(Main image photo credit: SI)
Despite an embarrassing home loss in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, LeBron James has already won.
Make no mistake about it. James is off the hook.
James, in the NBA Finals for the fifth straight season, won’t get the blame if the Cleveland Cavaliers ultimately lose to the Golden State Warriors.
And it certainly looks to be headed that way after the Cavs were blown out, 103-82, in Game 4 on Thursday night in Cleveland. The best-of-seven series is now tied at 2-2.
The game was more than just a lopsided affair that you can shake off and move on to the next game.
The Cavs, who went through the weak Eastern Conference, aren’t really good enough to win the NBA title over the Warriors,despite having the best basketball player currently on the planet.
The Cavs are also missing stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Those are huge losses. They were all assembled together in hopes of winning Cleveland’s first championship since Jim Brown in 1964.
But watch how quickly the talking points will change.
Before Thursday’s game, overreacting media members and crazed James fans were painting this picture that if James won the title without Irving and Love, it would be the greatest feat known to man.
LeBron was getting mad love for averaging 41 points in the first three games. Plus, the Cavs squeaked by with two victories and almost stole game 1 as well.
Oh yes, the James’ supporters were spinning a magical tale that if he won here, it would prove that he’s better than Michael Jordan.
That somehow, James’ three titles (if he beat Golden State) would be better than Jordan going 6-for-6 in his six Finals appearances.
That’s just silly.
For sure, it was a cute story, one legends are made of.
But in reality, James wasn’t the reason why the Cavs led the series after three games. In fact, it was because the Warriors had played terrible, starting with league MVP Steph Curry.
That’s not to dis LeBron or not give him credit for the effort in trying to do the impossible. And if he were able to pull it off, it will be a tremendous upset.
It just doesn’t seem likely.
You knew the Warriors were eventually going to start hitting those open shots they were missing with regularity to start the series.
You also knew that the Cavs’ also-rans would come back to Earth, especially guard/pest Matthew Dellavedova.
Dellavedova became a household name after Game 3. Not only did he play Curry well defensively, but also surprised NBA America with 20 points.
In Game 4, Dellavedova, was, well, back to being Dellavedova. He had 10 points, just about as many turnovers as assists and couldn’t defend anyone. No one wanted to buy his jersey after that performance.
The LeBron supporters will now make the case that if he loses and drops to 2-4 lifetime in his NBA Finals appearances, it’s not his fault or a reflection on his greatness.
That’s always the story. If LeBron wins, it’s because he’s great. When he loses, it’s because he doesn’t have any help.
It’s an old bit.
There’s no question LeBron is a great player. But the fact remains, if his teams loses this series, that James has lost more Finals than he’s won.
It’s a copout after the fact to blame others. You can’t get to the dance and then blame your date for not knowing how to dance.
Plus, James’ numbers aren’t as pretty as most think. He was 7-for-22 from the field on Thursday and now has made 50 shots and missed 79 (almost 20 misses a game in the Finals).
James’ Cavs, the first time around, were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. In 2011, James with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.
The Mavs were the first team in NBA history since the 2-3-2 format to enter Game 3 tied at one, lose Game 3 and still win the Finals.
Last year, LeBron supporters blamed an old-playing Wade as the reason why the Heat didn’t three-peat and lost to the Spurs in the Finals.
The bottom line remains that James is staring 2-4 in the NBA Finals straight in the face. And in pro sports, where there’s a short menu – wins and losses – you are what you record says you are.