Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Cavs Slip Past My Defenses

I don't mind admitting that I didn't think the Cavs would pull that game out last night. When the Nets went on their third quarter run, I figured that a humiliating collapse would probably be the legacy of the 2007 Cavs. I pictured the scenario in my mind--blowing a 22 point lead on the road, then returning to Cleveland to lose Game 7 in front of the home town crowd.

If you claim that, at some point during the third quarter, you didn't think the exact same thing was going to happen, then you're either a liar or you haven't been following Cleveland sports for very long. Those of us who've been watching for a while have seen so many big games slip away for improbable--sometimes almost inconceivable--reasons that we've built in some mental defenses to cushion the blow.

One of the biggest of those defenses is to try to identify the exact moment in whatever playoff run you're watching when the Cleveland team is going to "Jump the Shark." Last year, it was the end of Game 6 against the Pistons, when the Cavs came agonizingly close to tipping in the rebound of LeBron's intentionally missed free throw to send the game into overtime. It was all downhill from there.

I thought that I had the moment pegged last night--when LeBron picked up his fourth foul and the cameras panned to the satanic Mikki Moore and his evil grin. After all, that was the start of the run that would finish the Cavs. Hell, I even had our series souvenir picked out. I'm talking about Jason Kidd's bounce pass to Moore. I figured that spectacular pass would become something like The Shot; an unendurable moment that it would be Cleveland fans' destiny to endure endlessly as it was replayed over and over and over again for years.

But it didn't turn out that way. Instead, the Nets got stone cold, and Donyell Marshall and Daniel Gibson got hot. Then LeBron's game, which had been missing in action for two quarters, returned just as suddenly as it departed. Almost before we knew it, a collapse of epic proportions turned into a rout. Incredibly, the Nets fans who were shaking the rafters with 10 minutes left in the game were leaving their seats with three minutes left in the game.

As a result, the Cavs now play for a Conference Championship for the first time since 1992, and only the second time in their history. Hey, things didn't turn out like I thought they would, and like they almost always do. That doesn't mean I'm going to let my playoff disappointment defenses down just yet, but it's sure nice to know they weren't needed last night.

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