been for a tactical error by Pacers coach Frank Vogel in game one. The Pacers may have already won this series. Had the Pacers won the first game and the rest of the series was status quo, Indiana would be facing San Antonio in game one of the NBA Finals Thursday night and tonite’s game seven would be moot.
But back to the Cavs. The surrounding cast with James was Shaquille O’Neal, Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams and Anthony Parker. Off the bench was Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Boobie Gibson, Andy Varejao, JJ Hickson and Delonte West. The eye test says Miami is better, but were they?
Over his career is Chris Bosh a Hall of Fame player? Simply put….NO! Not even close. Bosh is a 6’11 player with no inside skills whatsoever and no intestinal fortitude to play down low. This season alone, Bosh averaged 16.6 points and 7 rebounds. Jamison for the Cavs averaged 18 points that year and guess what? Seven rebounds.
Udonnis Haslem put in 4 points and 5 rebounds. O’Neal for the Cavs averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds, for a man one year away from retirement. Mo Williams, the Cavs point guard, scored at a clip of 16 per game and doled out 5 assists. Mario Chalmers was a 9 point a game scorer with 3.5 assists.
The disadvantage is at shooting guard. Dwayne Wade was a 21 points per game scorer. Parker only 7.
Yet then comes James. That year James scored 29 a contest, grabbed 7 rebounds and 8 assists. This year in Miami, James scored 27 a game, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Both MVP seasons.
Off the bench is Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Mike Miller, Chris Anderson and Shane Battier. Combined they averaged 31 points and 14 rebounds. The Cavs had Ilgauskas, Varejao, West, Gibson and Hickson scoring 38 points and averaging 21 rebounds.
Yet as a team, Miami scored 103 a game, giving up 95 and totaled 38.6 rebounds per contest. The Cavs were at 102 per game, 95.6 on defense and had 42.5 rebounds a game. Yet it is the playoffs where the difference is evident.
Jamison, Williams and O’Neal all averaged more than Wade, Bosh and Allen have. James had 29 for the Cavs in the playoffs, and 26 for Miami. But in Miami his FG shooting is better, FT percentage is better and so is his overall floor play. All this comes with maturity.
The debate will continue, but stats show the Cavs were not a detriment to James winning a title. His detriment was his youth and relative inability to be a leader on that team. Something that has come with Miami.
Game Seven tonite may be the most important game in James career. Does his defer to Wade and Bosh? If Miami loses tonite will this tarnish his “legacy”? Miami should win tonite, but no doubt the man with the most pressure in Miami tonite is James.
His “Cleveland days” may prove to be his success.
Dave Mitchell and Mark Donahue co-host the “Ohio Baseball Weekly” show every Monday night at 9pm. Dave will also host the new Thursday night show “Ultimate Sports Talk” every Thursday night at 7pm beginning June 20th.