It’ s been years since I’ve paid anything more than cursory attention to the NBA playoffs, and what’s drawn me in this year is the intriguing possibility of a finals matchup between LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. I don’t know what lies ahead in the Eastern and Western conference finals, but I do know that last night’s finish in Cleveland as the Cavs topped the Orlando Magic on King James’ buzzer-beating three-pointer was one for the ages.
I’ve managed to catch the final minutes of the first two games of the Magic-Cavs series, and they have proved wonderful spectacle. A Cleveland native who remembers well the dire first years of the expansion team, I can’t help but root for the Cavs. Even as they blew a big lead and lost in Game One, I couldn’t complain. Orlando’s comeback was inspiring and thrilling.
Last night, after Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu – he of the ever-present crooked smile – made a bucket to put the Magic up by two points with one second to go, I was resigned to the Cavs’ being down in the series two games to none. The Kobe-LeBron matchup seemed a fading hope. The chances the Cavs could tie the game and send it into overtime were just about nil.
Then, a miracle.
Mo Williams sent an inbound pass to James high above the key, and in one motion he caught the ball and fired it in a graceful arc straight into the basket.
That moment will live forever in replays. It’s particularly sweet for the Cleveland franchise, which seemingly always was on the receiving end of such heroic last-minute shots (See Jordan, Michael).
The Cleveland-Orlando series has the markings of a classic. I tip my cap to both teams. And I also note that from the angle of the Cleveland Plain Dealer photo above, it almost appears that LeBron’s headband is transformed into a halo.
Addendum: Here’s a great multi-angle compilation of the shot.