The plan for the Cleveland Cavaliers is to not rely so heavily on LeBron James, but sometimes there’s no choice, as a huge game from their biggest star helped them come back in a tremendous fourth quarter to beat the Boston Celtics 122-121, with Rajon Rondo embarrassing himself, messing up a chance to win the game.
Rondo had about five seconds to pull up for a shot with his team down by one point, guarded by Shawn Marion. The Cavs haven’t been exactly impressive on defense in this game or this season. But Rondo, the best player on the Celtics, is not a player for situations like these. There’s a reason so many people think of Rondo as overrated or simply not good enough to be mentioned among the elite point guards of the NBA. Not being good enough to even pull up for a shot in time has something to do with it.
James scored 41 points, including 10 points in the fourth quarter in which the Cavs erased a 17-point deficit to come away with a big win over a team that always plays a lot better when it sees LeBron James stepping onto the floor. Most of the remnants from better days for the Celtics are gone, but this rooted hatred for James and everything he represents remains, managing to get a much better game out of the players, but up to a point.
The Cavaliers were good offensively all through the game. Kyrie Irving scored 27 points and Anderson Varejao finished with 12. Dion Waiters helped out with 10 points off the bench, but the Cavaliers kept leaking away points, looking at their worst when James was off the floor. The comeback wasn’t about incredible team basketball – it was mostly James making one on one plays and especially running over Jeff Green and Evan Turner on his way to putting the Cavaliers back in the lead.
It almost slipped away from them. James missed free throws, Irving missed layups, giving the Celtics a chance in the final seconds to win again. But Rondo, who turned the ball over on the previous possession, messed up the final chance as well. He did have eight rebounds and 16 assists, but it’s not healthy for a team to have a player that’s their main ball handler be such a minor offensive threat. He scored six points on 3-of-10 from the field, and no one raised an eyebrow.
The Cavaliers continue to look bad defensively, giving up 42 points in the third quarter. Kevin Love is the one struggling the most from being in this new situation. He scored 12 points on 2-of-10 from the field, and is so far shooting just 37.2% this season. At least he’s doing well when it comes to rebounds, grabbing 15. This team for now goes as far as Irving and James take them. The duo combined to assist on 11 baskets as well.
The Cavaliers are a much more talented team than the Boston Celtics, and yet made things very complicated. As a team, they’re not where they should be just yet. It’s going to take some time. But for now, unlike the first few games of the season, it looks like James is willing to overlook the bigger goal of making the team do well even when he’s not scoring, and take the game on his shoulders, becoming the leading scorer in the NBA at the same time.