ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Can you spell “champ?” Gokul Venkatachalam can.
Gokul is a 14-year-old eighth grader from just outside of St. Louis, and last night he competed in the National Spelling Bee. Perhaps this is a good sign for LeBron and Cavs, but Gokul is a huge LeBron fan, so much so that in his introduction on the Spelling Bee, Gokul channeled King James…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — LeBron James swished an improbable game-winner yesterday to give the Cavs a buzzer-beating Game 4 win over the Chicago Bulls. And while Bulls fans were understandably not that thrilled, other people were, including the New York football Giants rookie sensation Odell Beckham Jr., who took to Instagram to share his excitement.
The Cavs passed their first big test of the second LeBron era. They were down 2-1 in the series. They were down 11 points late in the third quarter. Kyrie Irving was dealing with a foot injury and James himself turned his ankle midway through the third.
But they came back with some big shots from J.R. Smith and strong defense in the final period. And James provided the finishing touches on Cleveland’s biggest win of the season.
A little nudge from James knocked Jimmy Butler off-balance, and he wasn’t able to close fast enough. James’ momentum was taking him toward the Bulls’ bench, but the space Butler provided (and the lack of a second defender) allowed him to square his shoulders and keep his balance, with his toes on the 3-point line. Of the three buzzer beaters we’ve seen in the last three days, it was the easiest shot.
After coming back from 11 down, the Cavs blew a five-point lead in less than 30 seconds, thanks in part to James’ eighth turnover of the afternoon, an offensive foul with 14.3 seconds left.
Still, if the shot misses, they have another chance to redeem themselves in overtime.
The playoffs appear to be wide open, especially in the Eastern Conference. If the Cavs lose this game, they’re in a situation – down 3-1 – that few teams have come back from.
But the win gives them back home-court advantage. Since Jan. 19, they’re 23-2 in Cleveland, where they will play Game 5 and 7 (if necessary).
A clumsy mob that spilled onto the scorer’s table.
It’s the playoffs. It’s two teams that have a good shot of reaching The Finals if they get through this series. It was a high-leverage game. Five Horrys.
Is it OK to say this was the sweetest moment for Derrick Rose since 2011? Yes, it appears so, because what could be more uplifting to a player who’s been to injury hell and back (three times) than sending a sucker punch to LeBron James and the Cavs here in what could be a tightly-contest second-round playoff series?
Over the last few years it has become customary, even tired, to proclaim “He’s Back!” whenever Rose did anything that remotely resembled his MVP season. To be honest, Rose will never be “back” until he displays the consistency of that season, but let’s put that aside for a moment. On this very play, with this very shot, he was “back” for a fleeting microsecond, even if the three-point buzzer beater than put the Bulls up 2-1 in the series required a kiss from the basketball Gods to bank off the glass.
As it is, Rose is being celebrated today in the same city that heckled him during his clumsy comeback from knee surgery a few years ago. Good for him, because if anyone needed a lift from a crazed crowd and a game-winning shot, it’s Rose.
Well, when you’re running to your right and need to shoot over a defender who has the wingspan of a prehistoric bird, then yeah, this shot was a bit tricky to pull off.
Rose took an in-bounds pass with three seconds left and after shaking free of ImanShumpert, found Tristan Thompson flying in his grill. Of course, with time of the essence, there really wasn’t any time to think. And maybe that was a good thing. Three times on the Bulls’ previous four possessions, Rose missed one of two free throws and went 0-for-2 on isolation plays. This time, Rose simply launched it and didn’t call bank.
Before Rose’s game winner, the Bulls were stunned by a desperate three-pointer by J.R. Smith just seconds earlier. In a bit of bad decision-making by the Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls refused to foul Smith while leading by three. In that situation, it’s better to send a player to the free throw line than risk having him tie the game, and the Bulls lost that gamble.
With Pau Gasol on the bench dealing with an injured hamstring, the Bulls couldn’t afford to play into overtime, not against LeBron. Speaking of whom, he poked the ball away from Rose on the very next play. Lucky for LeBron, he wasn’t called for a foul. And lucky for Rose, the ball went out of bounds, giving the Bulls another shot with three seconds left.
Bulls are up 2-1 in the best of seven. And the next game’s at the United Center on Sunday. C’mon.
Rose was rather subdued, as though he knew a 30-foot bank shot was going in all the way. Anyway, he was immediately lifted into the air by Joakim Noah, who sprinted off the bench, and soon mobbed by teammates. Of course, the UC went nuts, as it should, given that all of Chicago has been waiting to see something like this from Rose for nearly four years. Wish granted. If the Bulls win this series, don’t you think this shot will be raised as one of the reasons why?
Five Horrys, because of the circumstances: Rose’s continued comeback from injuries, it was a playoff game, LeBron was on the floor, and the ball was banked in. Yes, this is the max number of Horrys, but just the same, this isn’t some game in February. Please, after all he’s been through, don’t you think Rose should get lots of Horry love?
This was all foreshadowed by a video the Cavs made celebrating the end of the headband, which is apparently named Terry. This mockumentary ends with Terry thinking perhaps it’s time to return to action with LeBron. And you know what? I think Terry was right …
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Cleveland Cavaliers were the Eastern Conference’s best team in the second half, posting a Conference-best record of 22-9 after February 2. So expectations were high yesterday when the Cavs hosted the Boston Celtics to begin their latest postseason run. The crowd was hyped, and LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were each special in their own ways, as they helped the Cavs to a 113-100 win.
Here are a couple of videos from yesterday in Cleveland. First, here’s a slow-mo look at the game…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — When the Miami Heat were racking up titles the last few seasons, almost every postgame interview featured some new form of a videobomb. LeBron James may be in Cleveland now, but last night after the Cavs clinched the Central Division, the videobombs returned. Check out J.R. Smith doing several different videobombs last night…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Miami Heat lost LeBron James over the summer, but they kept Dwyane Wade, who has become one of South Florida’s favorite sons, not only for his on-court achievements. Wade has always been involved in the community, such as two years ago when he surprised a local fan at her prom.
This year, in conjunction with Hublot, Wade surprised a group of 15 foster kids from the Voices for Children Foundation who were doing well in school. Wade invited them into the Heat locker room gifted them with watches and custom suits, and talked to them about the importance of dressing for success. Great stuff…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — LeBron James understands it well: As one of the best players in the NBA, he not only has a lot of fans, he also has a ton of haters. Which may mean he gets anti-LeBron signs at a game, or maybe some mean tweets.
But this may be a first: A Jeep in the Boston area not only supports the Celtics, with a collection of stickers and a vanity license plate, but it also advertises hate for LeBron with a spare tire cover featuring a lifelike painting of a crying LeBron James. It’s like a rolling anti-Bronmobile.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Cavaliers and Rockets had a terrific game yesterday afternoon, battling into overtime and through several game-winning attempts. When the dust settled, the Rockets won 105-103 in overtime. And while several Rockets had great games, they were led by James Harden, who had himself a statement game, finishing with 33 points, 8 rebounds and, more importantly, one big-time win.
Of course, on the losing end of things were the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were led by four-time MVP LeBron James, who finished with 37 points and, as usual, had a hand in everything the Cavs did on Sunday. And sure, he also missed two clutch free throws that could have given the Cavs a late lead. This time LeBron may have come up just a bit short, but considering his history of rings and trophies, he’ll get another chance and will take advantage of the situation.
Still, that didn’t stop the Houston Rockets from gloating a bit after the win. The Rockets official Twitter account tweeted out an image declaring Harden the “new King”…