From a fan's standpoint, it's not difficult to dislike LeBron James. This is not news. However, one thing abundantly clear after his beatdown of the Boston Celtics
Thursday night is that no matter what, many fans in the Twitter age are still going to be haters.
James has needed an elimination game like his 45-point, 15-rebound effort in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals for more than two years now just to try and shut people up. Unfortunately for him, that won't happen, as evidenced by the classy fan that threw a drink at James
after the game.
In the 2010 ECF - when many expected performances like this - James all but disappeared in his last three games against the Celtics, effectively beginning the anti-LeBron movement. After he kicked it into high gear by kicking Cleveland in the teeth in front of Jim Gray and the fridge full of Vitamin Water, it became easy (and quite fun) to pile on him.
Rightfully so, everything about his game since has been nitpicked and over-analyzed. And it serves him right; if he wanted to be the "global icon" he so desires, and to a more completely impossible extent, the "next Jordan," there could be no missed free throws or fourth-quarter disappearing acts.
However, James's deluge came at the expense of the rest of the Heat team. Dwyane Wade shot a weak six-of-17 and was the only other Miami player to score in double digits. It's also worth noting - and I'm not hating - that Boston basically played like crap, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett going a combined 10-of-32. Basketball is a game of tempo, and Doc Rivers said as much afterwards. The Celts just didn't match Miami's energy, and it cost them - in all likelihood the series.
While James took a big step up Thursday, it's really what people have expected, rightly or wrongly, all along. Killer instinct. And rightly or wrongly, it will be expected in Game 7 as well.
When the Heat (yeah, I said it) meet the Thunder in the Finals next week, the likeability chasm between the two franchises will be highly pronounced. I personally feel like a scumbag for wavering on OKC after their first two games against San Antonio, but the reality was that the Thunder had outplayed the Spurs in four of those eight quarters anyways. When push came to shove, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were just too young and too athletic for San Antonio. Throw in a bad game from Tim Duncan in Game 3, and their fate was sealed
For the Spurs to go from 20 straight wins to four straight losses was surprising, but win streaks in the NBA playoffs don't always mean titles - the 2003 Nets and the 1989 Lakers both put up double digit streaks and still came up short.
If this is the end of the Spurs as we know it, it's been real.Raptors rumours
I'm not sold on the Rudy Gay or Andre Iguodala-to-the Raptors rumours. While an established wing presence has been a need in Toronto for more than five years, taking on Gay for three years and about $54 million is probably not in Bryan Colangelo's wheelhouse. Gay is a good player - but not a great player. And what exactly is this team if the Raptors get him? A Brian Burke-style rebuild/overpriced player hybrid? Iguodala comes cheaper, but it's widely assumed Philly might want too much in return. Works in progress shouldn't trade draft picks for Phil Kessel ... I mean Rudy Gay or Andre Iguodala (similar when you consider the fan base would expect too much from them).
With Jonas Valanciunas aboard, I actually want to see him play next to Andrea Bargnani for at least a year, as silly as that may sound to some. And if Jose Calderon is traded, who plays the point when they package the draft pick away? There will be no Damian Lillard in that case, and while we're on the topic I wish the Steve Nash speculation would stop. Wouldn't a 38-year-old ringless future hall of famer want to play on a title contender now?
While ESPN's Marc Stein points out that the Heat or the Knicks don't have the cap space for Nash, that doesn't take into account he might be willing to take a discount to win. I realize he has a home on the west side of Manhattan, but do really see Nash plying his trade in Brooklyn next year? As for Toronto, after taking the reins of Canada Basketball
, he owes nothing else to us patriotically.
Of course, I could be wrong. Often I am.Team Canada update
Speaking of Canada Basketball, Team White beat Team Red 56-54 Thursday night at Humber College in Toronto. Sensation Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Ennis and Xavier Rathan-Mayes were among the standouts.
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