A LeBron James Team Is Never Desperate

A LeBron James team may never be desperate - his words, not mine - but road teams in this round of the playoffs? Every team except Detroit certainly looks the part away from the friendly confines of home.

It is amazing what slipping on a home white uniform (or home yellows for the Lakers) can do for an NBA team in the second round of the playoffs. That simple act, combined with the support of loving, energetic fans, the smoke caused by pyrotechnics and a night spent sleeping in your own bed, has been the sole difference to this point.

This ain't Kansas anymore, but there is no place like home! (AFP/Getty Images/File/Elsa)

So far, there have been 20 games in the conference semifinals and 19 of them have been won by the home team, a statistic that grew incredibly more mind-boggling last night (and early this morning) after the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers took 3-2 leads in their best-of-seven series.

You want to know how incredible that is? Here is some perspective: Just looking at the past four postseasons, home teams in the conference semifinals were 13-10 last year, 16-10 in 2006, 13-9 in 2005, and 20-6 in 2004.

The Celtics won 96-89 because point guard Rajon Rondo looked like Tony Parker in training, running circles around the Cavaliers and knocking down that sick little floater for 20 points, 13 assists - and one turnover. Two of their three all-stars played phenomenally in the second half - Paul Pierce had 29 points and made 10 of 11 free throws (including 5 of 6 in the final minutes) while Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 16 rebounds - and Ray Allen contributed with a key offensive rebound.

The Lakers won 111-104 because Kobe Bryant decided not to shoot in the fourth quarter. Seriously, Bryant didn't take a single shot in the final period and became a playmaker and set up man when his back began to stiffen up. I guess he learned from being overly aggressive in Utah - despite a bad back - in Game 4 and getting a ton of criticism for shooting too much, something we haven't heard too often about the MVP this season. But last night (and early this morning), Bryant took 10 shots and finished with 27 points.

I pray that my teammates can continue to make shots while my back recovers. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Kobe Sharing
When was the last time the Lakers won a tightly contested game in the fourth quarter without a single shot attempt from Bryant? That is rhetorical. You really might have to go back to before Kobe even came to Los Angeles. We've seen him refuse to shoot before, but it is usually some sort of protest. And rarely does Bryant being a passer primarily in the fourth quarter result in victories.

Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol delivered down the stretch. Odom finished with 22 poins and 11 rebounds, attacked the rim like he has all series and sent home some powerful dunks. Gasol had 21 points, including a critical offensive rebound (or was that shove of Mehmet Okur?) and dunk that secured the win.

While we're at it, let's take a moment to acknowledge how well Lamar Odom has played in every game of this series. He is averaging 19.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and shooting 60 percent (33 of 55) from the floor. Odom has had four straight double-doubles and you can tell how much the addition of Gasol has impacted him in a positive manner. Teams are sticking their best big man on Gasol, leaving the quick and athletic Odom to abuse the man in front of him. He has been criticized for not being aggressive, but he looks like he's getting it now.

Lamar, how are you getting your shots to fall? Well, I'm not guarding me, Carlos. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

The Jazz has to start asking itself if it can ever win in Los Angeles. Even if the Jazz forces a Game 7, Utah may have already waisted its best opportunity to steal one. Kobe Bryant had a bad back. Deron Williams had 27 points and 10 assists. It finally played the Lakers to a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate.

The Jazz has never led at Staples Center, but had several opportuties in Game 5. It tied the game four times and had the ball down by one point four other times, but could never get over the hump.

I'm still shocked at the number of shots Carlos Boozer missed inside. He's usually money in that low block, but the length of the Odom-Gasol combination really has him struggling this series. Aside from his breakthrough performance in Game 3, when Boozer had 27 points and 20 rebounds and made several buckets in the final minutes, Boozer has been totally ineffective this series.

In the other four games, Boozer is averaging 14.3 points and shooting 36 percent (20 for 55). He's still rebounding, but the Jazz needs Deron Williams and Boozer if they want to beat the Lakers. Williams is definitely doing his part, although he has yet to get any of that Chris Paul love.

LeBron Better When Sharing
Back to The LeBron James Team (If you don't get the reference, after losing Game 5 last night, James was asked if his team would be desperate going into Game 6 in Cleveland on Friday. James responded by saying, "We know it's a win-or-go-home situation. But a LeBron James team is never desperate." He might be setting the record for third-person references in a single postseason. I haven't been keeping track, but he's been on a pretty good run).

