LeBron vs. Cleveland Live Blog

LeBron James (photo. David Alvarez)

LeBron is on the court, the cameras are stuck on his every move, and the boos are loud. TNT’s Kenny Smith said he’s never seen a basketball arena as intense as Quicken Loans Arena is right now, and even through the television I’m catching the vibe that the building is feeling real small for LeBron and the Heat right now. It’s almost like a high school rivalry game. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade has never played in a national TV game where he’s been less of a story line than he is right now. Chris Bosh? He might as well be back in Toronto.

Props for some clever wordplay scattered throughout the crowd, but these are honestly some of the worst-made signs I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been to a handful of WWE shows.

Miami intros: LeBron is called first and gets booed without much incident. Big Z is cheered. Hmm, I wonder what the difference between those two former Cavs would be? Oh yeah …

Gotta say, the Cavs video and intro was nice. Almost made me forget how mediocre their roster is. “JOOOOOO-EEEEEEE GRAHAAAAAAAAAAM!!!”

LeBron does the chalk-toss right in Wally Szczerbiak’s face, who is in street clothes behind the scorer’s table. Tip-off time…

FIRST QUARTER
– How does Carlos Arroyo feel that Wade and Bosh are getting booed every touch, LeBron is getting booed SUPER-loud on every touch, Big Z is getting cheered, and he inspires silence. Like he’s not even relevant enough to boo. Carlos Arroyo, a.k.a. A Chance To Catch Your Breath.

– Wade gets the first basket with a dunk off a steal, then LeBron hits a face-up jumper on Anthony Parker. LeBron misses a three over Graham, and the crowd loves it.

– More slowed-down iso-heavy offense for the Heat. A missed Wade jumper leads to J.J. Hickson going coast-to-coast and kinda dunking on LeBron. Tell me again why Mike Brown didn’t use him in the Boston series? His athleticism against the C’s front line could have swung the series and, ultimately, kept LeBron in town. Cavs lead 11-10.

– Dime’s Eric Newman: “Wade is going to be the key tonight.” He actually said that before tip-off, and so far Wade has been the difference with his slashing.

– “Christina Bosh” (says somebody in the room) goes to the rack a little hesitant, and Ryan Hollins clocks him across the face. Surprised they didn’t call a flagrant just to keep the players in check. Bosh’s free throws make it 17-14, Cavs.

– Dan Gilbert: “Pat Riley might have taken my superstar, but I took his hair.”

– LeBron scores six in a row to put Miami ahead 21-17. If he gets cooking, this building is going to get real quiet. Here’s my question for the staunch LeBron haters: How do you really feel about LBJ as a player? I hear so many people harp on his (lack of) post game, his outside shot, his free throws. Do you think he’s just a good player and not great? Do you think he’s not good? Do you think he’s great with just a few flaws? Honest question.

– And … TNT waits until 2:30 left in the first quarter to roll out the “Cleveland Sports Misery” montage. New addition: a photo of LeBron, Wade and Bosh being introduced together in Miami.

– James Jones hits a three to make it a double-digit lead, but Boobie Gibson responds with a quick three. Last possession of the quarter, LeBron is iso’d on Jamario Moon, gets into the lane but misses a short pull-up. End of one, it’s 31-23 Miami.

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Daniel Gibson

SECOND QUARTER
– Craig Sager goes with the subdued suit but bedazzled tie. He’s interviewing Spoelstra, who says “once the smoke cleared” that it’s just like any other game.

– Overheard in the room while one of our dudes is talking about Power Balance: “Oh, I got a balance beam on my f*****’ wrist.” You probably had to be there.

– As James Jones rains another three (36-28 MIA), Newman points out that Eddie House has been getting less and less playing time lately.

– Ramon Sessions drives past Jones for an and-one layup to make it 36-31, Miami. The Heat defense is on-point tonight. The Cavs are working hard for every bucket.

– Wade gets a dunk on Varejao, then Moon bricks a wide-open three, then Mario Chalmers sticks a three. Huge momentum swing sequence right there as Miami goes up by 10 again.

– A little interior passing by the Miami bigs leads to Juwan Howard getting a layup. Not that he has a choice anymore. When was the last time Juwan got a dunk?

– Cavs fans: If you truly think LeBron is a “sidekick” (one of the chants tonight), shouldn’t you be mad at your franchise for spending 7 years building everything around a sidekick?

– That’s two times now they’ve shown LeBron chatting up the Cavs bench during a dead ball. Some guys are talking back, some look like they’re not sure whether they should engage.

– Joey Graham barely touches LeBron’s chest and he pulls off an English Premier League-level flop. Between that, the chalk toss and his general presence, he’s doing a fantastic job being the villain tonight. 50-37, Miami

– LeBron misses a layup at the rim, which the crowd likes. Some lady in the crowd looks like she said, “Go home, LeBron!”

