CLEVELAND — With the season — and perhaps an era — on the brink, I received an email Wednesday from an opportunistic Cavaliers salesperson.
Would I be interested in purchasing a house on Termite Lane without an inspection?
Would I be interested in purchasing season tickets for next year?
Just for kicks, I told her that depended if she had the inside scoop on LeBron James’ plans.
“I wish I did!” she replied. “However, I do have a good feeling he’ll be here next year. ... If/when LeBron decides to stay, this will be pretty crazy here as you could imagine, and we will likely sell out that day.”
Yeah, about that.
Here in this city of light, city of magic, James and the Cavs could not conjure a final flicker of hope in their 110-102 loss to the Warriors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
And all you could think was, well, safe travels, LeBron. It was fun while it lasted.
If this soon-to-be sweep has once more proven anything, it is that James has carried this franchise as far as he can.
He had another triple-double and even got backup from his friends while the Warriors mostly turned in a clunker, with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combining for 21 points on 7-of-27 shooting. But even with all that, it still takes the perfect game from an imperfect Cleveland cast to beat these Warriors. Even with all that, the Warriors could still ride the frontrunning superstar they added to their overflowing coffers two summers ago.
With 50 seconds left and the Warriors leading by three, Kevin Durant pulled up from 33 feet and dropped one final dagger on a night filled with them, punctuating a 43-point tour de force that all but laid to rest Cleveland’s season.
“It's almost like playing the Patriots,” James said afterward. “You can't have mistakes.”
It was another dispiriting reality check for Cleveland, which has played its best basketball of the postseason lately.
These finals are not a repeat of the first round, when the Pacers badly outscored Cleveland over seven games. Or the conference finals, when the Celtics ran the Cavs off the court the first two games in Boston.
Cleveland was competitive into the fourth quarter of both contests in Golden State, and was an illegal search by a striped Barney Fife (the block-charge overturn) and an episode of Who Wants to Shoot J.R.? away in Game 1 from returning home with a split.
Wednesday, the Cavaliers began with the burst you expected. Kevin Love swished a 3 on the first possession, J.R. Smith coolly sank one on the second, and the shots continued to rain — and slam — in.
James polished off a 16-4 opening salvo with the quintessential season highlight: A perfect pass to ... himself. From the top of the key, the greatest solo act of our time went up and under, tossed it off the backboard, and thundered it down with two hands.
Teammates sold separately.
This night, though, some of them came with the package. All around, Cleveland brought it in an inspired first half.
James slipped on his cape (14 points, six rebounds, nine assists), Love assertively rose to the moment (15 points, 10 rebounds), and Smith shed his goat horns (10 points), to say nothing of Rodney Hood emerging from DNP purgatory (six points). The Cavs took a dozen more shots and had 12 more rebounds than the Warriors.
Cleveland played great. Golden State was awful.
And the Cavs led by six points.
That’s life against the Warriors, who have more horsepower than an Aston Martin. If James has an off night, Cleveland is cooked. If Curry has an off night, the Warriors still have Thompson. If Curry and Thompson both have off nights, they still have the second-best player in the game.
You knew this wouldn’t end well for Cleveland, and it didn’t, Durant making sure of it.
If this series does not lead James to greener courts elsewhere, nothing will.
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