Dribbles: Saving Cavs is just the LeBron way

Author:
Publish date:

CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' thriller of a 98-95 win over the visiting Indiana Pacers in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday.

1. I've been covering the Cavaliers for nearly the entire LeBron James era (both of them), and this is pretty typical. Cavs up one, or down one, or the game is tied. Time running out. LeBron gets the ball off an inbounds pass. LeBron makes amazing game-winner.

2. Honestly, it seems to happen at least once every season.

3. He did it against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 playoffs. He did against the Chicago Bulls in 2015. He did it in the regular season against the Washington Wizards in 2017, banking in a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. He did it against the Brooklyn Nets in the regular season last year, capping a comeback with a drive and a hoop.

4. Those are just the ones off the top of my head. I'm sure you have plenty more of your own.

5. This is a common denominator for James and other greats -- such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Until James came along, they had been considered hoops' holy trinity. All were known for making clutch baskets down the stretch. LeBron is right there with them.

6. LeBron's final shot Wednesday, a game-winning 3-pointer right before the final buzzer, almost makes you forget the rest of his night. And oh what a night it was. He finished with 44 points ... 10 rebounds ... eight assists. He came up with the biggest block (or goaltend, depending on your rooting interest) of the series.

7. I don't really know what to say anymore about this guy. He's done it all, and I've said it all. This was just another example of LeBron, even at the age of 33, leaving you speechless.

8. Of course, there's the matter of the entire game, and this entire crazy series, and this entire Cavs team. The Cavs finally trailed at halftime after leading the previous three games by double digits at halftime. They finally put together an excellent third quarter. They finally looked as if they wouldn't be threatened at the end.

9. But there we were, tied, with three measly seconds showing on the clock.

10. Honestly, this has simply been an insane series full of highs and lows and everything in between, and it's been that way for both teams. It almost feels as if this is just the LeBron way.

11. Of course, LeBron can't be blamed for the shooting of Kevin Love (2-of-11) or J.R. Smith (0-for-8). Nor is he at fault when it comes to the fact Kyle Korver (19 points) has become the team's second scoring option. Nothing against Korver, but his best days were supposed to be behind him like three years ago. Yet somehow, he's doing perhaps the best work of his career at the age of 37.

12. Oh, and about LeBron's block/goaltend of Pacers star Victor Oladipo at the end. Oladipo harped on the idea it was indeed a missed goaltending call. He said he also got fouled on the play.

13. Oladipo on the final frantic moments: "I got grabbed even on the way to the rim. (The ball) hit the backboard, then (James) blocked it. ... It was a goaltend. It's hard to even speak on it. It just sucks, honestly."

14. I watched the play. It looked a lot like what I've been led to believe is goaltending. I don't know if there was also a foul. But goaltending? Yeah, I think Oladipo has a valid argument.

15. LeBron's account of the play: "Of course I didn't think it was a goaltend. I try to make plays like that all the time."

16. Of course, the possession before that, James had the ball slapped away by Pacers forward Thaddeus Young. The ball hit the baseline, bounced back up, then hit James' hand ... and went out. Pacers ball. It should have been Cavs ball.

17. NBA officiating. It's Fan-tas-tic.

18. There were a lot of other things that went right/wrong in this one. The Pacers blew their halftime lead by committing silly turnover after turnover in the third quarter, when the Cavs went on a 17-3 run. It felt like they had taken command.

19. Then came the midway point of the fourth quarter. The joy of putting the ball through the basket . The offense again came to a crawl as the Pacers played with great determination at the other end. Tie game.'

20. Then think about this: Oladipo was a horrific 2-of-15 shooting, yet the Pacers were right there, ready to steal the game in the opponent's arena. They very well could be leading the series, with Game 6 set for Friday at Indiana.

21. Yeesh. So many different scenarios, so many possible outcomes. But only the truth matters, and truth is, the Cavs lead the series at 3-2 and they still have LeBron on the team.

22. It's the last part that we knew would spell trouble for the Pacers, perhaps the best story in basketball this year.

23. Oladipo on the outcome: "Series ain’t over. You gotta win four games before it’s over, right? ... We’ll see what happens in Game 6.”

24. Pacers coach Nate McMillan: "LeBron is gonna have his fingerprints all over the game. He’s making his shots. He’s either getting to the rim, or (hitting) the game-winner, or his free throws. He’s making the shots we want him to take.”

25. The Cavs still need more from Love. I honestly hope I can stop writing that someday -- for the Cavs, for coach Tyronn Lue and for Love. Somebody, please, get that figured out. He is supposed to be an All-Star. What's happened?

26. Love and Smith were indeed solid on defense. Oladipo doesn't end up with such a miserable shooting night by accident. The Cavs' defense has been better in the playoffs, as they kept promising. It's the offense, it seems, that can be the issue.

27. Anyway, Game 6. I think the Pacers had their chances. The only way they win is if no one other than LeBron steps up for the Cavs. That's entirely possible. But the Pacers probably realize no matter what they do, this series belongs to James. No shame in that. History tells us that is just the way it so often goes. And because of it, this excellent series is over.