Blow the whistle, ref? Yo, Breezy, you need me to write another song? (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

During yesterday's chat, one of the final questions was from somebody saying that the Celtics should just let LeBron score 40 points and clamp down on everyone else. I agreed with the person, and apparently, so did the Celtics.

With Jay-Z and Beyonce sitting near the The LeBron James Team bench, James was fired up from the start, as he made eight of his first 11 shots and scored 23 points in the first half. The LeBron James Team built a 14-point lead in the first half, but the lead came mostly with James scoring and his teammates spectating.

When James's shot stopped falling in the third quarter, The LeBron James Team didn't know how to respond. Delonte West was pugnacious in the fourth quarter and finished with 21 points, but aside from Wally Szczerbiak (10 points, but just two after the first quarter), no other members of The LeBron James Team scored in double figures. Cleveland is at its best when it is defending and sharing the ball.

I'm good, Jay. Do I look desperate to you? (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

James finished with just five assists in Game 5. The LeBron James Team had 11 as a team - two fewer than Rajon Rondo. The previous game in Cleveland, James had 13 assists. His team had a total of 24.

The LeBron James Team is 3-0 this postseason when James has at least 10 assists, but it is 1-2 when he scores 34 or more points or takes more than 20 shots. So, to the person who asked the question, you might be on to something.

But it might not matter since The LeBron James Team will play Game 6 at home, where the Celtics don't know how to act this season and The LeBron James Mother will be there to try and punk Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett again.

By Michael Lee |  May 15, 2008; 10:44 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Let gimpy Gil walk.

Posted by: Say no to the gimp | May 15, 2008 11:08 AM

Lebron talks to much...if he talked that much on that prison yard, we'd shut his mouth for him.

Posted by: Prison Balls | May 15, 2008 11:28 AM

"A LeBron James team may never be desperate"

They'll be desperate in the next game, with a minute left, and down by 10!!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2008 11:42 AM

When his contract ends, would LeBron rather be owned by Jay-Z or coached by D'Antoni?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2008 12:04 PM

Anyone want to speculate as to why road teams are having such a tough time winning in this round of the playoffs, or why the Celts couldn't win on the road in the first round either? Home court should mean less in the playoffs than it does during the regular season, since both teams are on the same travel schedule and have more days to rest between games. And Boston had a great road record during the season, but they've sucked away from home during these playoffs. I am officially befuddled.

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 15, 2008 12:19 PM

We'll see who's desperate when the Cavs win Friday and have the Celtics with sweaty palms in the fourth quarter of Game 7. You just wait. LeBron will shut all of you up!

Posted by: Cleveland Rocks Paper C's | May 15, 2008 12:43 PM

The main reasons Boston is struggling on the road in the playoffs is experience. Despite their individual playoff experience, despite their regular season hype, this is the first time any of their main guys have been in a postseason situation where, going in, they were expected to win it all. They aren't used to that pressure individually, and they've never been together as a group in the playoffs before. They're struggling to adjust to a pressure-packed situation that's new to them. At home they can get swept up by the emotion of the crowd for energy. On the road, when things start to go against them, they don't have that booster shot to get them going, and having never done this before, they don't have any set answers to draw upon.

The real mystery to me are the Spurs. I'm not necessarily surprised that they haven't won a game in N.O., but the way they've gotten hammered very time on the road is really unlike them.

Posted by: kalorama | May 15, 2008 12:45 PM

The strategy of letting LeBron score 40 and clamping down on everyone else works if you make him shoot jumpers. If you let him get his 40 by driving, he'll get your entire froncourt in foul trouble.
Did our coaching staff not realize that backing off of him gave us our best chance to win ? Do we even have scouts or coaches who look at videotape? This is what other teams do to him. I get the feeling that we're still a mom and pop organization sometimes.
Where's the cake? Somebody bring out the cake !

Posted by: mark | May 15, 2008 1:06 PM

I tend to think that it's an aberration - a one year fluke....

But, a number of factors could also be contributing.

For the most part, the stars are playing well (with the exception of Ray Allen) both on the road and at home.... but the secondary players, and bench are having difficulties.

Boston's secondary players and bench are for the most part inexperienced - and are therefore more comfortable at home. But I think Boston CAN beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

Cleveland is not good enough to beat Boston in Beantown.

LA has the same problem as Boston. Their experienced, playoff tested core (Kobe, Gasol, Odom) have been fine, but the role players have been inconsistent (Vujacic, Radmanovic, Farmar, Walton); especially on the road. I think LA CAN beat the Jazz in Utah.

