Minimally, it would be foolish to not give him a chance.
The last time Lebron missed the finals was way back in 2010, during the end of his first stint with Cleveland, when the Cavs fell in six to the, yes, Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Lebron was a different player and man back then, far less sure of himself. The confident veteran Celtics, led by Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, pushed around the disjointed Cavaliers, who’s weak supporting cast boasted an over-the-hill Shaq, Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao. By that series, it was becoming clear that Lebron was growing tired of the sub-par supporting casts the Cleveland front-office was putting around him, and by games 5 and 6, James checked out mentally, likely already planning his exodus to the Miami Heat.
The 2010 battle between the Cavs and Celtics remains one of the most discussed series of the decade. The Celtics ended up making it all the way to the Finals before falling to the Lakers in 7, and of course, Lebron would head over to the Heat to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, eventually making four finals and winning two titles there. Since infamously ripping off his jersey at the end of game 6 in Boston in 2010, Lebron has not missed the finals.
Here Lebron is once more, stuck with an underwhelming roster against a superior Boston Celtics team in a critical playoff series. To this point, Lebron’s performance in the 2018 post-season has been nothing short of amazing and spectacular — perhaps the best of his entire career. He lifted the Cavs practically by himself to overcome the Pacers in seven games in round 1, and decimated the top-seeded Raptors in four quick and easy games in round 2. Many believed coming off of the Raptors sweep that the Cavs would get by the Celtics and reach Lebron’s remarkable eighth straight finals.
Then the first two games in Boston happened. The Cavs have appeared overwhelmed by the Celtics so far, unable to generate enough offense against the young and athletic Celtics defense and struggling to stop the iso/ball movement hybrid offense that Brad Stevens has chalked up. At the ends of both Games 1 and 2, Lebron has seemed checked out — not unlike how he appeared back in 2010 — rolling his eyes at teammates and passing the ball rather than taking it and attacking the rim. This is not a good sign for Cavaliers fans, as it could very well mean that Lebron is already planning his exit for teams like the Lakers, 76ers or Rockets, as has been speculated.
Still, Lebron is the best player of his generation and has done some pretty amazing things. One cannot simply count out a player who over game a 3-1 deficit to a 73 win team to win the city of Cleveland it’s first championship since the 1960s. And while the Celtics seem at times unbeatable at home, they are not nearly the same team on the road, which is good for the Cavs, as the next two games are in Cleveland. Should Lebron and the Cavs win games 3 and 4 they will be completely back in the series with a renewed hope of making the finals. However, should they lose one of the games at home, circumstances will become dire.
Game 3 will be played on Saturday at 8:30 on ESPN. It will obviously be the biggest game of Cleveland’s season.