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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

In the end, it's all about Lakers-Cavaliers

Though Cleveland is cruising and the Lakers are being challenged, there's no doubt that an NBA Finals with these two would keep our attention and theirs.

May 10, 2009|MARK HEISLER

FROM HOUSTON — Fear this.

For Lakers fans breathing a sigh of relief to see your team can still play . . . assuming someone hits it with a cattle prod . . . here's good news:

There's someone out there even they may take seriously.

Of course, it wouldn't be until the Finals . . . and it's only the Cleveland Cavaliers, who aren't that scary after the Lakers beat them twice.

(I'm assuming Judge Dredd will have enough players to hold the Finals, despite last week's imposition of martial law, with more suspensions possible in the heated aftermath of Denver's Game 3 win in Dallas.)

(Wait! The league just hung its referees out to dry, instead, announcing they missed Antoine Wright's "intentional foul" before Carmelo Anthony's game-winning three-pointer, which was actually a little bump by Wright.)

(No word from the league yet on whether it will replay the game.)

(Let's hope for the best: Danny Ocean pulling up with that machine his gang used to black out Las Vegas and zapping the league office with it.)

Picture the Lakers in the middle of a folk movement in Cleveland for Games 1 and 2, facing a team that's 7-0 in the postseason and could get out of the Eastern draw with a loss or two.

So far, the Cavaliers' spring can be summed up in two words: tune up.

After sweeping Detroit, 4-0, in a series that lived up to expectations . . . that the Cavaliers would win in four or fewer . . . they lead Atlanta, 3-0.

At 2-0, ABC's Jeff Van Gundy said if it were a fight, they would stop it . . . putting him up for commentator of the year, with ABC stuck with, er, televising Saturday's Game 3.

I'm following it via "SportsCenter" highlights, so all I know is LeBron James is scoring a lot, making a half-court shot or two and leaving to lead the reserves in comedy routines, like John Belushi in "Animal House."

This is a zany bunch. Anderson Varejao, a hyperactive, 6-foot-10, swooning, flopping instigator Lakers fans may soon hate more than all 12 Celtics combined, just copied James' "Chosen1" tattoo, which runs across the back of his wide shoulders, getting "Chosen2" written across his back.

Late in routs, they're completely out of control on the bench, but, at least, they know when to get serious.

When James sends up his cloud of powder and they tip it off, they're as serious as rent, with an average winning margin this postseason of 21 points

Not that this series didn't have appeal for people who like car chases on TV.

After losing Game 1 by 27, Atlanta's Joe Johnson said: "That second half, we kind of gave up. . . . We need to act like we want to be here."

Maybe some of them didn't.

Before Game 2, Coach Mike Woodson announced Marvin Williams and Al Horford were injured and wouldn't play, looking so glum, it seemed as if he just got the news himself.

The Cavaliers led by 24 at halftime in another laugher.

This just in from Game 3:

Cavaliers 97, Hawks 82.

The only reason to watch Game 4 is to see if any Cavaliers pull a muscle, jumping around afterward.

The Lakers are winning by 7.9 points a game, although they're better when challenged, and are still favored to spend spring among James' witnesses, which is Nike's theme for him, as Air was for Michael Jordan.

Of course, Lakers-Cavaliers wouldn't just be a basketball series but a clash of cultures.

Well, at least in the press, where we live for such things.

Actually, scenery and weather aren't everything. You may not believe this, but if you lived in Cleveland, you'd love it.

You would also have a bond Southern Californians can't imagine, joining with the entire community to defend the honor of your home and teams, and hating everyone deriding you, which is just about everybody.

Cleveland teams have a mythic importance, seeming to carry all their fans' hopes and fears, as in this season's outcry when they decided their Cavaliers deserved three All-Stars, like the Celtics, whom they led.

Instead, the Cavaliers got one, until Mo Williams was added as an injury replacement

Even James bought into the local anguish. When their record made Mike Brown the East coach, James said, "They wouldn't take him if they didn't have to."

Now comes their chance to get even?

Actually, hosting marquee events just brings in columnists, who really go to work on you and it doesn't take much there.

With nothing else for Cavaliers fans to worry about, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mark Bradley set off a firestorm with a throwaway line, noting the Hawks were doomed but Cavaliers fans "have to live here."

Bradley then regrettably agreed to do a remote from Quicken Loans Arena, interviewed by the local Fox news anchor, Bill Martin, who grandly informed him:

"You mock this great city and I . . . demand an apology at this moment in time, or I will run down to the Q and fight you."

At least, Martin didn't challenge him to a duel, although he went on to call Atlanta a "dreadful, dreadful place" and, after Bradley was off the air, announced he was banned -- from the city, not the telecast.

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