LeBron James had a regrettable experience Sunday night as the Cleveland Cavaliers allowed the depleted Boston Celtics to come into town and steal Game 3. James scored a paltry 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting and committed six turnovers. During the shocking loss, James was heckled by a former Hiram College hoopster and afterwards he snapped at a nosy reporter.
Clearly, there’s something wrong with the three-time NBA champion who is seeking his seventh consecutive Finals appearance. Clearly, he’s buckling under pressure and shrinking in the big moment. As such, let the perfectly reasonable reaction begin.
Is LeBron a choker? Is LeBron tired? Are the Cavs in trouble? Is Kevin Love more reliable? Is the spotlight too bright? Should LeBron be benched?
Now, dear reader, I care too much about you to instruct you to watch the sports-shouting shows today. But, if you can stomach it, you’ll be treated to some James-related nonsense equally laughable to the stuff outlined above.
There’s a selective memory at work with James where people can remember two things:
- He’s not Jordan
- His last failure
This selective memory allows them to ignore how brilliant James has been in 10 out of 11 playoff games this year. Even with Sunday night’s stinker bringing him down, he’s scoring 32.2 points per contest on 55.4 percent shooting. He’s grabbing 8.3 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists for a team on cruise control until a third straight battle with the Golden State Warriors.
This selective memory obscures the facts. Look at this gamelog and tell me where there was even the slightest blemish before Sunday night.
Make no mistake. James was very, very bad in Game 3. Heck, he may have been more effective playing lefthanded. When he disappears, it’s impossible not to notice. And it’s not unreasonable to suggest his time would be better spent on things other than bickering with reporters (I hear the Godfather movies are good).
But the truth of the matter is there’s no mountain to be made from this freak molehill. Kudos to the Celtics, 16.5-point underdogs, for pulling the biggest upset of the NBA season. It won’t mean anything in the big picture. Sure, the Cavaliers will have to fly back to Boston to clinch things in Game 5. They’ll still be well-rested for the Finals.
The NBA playoffs are not March Madness. Cleveland would have preferred to go 12-0 through the Eastern Conference, but it wasn’t a requirement. Losing a game or two along the way is permitted. The sky is not falling, much as it wouldn’t have fallen had the Indiana Pacers or Toronto Raptors stole a win during previous rounds.
As for James, something tells me he’ll be okay. Maybe it’s the decade-plus dominance. Maybe it’s how he’s rewritten the NBA MVP argument during the postseason. If anything, getting this lackluster play out the system before the Warriors come calling is a blessing.