The other day, I made the decision to go to this game, and started looking for tickets. I considered just buying an available seat through Ticketmaster (they had club-level seats for about $200), but then I saw someone was selling a seat directly behind the Cavaliers bench. Now, I've been to games sitting courtside before, but those were always as a member of the media. This would be the closest I'd ever been to an NBA game as a fan. And when I say I was close, that's an understatement. I could have reached out and grabbed a cup of Gatorade from the Cavs bench if I'd wanted to, that's how close I was.
I got to the game very early, and was one of the first people in when they opened the gates. Normally, when I'm that early to a basketball game, I try to sneak down toward the floor, but I didn't have to "sneak" down this time, because that's where my seats where. Daniel Gibson and Danny Green were already out on the floor shooting, and Leon Powe joined them shortly after I arrived.
At one point during the pre-game warmups, Cavs GM Danny Ferry sat down right in front of me. I got his attention and asked if he was going to sign LeBron this summer. His answer: "I hope."
Being that close to the action throughout the game was an amazing experience. I was actually impressed to see just how much coaching the coaches (and I use the plural, because the Cavs assistants are just as involved as Mike Brown) actually do. Being able to hear them during the timeouts -- and being able to hear everything, not just the things they allow during those mic'd up segments on TV -- was incredible.
Also, if LeBron James and Kevin Garnett were actually held to the same standards as normal players in regards to technical fouls, they'd never make it through a game (then again, this game was particularly notable for some egregious calls). At one point, after a disputed foul against the Cavs, LeBron said to the ref "that's fucked up." OK, letting it slide once, I can understand, but after the first free throw, he repeated "that's fucked up", then added "fuck this." Holy shit, three uses of "fuck" at one referee for one call? KG was no better, yelling out "what the fuck" multiple times after he thought he was fouled.
The other thing I got to hear was how LeBron acts as a coach when he wasn't in the game. At the start of the second quarter, LeBron got up to remind Delonte West that Rajon Rondo had two fouls, and that Delonte should "take his ass to the box". Did Delonte do that? No, but LeBron can't make the plays for the team when he's on the bench. He CAN give them good advice, and that's exactly what he was doing.
Tempers boiled over multiple times during the game. LeBron did earn a technical foul at one point, and Mo Williams got T'd up in the third quarter. That resulted in Mike Brown losing his shit. He was halfway out on the court, and the Boston crowd was loud, so I couldn't hear everything he said, but from what little lipreading I can do, I can tell you that none of it is going to be usable in any mic'd up segement any time soon.
Now, had the game continued to go that way -- with the Cavs angry about calls, people getting tossed, and the Celtics rolling by 20 -- I would have been pissed. But in the fourth quarter, LeBron got what I'm going to call "the look". You've seen it before (Game 5 of the 2007 ECF for example), but seeing it up close is... well... I can't really describe it. But even though the Cavs were down 22, and didn't have their head coach, and were down a center, LeBron decided "fuck this, I got this." Actually he may have even said just that.
And slowly but surely, he single-handedly brought them back into the game. As the Cavaliers started to chip away at the lead, I kept looking up at the scoreboard -- as did some of the players on the bench, like JJ Hickson and Jamario Moon. OK, now it's 16. OK, now it's 12. Holy shit, is it really 8? Every time he came back toward the sidelines, it was like he wasn't even there. He was playing a different game on a different level, and everyone in the arena knew it. There was a fierce look that was just branded onto his face.
It got down to 5, and as the team was breaking the huddle from a timeout, I yelled out "We got this Cavs! This is OUR game!" The thing about being that close to the bench is when you yell things like that, the players hear you. Danny Green did, and he looked over at me and gave me a little head nod, point and smile.
From that moment on, I felt like part of the team. I rose with the rest of the bench when the Cavs took the lead. I was giving the goose-eye along with Danny, Mo and Jamario, and I was getting pissed at the refs too (actually, I'd been getting pissed at the refs pretty much all game. They sucked, on both ends, all game long.).
The Cavs took the lead, gave it back, and were down 2 with 10 second left and Kendrick Perkins on the line. LeBron came over to acting coach Chris Jent and told him (not asked him, but told him), "if he makes one, I'm calling timeout. If not, I'm taking it." Well, Perkins missed both, and LeBron took it. He crossed midcourt and then pulled up for a deep three (a couple feet behind the line), and missed, badly. Now that I'm home and I've seen the replay, both JJ Hickson and Antawn Jamison were in rebounding position, but I'm still surprised that LeBron pulled up. He said in postgame interviews that he wanted to go for the win, not the tie, but his outside shot hadn't been falling all game. And as soon as the ball left his hand for that one, I said "off". I could tell it wasn't going in.
Still, despite the loss, it was a good day for me in Boston. I'll have tons of pictures and video to share soon, and maybe during the playoffs, I'll get another crack at seeing LeBron win a game in Boston.