Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Have you guys heard about LeBron James(notes)? Word on the street is that he played a bad game last night. You've read KD's take, so here's the Internet's. To kick it off, here's an outstanding video breakdown by TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz.

Tom Ziller, FanHouse: "It's as if LeBron James has never had a bad game in the playoffs. He has, plenty of times. In comments after Cleveland's disastrous Game 5 loss to Boston, one which placed the Cavaliers on the brink of elimination in the second round, LeBron implied his performance looked worse because he so rarely plays this poorly. That's a bit of a cop-out -- by any standard, he played badly on Tuesday night. But that's just the point: sometimes, great players suck.

This wasn't LeBron's worst playoff performance. Game 1 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics was. In that game, LeBron shot 2-18 for 12 points and had 10 turnovers. The Cavs lost, a rough start to the second round a year after Cleveland had made (and been swept out of) the Finals.

You know what James did the rest of that series? He averaged nearly 30 points a game against the world's greatest defense, and almost single-handedly took the Celtics to seven. He famously scored 45 in the Game 7 shoot-out with Paul Pierce(notes). He had a bad night in Game 1, but didn't dissolve into the atmosphere. He bounced back, he soared and he took his Cavs with him."

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: "The 'LeBacle' may soon prove to have been one of the darkest moments in Cleveland's miserable sports history.

But please, spare us the assertion that after one bad night we know James has always had a permanent flaw. It's just absurd, and amazingly some of it's coming from the faithful in Cleveland. Twitter, Internet comments, my e-mail inbox, Facebook, all are loaded to the gills with talk that he's doomed to mediocrity, psychologically deficient or was intentionally tanking.

As if those 69 playoff contests and 548 regular-season games were the aberration, and this one horrible night was the truth. As if the guy who scored 25 straight against the Pistons in a similar situation needs a lecture, from Twitter, on embracing the challenge.

Somebody should make a big list of all those people who think they now know James is a doomed player, and we'll revisit in a decade."

Cleveland Frowns: "There's a lot about last night's loss that's hard to deal with as a Cleveland Cavaliers fan. The hardest for me to process is the idea, seemingly assumed in the NBA twittersphere, that an early Cavs playoff exit will make it easier for LeBron to leave Cleveland.

This has to be exactly wrong. It will be hard enough for LeBron to turn his back on his hometown even if the Cavaliers manage to overcome the Celtics and go on to win the title, or come close. But to go out like he did last night? To turn and run after such a spectacular failure would soak an already unthinkable abandonment with unspeakable cowardice.

The only way such an abandonment could be viewed as anything other than unspeakably cowardly would be if LeBron could somehow divorce his blame for the Cavaliers' current situation from that of other guilty parties -- namely, Dan Gilbert, Danny Ferry and Mike Brown. But simply, Team LeBron has been driving this bus for the whole ride, and Team LeBron will be responsible when it goes off the cliff.

If LeBron's bizarre Game 5 apathy can be explained by anything other than a crippling elbow injury,* it has to be explained by the sudden onset of this realization -- that he's not good enough to win a title as a player-coach"

Andrew Sharp, SB Nation: "It's not really surprising that Boston won. I mean it is, because the Cavs were favored, but it's not historically surprising. LeBron James going 3-14 and floating around the court like a ghost, while his team's season crumbled around him? That's something we'll remember for a long, long time. Tuesday night was a moment of truth for LeBron - either a wake-up call that shapes him going forward, or a sign that maybe, possibly, we've been wrong all along in crowning King James.

The Cleveland fans sat there stunned in Quicken Loans Arena, and you could feel the anxiety hundreds of miles away. An entire city sitting there disappointed, wondering amongst themselves:

'Is this how it's supposed to end for us? With this? Our star mailing it in on the biggest stage possible, our coach sitting there on the sidelines with his arms folded, and our rivals doing shooting drills for the second half? That's how the story ends?'

Those are the questions Cleveland fans - and players, coaches and everyone else around the NBA - get to ask themselves over the next 48 hours. And for Cleveland, that soul searching may be particularly brutal, because last night's stakes were higher than you think.