– Cleveland misses another open three (that’s about 37 tonight), and Hickson tries to jump clear over Bosh’s back for a follow dunk that doesn’t work. Bosh’s free throws make it a 20-point game. Mo Williams hits a free throw to cut the lead to 19. At halftime, LeBron has a game-high 14 points and 6 assists, along with 5 rebounds. He has zero turnovers but he’s shooting 5-for-13 from the field.

– As I’m watching the Cavs get worked over, all I can ask is: How did they beat the Celtics again? This team has no go-to scorer and no low-post game, so they’re constantly settling for jumpers, even more than Miami when they’re at their worst.

– Video of LeBron’s pre-game introduction:

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Dwyane Wade (Photo. Jeffery Salter)

THIRD QUARTER
– The fans have given LeBron more of a battle than the Cavs defense. I don’t want to say the Cavs looked unprepared defensively and haven’t made any adjustments, but allow me to share a story I once heard about Byron Scott from an inside NBA source: When Scott was coaching the Nets, the team’s video coordinator suspected Scott wasn’t watching the game film he was putting together. Trying to confirm his suspicions, he put some porn in the middle of one tape and gave it to Scott like it was any other game. Scott returned the tape later on and never said a word about the porn.

– Terrell Owens is in the building. I’ve interviewed T.O. before, and he’s huge for an NFL receiver. And LeBron just made him look small. That’s arguably the two most impressive physical specimens in the NBA and NFL together.

– According to Sager, Byron Scott had to tell his team to “stop fooling around” and remember they’re playing against LeBron and not with him. Then the third quarter begins and LeBron gets an easy post-up bucket and a coast-to-coast layup. 65-42, Miami.

– Pizza’s here…

– Fadeaway three by LeBron makes it 71-48. Now the Cavs fans are just booing their own team, not LeBron. He hits another three, then dimes Arroyo for a jumper.

– I think they call this “turning the screws in.” LeBron catches a lob from Wade and finishes a layup despite the foul. 88-50, Miami. They just showed a fan yelling “You’re a bitch” at LeBron and flipping him off.

– Miami is up 91-60 after another LeBron fadeaway. This is ugly. Another and-one gives LeBron 36 points in the final minute of the third. Assuming LeBron sits out the fourth quarter, all Cleveland has left at this point is creative chants. End of three, 95-65 Miami.

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FOURTH QUARTER
– Do I have to keep watching this if LeBron is done for the night? He has 38 points, 5 boards, 8 assists, and is 15-of-25 from the field. Wade (who’s still playing) has 22 points, 8 boards and 7 dimes, and Bosh has 13 points. Big Z is scoreless in 18 minutes.

– Should Spoelstra put Big Z in and let him get a bucket?

– Comment from Dime reader bookkwormmaster: “Heard one of the TNT crew say that Boobie Gibson is the ONLY player on the Cavs that still keeps in contact with LeBron. I guess all that chemistry and pregame yucking it up when he played with his former team was all a farce.”

– Leon Powe is in the game. I miss him being part of a relevant team. James Jones sticks another three and it’s 102-75. And you know how I know it’s garbage time? Erick Dampier is checking in.

– On the floor for Miami right now: Arroyo, House, Jones, Howard, Dampier. As a starting five, how many games would they win in an 82-game season? I’m saying four.

– Sign in the crowd: “We should have drafted Darko.”

– Seeing as James Jones is a lock for the All-Star Weekend three-point shootout, who else makes the field? I want to see Shannon Brown do the dunk contest and three-point contest. Throw in Anthony Morrow, Mike Bibby, Matt Bonner and Jason Richardson.

– Oh yeah, the game. It’s 118-88 after a Mario Chalmers three with under 30 seconds to go. Jawad Williams adds the pointless reverse layup to make it 118-90. Game over. LeBron gave Jawad a quick hug and was led to the tunnel. Nothing was thrown at him.

– Post-game, LeBron says, “I know this court. I’ve hit a lot of shots on this court.” Asked if he wants to apologize for anything about his departure, he says no. Good for him.

– I think the Heat are going to take off after this game and go on a big run. We were talking about this during the second half: It was like they were (or at least LeBron was) looking ahead to this game, and it was a distraction. Now that it’s out of the way, they can relax and play up to their potential. It’s still going to be tough against certain teams because they don’t have Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, but they’re going to still push 60-something wins. Granted, the Cavs stink, but the Heat looked really good tonight. On Saturday they play the Joe Johnson-less Hawks, then hit the road for Milwaukee, Utah, Golden State and Sacramento. I can see them running the table.

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