September 24, 2014

Elyria
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Simple truth: No foul, no call, quit whining

Cavalier apologists, homers, thumb-suckers who decorate the master bedroom in Cavs paraphernalia (the wife especially appreciates the LeBron jersey with the words “We Are All Witness” on the wall above the four-poster) and eyesight-impaired columnists disguised as impartial observers need go no further.
The whining stops here.
What these eyes got a gander at Thursday night was Richard (Rip) Hamilton sticking himself to The King like he was flypaper. The Second Coming used his elbows, his free hand and his considerable weight advantage, but he couldn’t shake loose. In desperation, and in midflight, LeBron threw up a loopy half-hook, half-prayer that clanked off the rim. No basket, no foul, no call.
What it was, was playoff basketball. You give no quarter, ask none in return, and whatever you do, you don’t whine and ask for change — or for the ref to parse the unwritten rules of the NBA that say the players decide the outcome.
Maybe in November LeBron James gets that call. But maybe it goes the other way, too — with James being whistled for overaggressive use of arms and elbows on his way to the basket. Tweet. A charging call, the ref pointing toward the left-hand side of your screen.
But this is May and this is the playoffs and LeBron’s shot missed and the ball flew away.
The rebound could have gone anywhere. It could have flown out of bounds with the Cavs inbounding beneath the Detroit basket.
It could have flown out of bounds with the refs seeing it as the Pistons ball, the Cavaliers getting a chance to foul and stop the clock on the inbounds play.
It could have been rebounded by the Pistons, with the Cavs immediately fouling, the teams marching to the other end of the floor. But with the Cavs getting a chance to rebound a missed free throw and another chance to tie the game with a desperation shot from just inside 8 Mile Road.
Alas, the ball went to the worst possible place. It careened off the rim into the trembling hands of Larry Hughes. Only minutes before, just as the teams were entering crunch time and every trip down the floor was critical, Hughes turned the ball over. Not just once, but twice. The first time he turned the ball over was on an errant pass. The second time he got stripped by Chauncey Billups, who picked his pocket like Hughes was a lost tourist in town.
Hughes, of course, is a tourist. Both as a point guard and — after this season — as a player on his way out of town. You can book it. Hughes will either go in a trade, or simply leave town on a rail tied to a flat board with wheels.
So there was Hughes with the ball and the basket a good, oh … 7 or 8 feet away. But Hughes’ hands were moist with tension and the apple in his throat as thick and as sour as a Granny Smith.
Hughes gagged. His soft, overly arched 7-footer bounced high off the rim. If he had aimed any higher, his shot could have hit the 12th floor of the RenCen. Had he been at the beach, his rock would have missed the water.
Anderson Varejao, who comes to play whenever he faces the boys from Motown, tried valiantly to right the dead-wrong shot by Hughes with a tip-in, but the ball rolled off the rim and Detroit rebounded.
Everything that happened after that was just Mike Brown — the man in the snazzy suit on the Cavs bench — acting out, doing a vaudeville interpretation of a man throwing a tantrum. No foul, no call. We’re going to the opposite end of the floor. It’s May, Ducky. And, oh, by the way, here’s a big, fat T for your tantrum.
If only Brown had been this inspired during the timeout just prior to the Cavs’ last possession.
Only Charles Barkley, who calls ’em as he sees ’em … always, no quarter given or taken … and Magic Johnson, who also knows a thing or two about basketball, made mention of Brown’s numbskulled decision to have The Great One fritter away all of the final, juicy 24 seconds left on the clock.
James, outside the circle, dribbled the ball. Dribbled it for 10 seconds … and then, for good measure, dribbled it some more for another fiv-plus seconds. Did this because Hughes, who plays point guard on this team, is no point guard at all and so at crunch time in big games The Chosen One is out on the point, furiously dribbling.
As Barkley and Magic both screeched on the TNT telecast, “Why the heck wouldn’t you take a fast shot? If you miss, you have a chance at a rebound. And if you don’t rebound the ball, you foul right away and give yourself a chance for a missed free throw at the other end. And even if they make the free throws, you STILL have a shot to tie it with a 3-pointer.”
Either way, Brown’s thinking seemed wrong-headed and tension-impaired. So what we have, folks, is two games in the books … two identical scores … two wrong-headed decisions by the Cavaliers at the endgame and one big, black hole to dig out of. We are all witness.
In case you’ve been in a cave for the past week — or even if you’ve not been in a cave but simply lose track of the story line what with all these 72 and 96-hour intermissions between games — there was:
(1) LeBron’s decision to kick one out to the corner to Donyell Marshall instead of finishing his drive to the hole at the end of Game 1 and
(2) Mike Brown nodding off for a little nap during the Cavs’ final timeout Thursday night. Because the coach didn’t have a real plan or a clue, LeBron went into his dribble act.
So now the Cavs are home. And with them come the conspiracy theorists who insist the networks and the NBA have it rigged so that the larger-market team makes it to the Finals against San Antonio (a small-market team that was just too good for the TV suits or the NBA to rig in favor of Phoenix). Oh, brother.
If the Cavs are going to have a shot at stretching this series out (they have next to nil chance of winning it, but they can prolong it), they will be playing Boobie Gibson more and Larry Hughes less … keeping Donyell mostly nailed to the pines … and having someone make sure that Snazzy Suit Mike isn’t fast asleep on his feet during the last timeout.
Come Sunday night, of course — 72 hours after Game 2 was played — everything that happened in Detroit will be out of sight in our memory vault. Seriously, The (David) Sternmeister and The TV Suits have got to close the gap between these chapter serials. We’re losing the thread of things here. The story lines and the plot and the characters tend to fade if you keep them off the stage for longer than the normal 48-hour respite.
Contact Doug Clarke at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.