When a seven-game series is tied 2-2, the team that wins the fifth game goes on to win the series 83% of the time. Boston now has control of the series, and a chance to win it at home on Thursday night. Tuesday, we kept hearing, "If the Cavs lose tonight, there's a good chance they'll lose in Boston, and then what if LeBron James leaves in the offseason? Game 5 could be his last home game in Cleveland." Do you think LeBron's deaf? He heard it too. He knew what was in play Tuesday night. Everyone did."

Bryan Crawford, SLAM: "During last night's press conference, I was sort of perplexed (and also a bit miffed) that after his team gets thumped by 32 points in a crucial Playoff game, at home no less, he would have the balls to point out, by his own count, that he's only had "three bad games in seven years." As ridiculous as that sounds (because it is), whether he counted last night's debacle as bad game number three or four, it was the worst possible time for him to put up a performance like that and then just Kanye shrug it off like it was nothing.

Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant(notes), Tim Duncan(notes), and even Shaquille O'Neal(notes), his current teammate, would have never said or done something like that. Ever. Those guys would've been pissed and there would've been no doubt in anyone's mind about how they felt about their own individual performance, but also with the outcome of the game. You would've walked away feeling confident that in the next game, somebody was going to be in trouble.

You didn't get that from LeBron in his presser last night. If anything, you should've been left with more questions than answers. I know I was."

Zach Harper, Hardwood Paroxysm: "LeBron James is a savvy enterprise. I don't even think you can call him a businessman at this point. Like Jay-Z said, "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, MAN." With every play on the court, LeBron James stock goes up or down on the superstar stock market. He is a salesman first and everything else second. He has goals to be a billionaire athlete because for him, it's not only a likelihood but it's also inevitable. People love LeBron James. You probably hate him or can't stand the way he composes himself and his calculated antics. Frankly, most of the time I can't blame you because I'm helping you paddle that boat. But overall, people love LeBron James.

It's what makes him such a profitable venture. The love he receives from the masses invokes an attractive jealousy that we pine for. If only I was as tall or as strong or as athletic or as skilled as LeBron James is, I'd be a global icon too! He projects so many endearing and infuriating qualities onto the television screen that you can't help but form an opinion about everything he does. He keeps himself in the eye of the public because it's his way to attract attention, coverage and Twitter accounts posing as his body parts.

But what we've seen during the most adversarially challenging time of his career makes me think he's no different than any other human being. It's times like this that make you question his desire and work ethic for the greater good of basketball. Guys like LeBron, Dwight and Carmelo have blatant flaws in their respective games that you just assume will be ironed out with age and experience. We predict they'll add the missing pieces to their skill set puzzle to help complete the animal we all want them to evolve into."

DP, Waiting for Next Year: "I don't know what there is to say, other than this team has no heart what-so-ever. You can break down X's and O's. Yes, Ray Allen(notes) killed them. Yes, Garnett played well. Yes, Pierce finally got going. Yes, they contained Rondo but only for a half. Yes, Glen Davis(notes) had a big game.

But, if the Cavs had any heart, they could have put a stop to it. And they didn't. They basically looked like, "Welp, this game is over. Let's move on." Mike Fratello said that LeBron James wouldn't get any sleep last night because this game would keep him up all night. I wish I believed that. I'm willing to bet that he slept just fine.

He clearly knew he had no jump shot early in this game, I would say from the first really badly missed three. But, he never made any consistent attempt to score in other ways. Yes, he got to the stripe a lot in the first half, but at some point you have to drive with a little more conviction. It was fitting that his first field goal was a cherry-picking dunk."

Ryan Jones, SLAM: ""All that said, there isn't s--- I can say about how he played last night. It was fine for the first quarter-plus, but as the game started to get away from Cleveland, LeBron's lack of presence became increasingly inexplicable. I found it weird and vaguely depressing to watch, and I won't try to justify or explain it. He can't do what he did in Game 3 every night, but there was no reason for... this."

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