Utah is just not good enough to beat the Lakers in LA.

The one series that confuses me is Hornets vs Spurs. I thought that the huge difference in Playoff experience would allow the Spurs to take home court advantage away from NO... but the Hornets have beaten the Spurs easily at home.

Posted by: Rook | May 15, 2008 1:17 PM

i agree with a radio personality that the Celtics have a Big 3 but none of them are what you'd classify as a finisher on the road. you'd think K-G or Pierce could catch fire and knock down some shots or get a key steal or offensive rebound and putback in the 4th on the road but they haven't. good thing they have home court.

Posted by: G$ | May 15, 2008 2:47 PM

I think the Cavs can beat Boston at Boston, for the same reason they were able to beat Detroit at Detroit last year. They have a player who can dominate a game and force the opponent to adjust strategy. If they play him straight up, he'll score 40 or 50. If they focus on him, he'll use it to his advantage, taking the attention being paid to him and using it to help teammates get going. (He had 13 assists in the first home game they won.) It took him a couple of games to adjust, but now that he's figured that out, there's no reason to think he won't be able to carry it over on the road. But the real issue will be whether his backup cast will be able to make enough of the shots he creates for them.

Posted by: kalorama | May 15, 2008 4:49 PM

But the real issue will be whether his backup cast will be able to make enough of the shots he creates for them.

Posted by: kalorama | May 15, 2008 4:49 PM

And that is exactly why I don't think that Cleveland can win in Boston... Those other Cavaliers can't make shots on the road (except in Washington). [grin]

Posted by: Rook | May 15, 2008 4:59 PM

I think with Gibson being out for the series that Cleveland is done. D.West is now their only PG. Who is going to be the backup? Gibson was key in game 4 with his 3-point shooting and as we Wiz fans saw, the guy can shoot it. I think Boston ends this series on Friday in Cleveland.

Posted by: Chad | May 15, 2008 5:02 PM

Queen James: what a pompous a s s

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2008 6:52 PM

without their boobies I don't think the cavs will do much

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2008 6:52 PM

LeBron's got 99 problems and no Boobie is one!

Posted by: misguided bullets | May 15, 2008 6:59 PM

What's wrong with saying you are playing desperate? I mean lets be honest, the cavs are overmatched. They should be playing desperate and hungry. I respect his game on the court but I don't understand why everyone hypes him off the court. He doesnt tip, he's got no charisma, and he is always so guarded. It's like he is afraid of showing that he's a human being too. Thats where the disconnect is the fan base. A player like Gil will always attract more love from the fans because he isnt a robot, he's just a normal dude with a lot of talent at game.

Posted by: Popeye Jones | May 15, 2008 8:31 PM

For all of you thinking that Cleveland is finished now that they've lost their Boobie, I've got two words for you - Damon Jones. Take that!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2008 10:31 PM

Gibson isn't really a PG. He's a shooter. James does most of the ballhandling and playmaking anyway.

Posted by: kalorama | May 16, 2008 12:43 AM

Hmmmm. Damon Jones. This WILL be interesting.

Imagine this series hinging on who wins the matchup between Jones and Sam Cassell.

By the bye, if LeBron does wind up going to New York I hope he avails himself of a top NY PR guy like Howard Rubenstein or Dan Klores. There is just no way he should be saying phrases like "...a LeBron James team..." at media conferences. Maybe you can get away with stuff like that with the tame sports media in Cleveland but in New York, yikes!

Posted by: khrabb | May 16, 2008 4:36 AM

Hmmmm. Damon Jones. This WILL be interesting.

Imagine this series hinging on who wins the matchup between Jones and Sam Cassell.

By the bye, if LeBron does wind up going to New York I hope he avails himself of a top NY PR guy like Howard Rubenstein or Dan Klores. There is just no way he should be saying phrases like "...a LeBron James team..." at media conferences. Maybe you can get away with stuff like that with the tame sports media in Cleveland but in New York, yikes!

Posted by: khrabb | May 16, 2008 4:36 AM

Delonte West seems to have emerged as the Cavs PG...he brings the ball up, and gives it to Lebron to run the offense. Is anyone surprised? No.

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 16, 2008 7:58 AM

LeBron scored 45 points this afternoon, but when it came down to the last few minutes, he didn't get it done. I thought the crucial play was when Paul Pierce beat him to that jump ball. That was just sheer force of will on Pierce's part. He wasn't going to be denied.

Posted by: John Brisker | May 18, 2008 9:26 PM

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