He’s hit game-winning shots in the past. He’s made great defensive plays or thrown amazing passes to help win other games. But until Friday night in Oakland, LeBron James didn’t get to feel the NBA’s ultimate thrill -- nailing a game-winning shot as the buzzer sounded.
He’s hit game-winning shots in the past. He’s made great defensive plays or thrown amazing passes to help win other games.
But until Friday night in Oakland, LeBron James didn’t get to feel the NBA’s ultimate thrill -- nailing a game-winning shot as the buzzer sounded.
So it’s only appropriate that he did it at the midway point of what’s shaping up to be the Cavs’ most memorable season ever. With most Cavs fans struggling to stay awake past 1 a.m., James jolted them to life by hitting a step-back, 19-foot jumper from the left wing to beat the Warriors at the buzzer, 106-105.
“You hear the horn and the shot goes in ... it’s a great feeling,” James said. “I wish everybody could get that feeling. It’s unbelievable.”
“Unbelievable” is probably the response most NBA observers would’ve given if asked could the Cavs be a 60-win team when the season started. But that’s exactly where they are headed by going into the season’s second half with a 33-8 record -- best in franchise history after 41 games.
They are just 12 wins shy of last season’s total and 24 away from equaling the team’s best record ever.
Just don’t expect the Cavs to start fixating on that. A big part of their success has been the ability to stay in the moment. Over and over, coach Mike Browns offers this phrase: “We’re not looking too far ahead.”
They want to win an NBA title, but they know championships are won by the blandest of sports’ clichés -- taking it one day at a time.
So when wins add up, they don’t get caught up in the big-picture success. When injuries mount, they don’t get consumed with how difficult it will be to play several weeks minus a starter or two.
“True professionals, that’s what we have on our team,” James said earlier this week. “We have guys that are always ready whenever they are called upon.”
That goes from James all the way down to Tarence Kinsey, the seldom-used reserve who came up big with 10 points Friday in his most meaningful action of the season.
“It shows what our team is made of,” injured guard Delonte West told FS Ohio after the game. “... We got big goals here in this locker room.”
Big Shot Ben
No one ever expects Ben Wallace to make a shot beyond a dunk or layup, but the Cavs forward delivered a huge jumper Friday night.
With just over three minutes left and the shot clock about to expire, a trapped Mo Williams passed to Wallace at the right elbow of the key. With the shot clock at 1, Wallace quickly -- and somewhat smoothly -- sank an 18-footer.
“You guys don’t get an opportunity to see Ben like we do in practice,” Brown said. “I’m telling you, he knocks down jump shot after jump shot after jump shot, and it was great to see him knock that shot down, especially at that time.”
Brown’s not lying. Once practice ends and the media is allowed to enter while the team does shooting drills, Wallace regularly makes mid-range jumpers and free throws -- two things he struggles to do during games.
Even on the night he broke his right wrist more than a week ago, West talked about returning to action that night. Having missed the last five games, West definitely is not enjoying his sudden time off.
“I want to get out there so bad,” he told FS Ohio after the win over the
Warriors. West said the wrist appears to be healing fine and he had it recasted in Portland. He switched the color of his cast from black to white.
“I change it up on ‘em keep ‘em guessing,” West said jokingly. “Now some guys can sign my cast.”
The Cavs did well in a midseason report by SI.com’s Ian Thomsen, who listed LeBron James as MVP, Mike Brown as Coach of the Year and Danny Ferry as Executive of the Year.
With the trade deadline looming ahead on Feb. 19, expect rumors really to start heating up around the league. CBSSports.com reports that the Suns could be open to moving Amare Stoudemire.
Toronto forward Jermaine O’Neal appears to be in high demand. Both the Lakers and Heat have been rumored to be working on deals for the former All-Star.
It would be a surprise if the deadline passes without Chicago making some kind of a deal. They appear to be getting more dysfunctional each week.
That’s not a good atmosphere for a promising rookie such as Derrick Rose to learn the ropes in.
A Bucks’ source told the New York Post that Olympian Michael Redd will not be traded this season. That hasn’t prevented teams such as Portland, San Antonio and Dallas from coming in with offers that the Bucks deemed unacceptable.
Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org