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6/01/2007 09:03:00 AM

LeBron gave us something to shout about

Let's call it the Yelp Index.

The Yelp Index, not to be confused with former NBAer Christian Welp, comes into play when you're watching sports alone in your living room. Does anything happen to make you spontaneously shout, like A-Rod trying to keep an infielder from catching a pop-up? The more the uncontrollable "Whoas!" and "Holy cows," the higher the Yelp Index.

Last night, as the clock moved toward midnight in the East, LeBron James buried the needle on the Yelp Index as surely as he buried unreal-degree-of-difficulty step-back jumpers and ferocious slams.

If you didn't get a chance to see it, that's a shame. Find someone at the office who did catch the game and pull up a chair. This is a performance they will be talking about for years. Even as it was unfolding TNT's Marv Albert was dubbing it one of the great playoff performances in NBA history, and for once it wasn't the ahistorical hyperbole that is often the case in our "instant classic" sports culture.

No, this was the real deal. As the Cavs held off the Pistons 109-107 in double overtime on the road in a crucial Game 5, King James scored his team's last 25 points and 29 of its final 30. He finished with a career-playoff-best 48 points.

More impressive was the way he did it. Starting with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, LeBron absolutely imposed his will on the game. With the Pistons keyed as always to stop him, he muscled his way to the basket anyway time after time.

James took criticism in some quarters -- including this one -- for not asserting himself enough down the stretch of Game 1. Yes, James is a terrific passer, but he's not a point guard like Magic Johnson or Jason Kidd. He's his team's leading scorer (No. 5 in the league at 27.3 ppg during the regular season) and resident superstar, and crunch time during the playoffs is where superstars separate themselves in the NBA firmament.

So it was instructive that the first words out of LeBron's mouth when he finally caught his breath after the final buzzer were: "I just wanted to try to be aggressive." Not, "I was taking what the defense was giving me," or "The winning play when two guys come at you is to give it up."

Good for him, if not for the many Americans doubtless kept up by all the yelping.
posted by SI.com | View comments |  

Comments:

I'm a Cavs fan but I thought the game was over near the end of the 4th quarter and a couple times in the overtimes. Anyone who turned off their t.v. and went to bed missed an awesome performance.

The critics of LeBron have to be eating a lot of crow today. Huh Charles?
Posted: June 1, 2007 9:47 AM   by Anonymous
I would hate to have you as a teamate, if you are still somehow saying that Lebron should not have made that pass in game 1 - if you don't pass then, you never make that pass. Ridiculous, media driven supposing. I guess Jordan's passes to Paxon were a strategic mistake that he happened to get lucky with, eh?
Posted: June 1, 2007 10:00 AM   by Pete
Anon. 9:47 a.m., my beef with LeBron in Game 1 was not just with the last play but the last few minutes. He wasn't as assertive as he should have been IMO on several of the final possessions that night, passing off repeatedly and being too passive for a superstar. Taken alone, the last play (kicking to Marshall for a potential go-ahead 3) is certainly very defensible. It just struck me as endemic of a larger lack of killer instinct that night. I certainly could be wrong; it wouldn't be the first and definitely not the last time. Anyway, LeBron certainly had a killer instinct last night. -- Thanks, Pete
I am a Cleveland sports fan and last night was the first time that no matter what happened, I just knew we would win and that was because of LeBron.

It happened right after the 'Sheed hack on LeBron that did not get called (replays showed his wrist getting pulled to the ground) and the Pistons went on a 6-0 run to go up 7 points. LeBron didn't wilt under the pressure or getting a bad call; no LeBron willed us back quickly to tie and from then on it just felt like we SHOULD win and we WOULD win. And everything from that moment on was magic. Those feelings are not normal for Cleveland fans, they really are not.
Posted: June 1, 2007 10:32 AM   by Anonymous
In my opinion, Pete's comments are right on. If Marshall hits the three-pointer, we're all talking about how great of a decision it was, and the Cavs would be on their way to San Antonio. The "lack of agressiveness" was a game-long issue, not a one-play issue. He seems to have learned that when the aggressiveness is sustained, good things tend to happen.

Now...just like last year...the Cavs need to win Game 6, or they won't be moving on.
You sound like Randy Jackson during "American Idol." You need to have that "YO" factor, though I still have no clue what that means.
Posted: June 1, 2007 10:53 AM   by Anonymous
I somewhat agree with everyone in reference to game 1. LeBron should have been more aggressive/assertive towards the end. He made a late game pass to Z which he should have taken himself. But, the very last play of that game 1 LeBron made the right decision. Just like he made the right decision at the end of game 2. The Cavs have outplayed the Pistons in every game so far, although they were all very close. I was at the NBA Eastern Conference Finals when Jordan beat the Cavs back in the day. I thought Jordan single handed destroyed our franchise. I now see LeBron doing the same to other teams.
Posted: June 1, 2007 11:09 AM   by Anonymous
I watched the game last night with my father, who was never a big Jordan fan, and he said midway through the 1st OT "I haven't seen something like this in almost ten years."

I knew immediately who he was talking about. What my father was referring to was ONE MAN'S ability and instinct to take over a game and throw everything he had at a whole other squad. Lebron did that last night, and even though we're Celtics fans (please pity us) we were just as enthralled and excited as all of Cleveland was last night. It was a beautiful battle by both teams; but when it mattered most, one man stepped up against a whole team.

