Three Subplots From the Bronstrosity Game

A Daily Babble Production

In the likely event that you haven't spent the last 36 hours ensconced under a rock, you don't need me to tell you that a certain 32.8 percent career three-point shooter happened to convert a catch-and-shoot with one second left from two steps beyond the arc to win a rather important playoff basketball game on Friday night.

If you did happen to play the rock card this weekend, well, that's a nutshell version of how Game 2 of Magic-Cavs ended. Among other things, the unabridged version features some intrigue surrounding the Cavs blowing a 23-point lead at home and Hedo Turkoglu hitting a big shot to put the Magic ahead by two with one second to play.  Rather compelling stuff.

Besides the general insanity of how great LeBron James is, three other thoughts struck me first after a game for the ages:

  • "Hey, Craig, man, we just couldn't afford to go down 0-2 in this series going into Orlando.  Once again, Orlando kept their composure being down and made a run, and uh, that's just a great shot, man.  You know, we gotta get ready for Game 3.  That's a great shot, but we got a lot to clean up."  That would be LeBron's answer verbatim to the impeccably dressed Craig Sager's question about how he kept his composure in the final second and what type of shot he expected to get.  High comedy on a number of levels.  Something about the way he made the "0-2" comment would have tempted me to follow up, "So you decided to make the shot because you lost the opener?  Am I to take it you mail it in on this possession if that doesn't happen?"  Add this to the list of reasons we have professionals with restraint instead of wiseacre Celtics fans on the sidelines at NBA games.  Further, in one 17-second answer to the first postgame question, this man referred to his own shot as "great" twice.  And was absolutely right in doing so.  I thoroughly enjoyed this exchange.  Thank you, Messrs. Sager and James.
  • Stan Van Gundy's immediate reaction to the play: arching his eyebrows along with a thin half-rueful, half-resigned What-can-you-do? smile.  For a guy whose team had just suffered a hardly plausible gut-punch loss, SVG managed to look completely unsurprised.  Since the man isn't renowned for masking his emotions on the sidelines, I took that as the latest testament to LeBron's growing legend.  The look said, "I refuse to be shocked by anything this guy does at this point."  Hard to argue that sentiment.
  • The buzzer-beating drama took the focus off a developing story down the stretch: a fourth quarter full of bizarre officiating that included two correctly called charges on LeBron James in a 51-second span and then a correctly called travel on James to wipe out a basket with 30 seconds remaining in a tie game.  Make what you will of my reference to three absolutely, no-question-about-it correct calls as "bizarre."  The two charges early in the fourth came on the heels of an odd sequence involving Marcin Gortat getting hit with a questionable foul to give Cleveland a chance at a three-point play followed by Gortat getting T'd up.  It also came on the heels of an earlier-in-the-game text message from my buddy Matz expressing his surprise that LeBron is allowed "to play like Brandon Jacobs."  In case there was any doubt about this, Matz is only a casual observer of the league.  My response: "Sadly, I had prior knowledge of that." 

Bron's two charges had plenty of company as the officials whistled five offensive fouls in the final 12:19 of regulation.  Though I've made my discomfort with micro-assessing officials known in the past, I'm feeling bit less reluctant than usual to weigh in as a neutral observer on this one: Courtney Lee's at the end of the third quarter looked questionable, but it was hardly definitive on replay.  That makes it hard for me to knock the refs for a call that could have gone either way on the game's toughest rule to officiate.  Hedo Turkoglu's first charge appeared correct, but it's hard to say how much that mattered given that it came the possession after the James charge.  For the life of me, I can't figure out what he did wrong the second time.  Doug Collins, whom I hold in high esteem, claimed Turkoglu extended his right arm into Anderson Varejao at the left elbow as he drove, but it looked on the replay as though Turk kept his elbow relatively locked on that play.  It does move but hardly enough to merit a foul.

The real disconcerting part of the whole sequence to me was watching LBJ after the calls that went against him.  While it doesn't take long to figure out that no NBA player has ever committed a foul, the level of indignation in James' expressions after his charges took that to a new level.  It left me wondering if he has gotten so accustomed to doing whatever he wants on the basketball court that he doesn't comprehend that lowering one's shoulder and relocating defenders is prohibited.  That said, The Guru summed it up best: "I'm as surprised as he is that those calls were made.  But we've probably got different reasons."

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