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Remember that nice sports doctor your mom told you was coming to Thanksgiving dinner and you got so excited to meet him thinking "this could be the one." But when he arrived he turned out to be a 5-foot-5 team manager that just happened to watch Grey's Anatomy. In other words, a total letdown. That's exactly how it felt Thursday night as the Miami Heat blazed through the Cleveland Cavaliers, 118-90, in LeBron James' first return to Cleveland.
No burning jerseys, no flying projectiles, no crazy trash talk and no accidentally replacing LeBron's chalk with itching powder. The craziest thing that happened in the crowd was some upper-deck fans attacking each other late in the third. Stay classy Cleveland.
The most memorable moment to me was the obviously overweight and over-the-hill Gomer Pyle looking security guard behind the TNT crew that Quicken Loans Arena tried to pass off as heightened security. Call me a pessimist if you like, but I wanted the drama. Isn't that TNT's slogan anyway "We Know Drama?" Instead I thought I was watching Nickelodeon as James (38 points, five rebounds, eight assists) shared jokes with Daniel "Boobie" Gibson (24 points, four rebounds, two assists) on the bench at the end of the second as the Cavaliers were down 19. I don't care how good your relationship is and how many LOL texts you exchange; there's no smiling on the bench when you are down 19 to your nemesis. Even buddies off the court, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas knew it was time to cut the jokes once they hit the hardwood.
From the tip, it seemed the crowd wanted the win more than the smiley Cavaliers cast. The game opened up with a strobe-light filled Cavaliers montage set to Til I Collapse by everyone's favorite angry rapper Eminem. Nothing channels the anger of a city scorned better than an Eminem track. And for a while, the Cavs had us fooled that maybe they were better without LeBron. J.J. Hickson a.k.a. Mini LeBron penetrated Miami's defense for a couple of inside baskets and dunks. Even Anderson Varejao and Antawn Jamison got in on the action to give the Cleveland crowd hope. Momentum was on Cleveland's side, and it looked like they could possibly keep up with the Heat. Maybe Dan Gilbert was right; they would be fine, maybe even better, without James.
Then reality hit, and the Cavaliers turned into a pumpkin late in the first quarter. By scoring only 17 points in the second quarter, the Cavaliers dug themselves into a hole too deep to escape the rest of the game. James, who scored 10 more points than Cavaliers' starting lineup, sat out the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers still struggled to outscore the Heat 26-25.
On the other side of the court, the Heat became the team we always wanted them to be as they went on a 16-0 run late in the first. They moved the ball more and stopped the James isolation plays, to lead to a more team style of play. James and Dwyane Wade (22 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) traded time on and off the floor and it worked for the Heat. If they eventually want to kick into beast mode, the superstars have to learn how to play together like a certain championship team out west.
As the Heat lead grew, the largest of 38 points, the Cavaliers' crowd quieted. The jeers were not present for every possession like they were in the first half. Although the "Akron Hates You" and "De-lon-te" chants during James' free throws and other game stoppages were pretty consistent. For staying loyal and fiery most of the game, Cavaliers fans get my seal approval. Great job @cavs_chants. But the Cavaliers get a "C'mon son" from me for laying on their backs with a smile in the second half.
Anyone who thought the Cavaliers had a chance in this game (including me) were fooling themselves. Just because James stepped on the court we thought the Cavaliers would automatically become a super team capable of leaping tall buildings and defeating a team that was superior in every way. What I witnessed last night is the Cavaliers are who we thought they were, and the return of the King didn't change that. The anticlimactic game, which was over in the first half, proved James, whether he is on the Cavaliers or not, is still the only reason to watch basketball in Cleveland.
Oh, and the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors also played last night.