Dribbles: As suspected, LeBron, Cavs still obvious kings of East
Random dribbles following the Cavaliers' grind-it-out 87-79 road win over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday.
1. LeBron James and the Cavs are headed to the Finals for the fourth straight year. Wonder how everyone else's favorite team is doing?
2. Seriously. Fifty wins and the fourth seed in the East. It was hardly a banner year for the Cavs. They played Game 7 on the road ... without Kevin Love ... and Boston was undefeated at home in the postseason. Guess who won?
3. Hint: Not Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum, who played an exceptional game and danced around and even bumped LeBron after a dunk. But today, Tatum can have a seat like everyone else. LeBron and the Cavs are going back to the Finals. The Celtics are going home. Enjoy the show.
4. Is it any surprise LeBron was fantastic in the biggest game of the season? He finished with 35 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks. He also had eight turnovers and sort of coasted on defense in the first half. But James forced little and didn't seemed to save himself for the game's biggest moments. He delivered.
5. And yes, the Cavs won this without Love -- who is again in the league's concussion protocol. But Jeff Green stepped in and stepped up, playing the role of Love with 19 points and eight rebounds, and doing it on a much less-expensive contract.
6. Love is an important piece, a player who can put up good numbers and help you win. But if I'm Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman, I'm doing everything I can to trade Love this offseason. With or without LeBron, you could get a nice upgrade for Love.
7. By the way, I don't think there's any way LeBron leaves now. I'm calling it right here -- he re-signs with the Cavs on (another) one-year deal.
8. One opposing think if LeBron were to leave, it would actually be for the San Antonio Spurs. That was his opinion BEFORE Game 7 anyway. "If he goes, I bet it's to join (coach Gregg Popovich) and Kawhi Leonard. They could add even more pieces and be an inst ant contender."
9. That's a nice theory and all, but the Cavs ALREADY ARE a contender.
10. I know what many of you must be thinking. You're saying, "Maybe, but the Cavs won't beat Golden State!"
11. That may be true, but the Warriors will need to get to the Finals first. They are tied with the Houston Rockets, with Game 7 set for Monday night. Like the Cavs, the Warriors must win the deciding game on the road. Like the Cavs, most everyone believes the Warriors can (and will) do it.
12. Four straight trips to the Finals for the same two teams? You all are watching sports history. You'll be talking about this with the grandkids. And forget if the Warriors lose and the Rockets make it. It's still a remarkable run by the greatest player of this generation. Make it eight Finals in a row for James.
13. For the record, I think the Cavs could beat the Rockets. I don't think they could beat the Warriors. But I didn't think the Cavs would win a title in 2016, either -- so who cares what Amico thinks? It's why you play the games. Don't listen to Facebook, don't listen to Twitter, don't listen to AmicoHoops. Go play. See what happens. There have been huge upsets throughout history. Create another one.
14. J.R. Smith (12 points, 3-of-5 on 3-pointers) and Tristan Thompson (10 points, nine boards) gave vastly underrated showings. Each showed why wily experience and confidence typically beats youth and arrogance in these situations. You could tell the Celtics got tight near the end; but players such as James, Smith and Thompson remained calm and finished the job. It was as if they knew it was in the bag the entire time.
15. Tatum did have a nice game with 24 points and seven rebounds. But he also made some rookie mistakes, sort of buckling late in the fourth. It should be a good learning experience for him.
16. Meanwhile, Celtics guards Terry Rozier (2-of-14 shooting) and Marcus Smart (1-of-10) were a miserable mess. Both had open looks late and neither could deliver. Still, Rozier played an excellent series and it's highly doubtful the Celtics will keep both him and Kyrie Irving. One of them will likely need to be dealt -- and my money is on Rozier, a Shaker Heights product.
17. No matter, LeBron and the Cavs are moving on. What an amazing feat. We will have plenty more on all of it. For now, just appreciate the fact that James and the Cavs are back. There haven't been many powers like this in pro hoops history. Some, but not many.
18. Final word from LeBron: "We have an opportunity to play for a championship. It doesn't matter what the story line is going to be, it doesn't matter if we're picked to win or not. I'm the wrong guy to ask. I just like to compete."