Monday, October 13

Top 5 Cavs Games

With the 2008-2009 NBA preseason underway it's a good time to reflect back on five milestone performances by the Wine & Gold/Blue & Orange (note the absence of the overachieving blue and black teams of the 90's.)

5. October 29, 2003 - Cavs @ Sacramento

Though the Cavs lost the first game of the 2003 NBA season 92-106, the significance, and reason why this game kicks off my list is that this is the first NBA game of LeBron James. His stat line was brilliant: 25 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals -- and he was only 18 years old.

A move that James debuted in this game and used throughout his first season was a delayed jump shot. LeBron would hold onto his shot until the very last moment, and just before his feet touched the ground, he would release it. While awkward, he was amazingly accurate and kept defensive players off guard. LeBron, bring back the delayed jump shot!

4. 1992 Cavs-Bulls, Game 4 Eastern Conference Finals

The Cavs went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eventual NBA Champion Chicago Bulls, but at the time this was a pivotal must-win for the Cavs, who were trailing 2-1 in the series. Floor commander Mark Price, after spending the previous day in the hospital with the flu, played 30 minutes, and rookie Terrell Brandon contributed another 20 strong minutes. An unselfish Brad Daugherty focused less on scoring and more on team play by getting others open looks with Craig Ehlo scoring 21 points and John "Hot Rod" Willams adding 18 as the Cavs went on to win the game 99-85.

The true highlight of this game, and the reason it makes my top five list, is that with 10:05 remaining in the second quarter, Danny Ferry was ejected for taking two swings at Michael Jordan. Unfortunately, Ehlo grabbed Jordan from behind to prevent him from applying the beat-down that Ferry had coming to him. Because of Ehlo, Jordan did not get ejected, and went on to score 35 points -- leading a failed Bulls comeback late in the game. However, it can be argued that Ferry's greatest contribution to the Cavs as a player came the day he punched Michael Jordan.

3. 1989 Cavs-Bulls, Game 5 Eastern Conference Semifinals

As heart-breaking of a loss as this game was to Cleveland fans, and to a Cavaliers team that won 57 regular season games, it still ranks as one of the best games ever (note that it could also easily be first on a list of worst Cavs games).

The Cavs were heavily favored to compete for an NBA Championship in 1989 when they ran into the Chicago Bulls in the first round for the second year in a row. After splitting the first two, game five was played at the Richfield Coliseum. With the action going back and forth all afternoon, what most people forget is that it was Craig Ehlo who hit an athletic layup with four seconds remaining to give the Cavs a one-point lead at 100-99. Moments later, Jordan hit an 18-foot jumper over Ehlo to be forever known as "The Shot" to give the Bulls a 101-100 point victory and an opening round upset.

2. 2007 Cavs-Pistons, Game 5 Eastern Conference Finals

In one of the most amazing individual playoff efforts in NBA history, LeBron James scored 48 points - including the final 25 Cavs points - to beat the Detroit Pistons at The Palace 109-107 in double overtime. The Pistons had the game under control, holding a seven-point lead with 3:15 remaining in regulation when James took control. With the win, the Cavs held a 3-2 series lead heading home for game six for the second season in a row. This time, the Cavs took care of business, easily finishing off the Pistons to earn their first NBA Finals appearance.

1. 1976 Cavs-Bullets, Game 7 Eastern Conference Semifinals

Simply known as the Miracle at Richfield, the 1976 Cavs (49-33) met divisional rival Washington Bullets (48-34) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Tied 3-3, the series moved to Cleveland for the deciding game seven. This series was defined by close, exciting games, and this one was no different. With the game tied at 85, Dick Snyder took the inbounds pass, drove the left side of the lane, and hit a right-handed touch layup to put the Cavs ahead 87-85 with four seconds remaining. After a timeout, the Bullets inbound pass was deflected by Snyder. A frantic scramble for the ball and a last-second prayer by Washington failed to draw iron, and the Cavaliers celebrated the series victory as fans rushed the court.

The Miracle at Richfield is still considered one of the best playoff series in NBA History.

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