LeBron James’ solo act recalls early Cleveland playoff runs
One of the great moments of LeBron James’ career happened in Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, when he drilled a high-arcing 3-pointer that fell through the net after the horn sounded and gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a stunning one-point home victory over the Orlando Magic.
In the mass hysteria that followed — there’s always a certain buzz that envelops an arena when James does something special, even if it’s on the road — it was easy to miss the reality. Even though it was the lower seed and the underdog, Orlando left Cleveland with the series tied 1-1 and felt pretty good about its chances to win.
The Magic did finish off the Cavs in six games. James had historically one of the greatest series for a player on a losing team, averaging 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists. (He did it despite playing with a benign tumor in his jaw, which was removed in a four-hour surgery three days after the series ended.)
That Cavs team won a franchise-record 66 games and was the No. 1 overall seed. They were the No. 2-ranked defense, had four players average 12 or more points and six rotation players who shot 38 percent or better on 3-pointers. It was a great team. Not a championship team but a great team nonetheless. And they reached a point where they just were outclassed.
That memory is relevant now as the Cavs find themselves locked in a 1-1 battle with the Indiana Pacers as their playoff series heads to Indianapolis. Looking at the situation frankly and evaluating the uneven play of his teammates, James may be facing the most daunting first-round series of his career.
The supporting cast needs to rally or face a dubious distinction of being the weakest in James’ 13 career playoff runs. It’s not a conclusion the Cavs want James to come to as he approaches another free agency, especially considering this roster is costing $190 million, including luxury tax.
Or as Cavs coach Ty Lue said after Game 2: “I need to see more out of a lot of guys.”
The Cavs have the oldest and most expensive roster in the playoffs yet James had the heavy lifting in the first two games. For example, he has already scored 70 points in the…