It was truly incredible to watch. I won't say it's the greatest playoff performance ever, but it was certainly something that had to be seen to be appreciated.
Posted: June 1, 2007 11:10 AM   by Anonymous
All I have to say, is that is the most I enjoyed watching an NBA basketball game since Michael Jordan beat Utah in the Finals with the flu. I think we are starting to see LeBron take that next jump to Jordanesque super-stardom, and the scary thing is he is only 22. If Cleveland can ever find a "Scottie Pippen" for James, the team will be unstoppable and the next dynasty.
Posted: June 1, 2007 11:47 AM   by Pat H.
In your eyes, if the Cavs lose the next two, and Detroit takes the series, will that diminish last nights performance at all?
I actually thought the pass in game one was the right play. Lebron is a playmaker and he got the ball to a guy whose only job is to knock down open shots. If Marshall hits the shot then James is praised. He didn't so he wasn't assertive. Whoever mentioned Jordan passing to Paxson hit the nail on the head. I found it comical how people could trash Lebron for making the pass. People often forget that this guy would be a Senior in college this year if he would have gone to school. James is a better player at this point in his life than any other player has been before. He is very complete for his age.

Last nights show Lebron put on was unbelievable. I have a feeling it is only the beginning of his playoff legacy.
Posted: June 1, 2007 12:15 PM   by Pete
Pat H., I do think that if the Cavs don't hold on and win this series, it will take a little of the shine off last night's performance by LeBron in terms of how it's remembered historically. It will (and should) still be recalled as a great effort, just as Jordan's 63 in a losing effort to the Celtics is. But it elevates the significance of the performance if it helps lead the Cavs to an NBA Finals appearance (or better yet a championship) this season. -- Pete
Posted: June 1, 2007 12:46 PM   by Anonymous
Regarding the pass at the end of game 1; exactly what others have said. The difference between being "too passive" and "making the other players on the floor better" is nada. Jordan made that same pass MANY times, and I am sick to death of the media distorting things. The difference is, Paxson, BJ Armstrong and Steve Kerr buried those shots. Marshall missed it. The Cavs FO needs to do a better job of surrounding LBJ with guys that can hit shots in the clutch. Because just like with Jordan, there will be 2 guys with wide open looks everytime LeBron gets near the paint.
Posted: June 1, 2007 1:00 PM   by Anonymous
pete: isn't he still the second coming of t-mac? plu-eese. even prior to this performance it was pretty clear that this kid has lived up to (and is now surpassing) the hype. the warning on the label says not to operate machinery while taking sinus medication, so next time just step away from the computer, sleep it off, and have a clear head before engaging the keyboard. this article is a nice comeback, but it smacks of trying to re-establish your credibility on this one. [doesn't dwyer write on basketball. why does si need two nba bloggers anyway?]

i'm just amazed that no matter how many very smart and respected basketball guys have been saying "this is the guy" since lebron was thirteen that people still don't get it. get it now?
Posted: June 1, 2007 1:25 PM   by Anonymous
Dirk N should have this game on a perpetual loop and watch it all summer. This is how a REAL mvp plays.
Posted: June 1, 2007 3:16 PM   by Anonymous
Lebron is best player in hoops. Period. Awsome game, awsome player. No one believed me when I predicted them to win the series, as a result, I will win 2 bets on the series. They will beat the spurs b/c bowen or no one on the spurs can come close to guarding him. Even though he has no great teammates or great all stars on his team, he still makes his team the better team. Can you imagine if he had just 1 other all star on his team? Cavs fans are super lucky they have this guy. Being a Laker fan since the 70's, and I hate to say this, but I just wish Kobe had the smarts lebron does...
Posted: June 1, 2007 3:43 PM   by Anonymous
I only saw "The Pass" from replays, but I don't know how in the world anyone can say that was "the right play." James was WIDE open for a layup/dunk. Just because Prince was bodying him doesn't mean he's guarding him. The only reason to pass was James saw a wide open man for the 3 and the win, and he took a chance. I guess it all evens out in the end, though. A 100% chance to tie would lead to a 50/50 chance at winning in OT... while a wide open man shooting the 3 gives the same chance at winning.

Quick question: Is Mcdyess really THAT important for the Pistons? The Cavs are basically playing without Hughes, it doesn't make sense that Pistons fans would complain too much about losing Mcdyess. Call it fate or whatever, but teams should be on even footing while playing each other. Handicapping one side just doesn't make it seem like a fair fight (see Spurs/Suns game 5).
Posted: June 1, 2007 6:04 PM   by Anonymous
It is incorrect to compare the Jordan pass to Kerr with the the LeBron pass to Marshall. Jordan wasn't on his way to a lay-up when he passed to Kerr. Jordan was near or behind the arc and simply chose a better (and wide-open) 3-point shooter than he was.
Posted: June 1, 2007 7:53 PM   by Anonymous
The real issue with the game 1 pass was that LeBron didn't have confidence in his shot because he was sure that he was going to get hacked. Remember, LeBron didn't get to the line one single time in the first game. He had to pass to a wide open teammate. Even though he was wide open himself. Every time he went inside in that game the Pistons collapsed all over him. They played great defense but no way they never fouled him in that game.
Posted: June 1, 2007 8:24 PM   by Anonymous
We were screaming in my bar last night in Long Beach, as some long time Lakers fans finally came around and realized what us Cleveland fans have known for years,...LeBron is the best player in the league.
The Cavs, and LeBron made me proud to be an Ohioan, and I've been beaming all day.
Now,....just 5 more wins to go!
Brian
Brunswick, Ohio / Los Angeles, CA
Posted: June 5, 2007 10:47 AM   by shrnrg99
LeBron has been hyped since day one. He finally came into his own and lived up the hype as well as handling it like a professional. Congratulations LeBron, now watch out for the "Dirty Dozen".

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