LeBron Wins…Again | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

LeBron Wins…Again

By
Updated: November 4, 2017

The late Ralph Wiley wrote a column for ESPN’s Page 2 several years ago entitled, “Shut Em Up With Shut Down Lines.” The article was a collection of effective shutdown lines, followed by accompanying stories. My favorite of the shutdown lines was uttered by Hall of Famer and former Cleveland Browns running back, Jim Brown.

Wiley and Brown were in an argument about Tiger Woods’s ability to reach 19 majors (this was written in 2002). Wiley said Tiger would do it, while Brown had his doubts. Wiley in fact was so sure about Tiger’s ability to win 19 majors that he confidently asked Brown if he wanted to bet on the possibility of this happening. Brown raised his arms, looked at Wiley and said, “Do you think you can kick my ass?” That effectively ended the conversation.

After dropping 57 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists on the Washington Wizards in the Cavaliers’ 130-122 victory last night, LeBron James effectively asked and answered that same question. And it was the second time he had done so on the Wizards’ home floor this year.

The first time was back in February, when the Cavaliers visited the then-Verizon Center approximately a week before the All-Star break. They defeated the Wizards 140-135 in that classic overtime game. Kevin Love led the Cavs with 39 points, but it was Kyrie Irving who thrust the final dagger(s) of the night—scoring 11 of his 23 points in overtime. LeBron James, of course, stole the Wizards’ hearts in regulation, kicking them in the ass with this impossible 3-point shot off the glass with 0.3 seconds left:

Despite that devastating loss, the Wizards still felt buoyed by their ability to push LeBron and the Cavaliers to overtime, and those sentiments were heightened a month later when the Wizards went to Cleveland and won fairly easily.

In fact, the Wizards were feeling themselves so much that when the Cavaliers lost the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference to the Boston Celtics, Bradley Beal implied that they did it intentionally to avoid playing the Wizards before the Conference Finals (something J.R Smith scoffed at after Friday night’s game). Ultimately, it was a futile point to argue since the Wizards ended up playing and losing to the Celtics in the playoffs, while LeBron and the Cavaliers handily defeated those same Celtics before running into the buzzsaw that was the 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

Still, the Wizards narrowly lost the battle, handily lost the war, and if LeBron had shown up to the Wizards’ exit interviews after last season, and asked each member of the team if they could beat his ass, the answer would have had to be a resounding no.

Which brings us to Friday night’s game—more specifically, the interviews before the game.

Prior to Friday night’s game in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and former Wizard Paul Pierce, both Bradley Beal and John Wall confidently stated that the Wizards were the best team in the East, and that Cleveland had no choice but to respect them. On the surface, the comments looked confident and fairy innocuous. After all, as Beal said in that same interview, he wasn’t about to sit there and say another team was better. But considering the Wizards suffered an embarrassing loss to the Lakers after getting verbally chesty with their comments about Lonzo Ball just one week earlier, it seemed a bit ill-advised to be taking a big verbal swing at a much larger target in King James.

Cleveland entered Friday night’s game sporting a four-game losing streak and a 3-5 record. They had been dealing with lineup changes, a lack of effort on defense, along with injuries to Tristan Thompson, Isaiah Thomas, and Iman Shumpert (not to mention overall inconsistent play). NBA writers were toeing the line between saying “it’s still early” and “the Cavaliers might be trouble,” and even though LeBron would probably never say this publicly, when he heard Wall and Beal chirping, he had to be thinking, “They are STILL talking?”

After tip-off, LeBron did his talking with the basketball. This time there were no deferrals to Kevin Love or anybody else, it was just LeBron James performing feats of strength as if Frank Costanza had been egging him on all evening.

He barreled down the lane for layups shedding Wizards defenders like Shaq in his prime, he shot Dirk Nowitzki-like fadeaway off of one foot, and, on several occasions, he went in the post, did a little Hakeem Olajuwon-inspired shaking and baking, and shot over Wall, Oubre, Meeks, and whoever else dared to get in his way. He played 42 of 48 minutes, including every minute of the second half, and he helped the Cavaliers get a win that Dwyane Wade said they needed, “like an old lady needs soft shoes.”

As Michael Lee of Yahoo’s “The Vertical” noted, there was one play in the third quarter that not only epitomized the Wizards struggles on Friday, but also represented the Wizards’ inability to touch LeBron James (let alone kick his ass):

“The Wizards fancy themselves as a darkhorse contender but one play in the third quarter seemed to encapsulate how helpless the other 14 teams in the Eastern Conference have felt over the past seven years in which James has refused to surrender control. Bradley Beal missed a driving layup and fell on his backside when James snared the rebound and started to lead the break. Beal reached up as high as he could. But James turned into a 110-meter hurdler and cleared him with ease, without even getting touched.”

After the game, the Wizards spent more time genuflecting to LeBron James than they did talking about how and why they lost to him. Scott Brooks marveled at how LeBron “still had it,” Beal said LeBron “made a lot of tough shots,” Markieff Morris said he had to just tip his cap, Kelly Oubre said LeBron was just “on a different level,” and Wall said he did the best he could, but LeBron just “made some tough shots and that’s why he’s the player he is.”

What did LeBron say after the game?

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/926650100545449984

The Cavaliers are still 4-5 and their woes are far from over. LeBron can’t score 57 points every night and he damn sure cannot play 42 minutes to disguise deficiencies and injuries to his current roster in its current form. And the Wizards, despite losing four of their last five games, will eventually hit an extended stretch of strong play once Markieff Morris gets his body in shape and some rhythm in his shot. In fact, a month or two from now—or at least until these two teams play again here in D.C. on December 17—neither Cleveland nor Washington will even think much of this game.

But on Friday night,  much like Ralph Wiley had no answer for Jim Brown’s shutdown line, the Washington Wizards had no answer for LeBron. And at least for now, they still cannot kick his ass.

 

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.