It was 5:46 PM when I looked down at my iPhone to turn off the Pandora station blaring through my headphones.
After walking into Quicken Loans Arena—and tucking the earbuds into my bag—my eyes quickly met a concourse cluttered with Miami Heat gear.
That wasn’t all I saw, by any means, but the presence was certainly noticeable.
‘It would have been literally dangerous to wear that jersey in here in December of 2010’, I thought to myself in a particularly defiant tone.
‘I can’t believe how quickly things have change.’
As I then made my way to the media elevator, I soon began the strangest NBA game-watching-experience of my life.
I was there when LeBron James first came back in 2010 and that experience was surreal. This time, however—from a leaking jumbotron to an unthinkable lead that quickly evaporated—was just straight-up weird.
Tristan Thompson balled the hell out last night. Early on specifically—while totaling 10 first quarter points—Thompson’s prideful approach to Wednesday’s matchup with the NBA’s best team is why the Cleveland Cavaliers remained competitive throughout.
As I mentioned on Wednesday morning, I would’ve been impressed if the lineup Cleveland rolled out on the floor against Miami kept the final score within 12 points.
Now, I didn’t say I would’ve been thrilled by a 12-point loss, nor am I trying to suggest that it’s okay to collapse after building a 27-point lead. It’s not okay, and the Cavaliers certainly had PLENTY of chances to actually win.
But they still did have one shot to tie as the game-clock expired against a team who has now won 24-straight times.
With six minutes left in the third quarter, Tristan Thompson’s performance was further emphasized by out-scoring LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined at that point. Soon after, though, the league’s best player took the game over, finished with a triple-double and eventually left victorious.
But the effort from Thompson—along with C.J. Miles, Tyler Zeller, Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington and Mo Speights—was enough to make the game extremely entertaining. The bench group provided negative returns for the Cavs, but that had more to do with actual bench players assuming the majority of the minutes.
So should I be impressed that the Cavaliers didn’t lose by 40? Maybe not, but I am. I totally thought they would and I’m glad they were able to do enough to make the game interesting.
This reaction doesn’t make me a bad fan, either. It just makes me—and everyone else who shares a similar sentiment—fans of a bad team.
The Miami Heat “Fans” in Attendance
I asked Chris Bosh about the LeBron James super-fan who embarrassed himself, his family and home state by running out onto the court wearing his love for LeBron James on a t-shirt.
Bosh told me: “I didn’t see him coming until he ran by our bench. It was pretty scary, actually.”
It was at first, too. Dude running onto the court, field, diamond or whatever is never good. It’s also not good that the lede, “Cleveland fan ran onto court to tell LeBron he loves him” is now a factual statement that will be used on heavy rotation whether we like it or not.
In saying as much, though, that guy didn’t bother or shock me to the degree that the cheers for Miami did in the fourth quarter.
Now to be clear, this wasn’t a situation where Cleveland fans became overwhelmed by LeBron during the game and switched allegiances. You really can't ask hard-working Clevelanders to pay full-price to see LeBron beat this Cavs product into oblivion, and as a result there were cheap tickets available.
So these same people I saw when I walked in had ample opportunity to scoop up those seats and they celebrated their purchase as the Heat's comeback was finalized.
They were obviously silent when James was introduced, and not collectively loud enough to drown out the Cavaliers fans who booed mightily. But when the arena would've been otherwise quiet, these clowns were really loud.
It sounded to me like a college game at a neutral site in the fourth quarter where the fans are divided between the two teams. I had never been to an NBA game where I heard anything like it.
So what’s my takeaway?
The reason I wanted to talk this out is because I’m not sure I really have one.
Tristan Thompson is better than you thought he was, I guess is one. Although I’m not sure who I’m addressing that too specifically.
Byron Scott sure has managed to lose a lot of games, is I guess another. Even though the talent he put onto the floor had no business even competing.
I wish the jumbotron leak would’ve just canceled this whole thing is a third, too, despite the competitive spirit the Cavs demonstrated.
The whole night was just too weird for anything more.