Ben, I feel for you. But my teams have lost far more than their share of heartbreakers, so I'm going to revel in this one a little bit anyway. My thoughts on the series and the Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers:
- The better team won. At the start of the series, I didn't think the Cavs were the better team. But they outplayed the Pistons in six straight games. Detroit had not lost four in a row all year, but the Cavs swept games 3-6. And enough of this crap about how the Pistons are still the better team and the Cavs are a one-man show. Last night was all Daniel Gibson. 31 points on 9 shots, 19 points in the 4th quarter, 5-5 from behind the 3-point line. In his rookie year. A second-round draft pick. In the deciding game of the Eastern Conference Championship. I'm looking forward to watching this kid play for a long, long time. Big Z, Drew Gooden, and Anderson Varejao are also big-time players (though Drew has a bad habit of disappearing for games). Larry Hughes played some big minutes in this series. Pavlovic, I can't tell. Some days he looks great, other days he looks lost. He sure makes me nervous handling the ball at the end of the games.
- All year long Mike Brown said the Cavs were going to win with their defense. During the regular season, I lost faith and engaged in a bit of Mike Brown-bashing. But he was right and I was wrong. The Cavs just clamp down on defense. I can't wait to see if they're able to knock San Antonio off of their game. Unlike everybody else in the world, I think they might be able to do it. They did beat them twice in the regular season.
- How can you not be happy for Zydrunas Ilgauskas? He's been with the Cavs through the worst, including a 17 win season. Early in his career, he missed one whole year and huge chunks of other years due to foot injuries. He nearly left the game because of them. Earlier this year, he suffered a family tragedy and was away from the team for several games. The best sight of the night was when LeBron gave him that big bear hug immediately after the buzzer.
- Rasheed Wallace went out like a punk. I'm sorry, Ben. I know he's your favorite player, but what a cancer on the team that guy is. To have picked up two technical fouls after fouling out of the game was one of the dumbest moments I've ever seen in professional sports. First, his team was still in it (though on the ropes) at that point. Four free throws was not what the Pistons wanted to give Cavs at that moment. Second, because the second technical was 'Sheed's seventh, if the Pistons had managed to pull that one off he would have been suspended for game 7. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And what was he bitching about anyway? Yes, Varejao flopped on 'Sheed's fifth foul, but just because he flopped doesn't mean he wasn't fouled. The announcers were right that it was an "easy call;" 'Sheed just lowered his shoulder and rammed into his defender. And on that sixth foul, the one that got him ejected, 'Sheed literally tackled LeBron in the lane.
- Speaking of Varejao, I have never seen a player get into an opposing team's head quite as well as Varejao did in this series. They really seem to hate him (and their fans really do). McDyess clotheslined him, Webber shoved him before a jump ball. I don't get it; he's a hustle player who does all the little things to help his team win. Sure, Varejao flops. But he's also great -- perhaps the best in the League -- at anticipating players' next move and setting up to take the charge. He takes hard hits, and a lot of them. Seeing him heave up that 3-pointer in the 4th quarter and botch that fast break made my blood run cold, though.
- Getting back to that 'Sheed thing, it seems to me that he has infected almost the whole team, and possibly the whole city of Detroit, with his loser mentality. I've never seen a team bitch so much after every call that went against them. Nor have I ever seen any group of fans so eager to blame everything on the refs. At various times throughout this series, I've considered trying to put a YouTube montage together just of Pistons players with their arms out, giving that incredulous look to a referee. Fortunately, I'm pretty lazy and that seemed like a lot of work. But the incessant whining (whinging?) really made this a sweet victory.
- All that said, Tayshaun Prince is a class act who had two really rough series in a row. Rip Hamilton is also a hell of a player.
- All hail LeBron James. If you don't double team him, he drops 48 on you. If you do mob him every time he touches the ball, he gives you 8 assists and only 3 turnovers. He finds the wide open man and trusts his teammates to hit the big shot. And he plays defense. He truly is the one player in the NBA I'd most want on my team right now.
Finally, Ben: That 2004 election thing was a cheap shot. I'll have you know that while Ohio did the unforgiveable by going for Bush, Cleveland is as blue of a city as you're going to find:
Cleveland: 60% Kerry, 39% Bush
San Antonio: 59% Bush, 40% KerrySource
I think we all know who to root for in the Finals.
Labels: 'Sheed, Cavs, ECF, history