Okay, last week I admitted that my head was buried in the NBA season as it drove toward the playoffs — and that my favorite teams were the Los Angeles Clippers featuring Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, and the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat, led by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Well, on a night like tonight – March 20, 2013 – it’s easy to see why I’m captivated by the drama playing out on the NBA hardwood.
By the time my Western Conference team, The Clippers, walked off the court after trouncing the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center in downtown L.A. by 29 points, 101-72 – my Eastern Conference team had already come back from a ridiculous, impossible-to-overcome deficit to earn its 24th consecutive victory.
LeBron James and The Heat were playing The King’s former team, The Cleveland Cavaliers (my hometown franchise). LeBron & Company were behind by 27 points with about 7 minutes left in the third quarter – and still managed to pull out the victory to extend the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, surpassing the 2007-08 Houston Rockets.
With a roaring, rabid, sellout Cleveland crowd of 20,562 taunting their former hometown hero at the foul line — with the game on the line — a cold-blooded LeBron, the reigning NBA MVP, drained two free throws to win the game 98-95.
The moment was ridiculously dramatic. The irony was exquisite. That LeBron should cap such a furious, historic comeback cooly at the foul line was one thing — but that he should do it against the team that he left so infamously a few years ago was the final scene of an almost preposterously perfect script, played by the greatest actor currently performing on an NBA court.
Even though I’m a proud Clevelander, I gotta give props where they’re due.
Now, LeBron and The Heat are within nine games of matching The Los Angeles Lakers’ record of 33 consecutive wins during the 1971-72 season – a mark of excellence once thought to be untouchable.
“This was one of the most bizarre, unique days of my life with everything that happened,” said James, referring to the fact that a fan ran onto the floor, wearing a t-shirt encouraging him to re-sign with Cleveland next year. “It also was one of the best comebacks I’ve ever been a part of. The streak wasn’t on my mind, but us getting blown out was.”
LeBron, of course, scored a triple-double — with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
ESPN just informed me that in the long history of the NBA — in games where a team was behind by 23 points or more at halftime — the team that was losing lost the game more than 2,000 times.
And only a dozen of them hung on to win the game.
What a wild, historic night.