Just when I was beginning to lose faith. In the middle of the player-led mutiny in the NBA, where star players are making pre-arranged deals to play together in the sports big cities, the Cleveland Cavaliers won one for the little guys, upsetting the two-time defending World Champion Los Angeles Lakers 104-99 at The Q. It was, I'll say, one of the great wins in Cavaliers history and for one night made me proud to be a basketball fan.
Am I making too much of the win? Probably, but you know what? I don't care. No one gave the Cavaliers a chance to win tonight - the NBA of today isn't set up for teams like the Cavs to keep their starts, let alone beat a team that somehow had Pau Gasol fall into their laps at the same time their super star - Kobe Bryant - was posturing to leave. The Cavaliers couldn't get the same kind of deal the Lakers got to propel them back into national relevancy - we are only Cleveland of course - so here we sit, fans of the team that lost more consecutive games than any team, in any sport, ever. Fans of a team that lost to this same Lakers bunch by 55 points a little more than a month ago.
With all of that going against the Cavs - to go along with a purported motivated Lakers team fresh of a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats that Phil Jackson called 'embarrassing' - the Wine and Gold responded, leading most of the way to get a huge win - for a team and fanbase that has had little to cheer for all season.
The Lakers biggest lead - at 46-43 in the final moments of the 1st half - was erased by an 8-0 Cavaliers run to end the 2nd quarter. The Cavaliers wouldn't trail again. They twice had 10-point leads in the 2nd half, once in the 3rd quarter and then again in the 4th quarter, only to see the Lakers make a comeback. Never once, however, did the Lakers get over the hump and take the lead away from the Cavaliers.
I know - the dreaded 'Grammy Awards Trip' the Lakers are currently on is a killer. Still, the Lakers shouldn't lose to the Cavaliers, not on a night when Pau Gasol goes for 30 and 20. Of course, most nights Ramon Sessions isn't going to outplay Kobe Bryant, either. Bryant reminded us with his shooting of the two jersey numbers he's worn in the NBA - he was 8/24 from the field - and looks more and more like an aging basketball player instead of one of the world's best. I still love to have him, of course, but the Cavaliers are making due with what they have.
Who knows if the Cavaliers will win another game this season. In a way I really don't care. The trade deadline is a week away, and the Cavaliers will likely see one or more of the current roster go elsewhere. For one night, however, in a season that has been a complete nightmare - after the off-season from hell - the Cleveland Cavaliers gave us a reason to stand, cheer and take notice.
With LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers never won a championship. Tonight, without all the star-power that James brought, the Cavaliers played with the heart of a champion.