It’s over. Orland Magic sent LeBron James home. #23 walked off the court, head down, brushing off a few pieces of confetti. He ignored the few taunts by Magic fans and took one last look at the crowd without muttering a word. Not to anyone. A scintillating series by the NBA’s MVP was washed away by his not-so-supporting cast, as the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated Saturday night with a 103-90 loss to the Orlando Magic in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. Kobe vs. LeBron? Not this year. James dressed quickly in the locker room, put on headphones and went to the team bus without talking to reporters. In obvious frustration, he let his play do all the talking. James averaged more than 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the series, performances that are almost unmatched in league history. But he is starving for a wingman. That league-best, 66-win regular season disappeared against a Magic team that accounted for six of the Cavs’ losses this season, counting the playoffs. Cleveland may have had the best player. Orlando had the better team.
All season long, the Cleveland Cavaliers had one goal. It wasn’t to set a franchise record for wins or earn home-court advantage throughout the postseason. It wasn’t to win the MVP or Coach of the Year award. The only trophy they wanted has Larry O’Brien’s name on it. The Cavs seemingly had the right formula. They were a great defensive team, they had the best player in the world, and they surrounded him with the best supporting cast he’s had in his six seasons, as well as strong coaching staff. Maybe the Cavs just ran into the wrong team at the wrong time. With a 6-10 point-forward, a 6-10 deep-shooting power forward, and a beast in the post, the Magic posed serious matchup problems. And on top of that, they shot the ball much better (48 percent from the field, 41 percent from 3-point range) than they did in the regular season or the previous two rounds of the Playoffs. The Cavs did hurt themselves as well. They committed costly turnovers, missed critical free throws, and just didn’t play big in big games. Williams shot poorly in the first four games of the series, not ready for the spotlight. And the rest of James’ supporting cast was inconsistent at best. Two of Orlando’s wins could have gone the other way had the Cavs been able to get a stop down the stretch. Just one stop at the end of Game 1 or Game 4 would have made a huge difference. But the Cavs just couldn’t get it. It will be an interesting summer in Cleveland. The Cavs’ success through their first 90 games tempered any thoughts of James leaving a year from now. But with his supporting cast coming up short when it mattered most, and with the way he left Amway Arena, those thoughts have already resurfaced around the league. The Cavs have James for at least one more year. And no matter what happens to the rest of the roster, that means they’ll likely have another shot at a championship. But as we saw this season, just having a shot at the title isn’t enough.
Photos Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE via Getty Images. Photos by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images, Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images, Elsa/Getty Images.