When A Rivalry Isn’t A Rivalry

LeBronI was out of town, so I was unable to live blog the game. But I did watch it, and here’s my recap in numbers and words. You can read Scott’s recap here. In particular, you need to read his spot-on take on DeShawn “Lock Smith” Stevenson.

-When is a rivalry not a rivalry? I don’t know what makes something a rivalry. But I’ve been reading all weekend on Washington newpaper sites and Washington blogs about how heated this rivalry has become. Granted, I don’t like this Wizards team….but I also don’t think Cleveland or their fans feel that this is a rivalry with Washington. Again, I feel this is a lot like Cleveland with Chicago in the late 80s/early 90s, when Michael Jordan consistently humiliated the Cavaliers. We thought of Chicago as our rivals, but there’s no way Chicago thought we were anything but an annoying nuisance. Now we get to see what the other side feels like. Look around at some Cavaliers/Cleveland blogs….see how many of them mention Washington as a rivalry. It’s harder to find than you might think.

-DeShawn Stevenson is a joke. How many 30+ point games does LeBron have to drop on Washington before they stop calling him the “Lock Smith”? Does anyone really think LeBron frets about facing Stevenson? Not a chance. There are players who really challenge LeBron and make him work extra hard to be effective. DeShawn Stevenson isn’t one of them. He runs his mouth without backing it up, he dances around and boasts with his antics when he makes shots with his team up 20 points, but when his team actually needs him to hit some shots, like, say…today….he misses them. Great job DeShawn. And then there’s this from Brian Windhorst’s blog,

“After the game, LeBron said DeShawn Stevenson hit him with a closed fist on the flagrant foul in the first half. I have since seen some photos that support that but it was not clear. Also, he seemed to go for the ball. I suspect the Cavs will push hard to have him to have the foul upgraded but it probably won’t happen. Here is the thing, people who know DeShawn have told me they think he’s crazy enough to attempt to go head hunting for LeBron in Game 5 if he thinks it is over just because of how personal this has all gotten. We’ll see. “

Who knows if anything will come from that, but the fact that something like that is even brought up by a journalist as well respected as Windhorst tells you everything you need to know about DeShawn Stevenson. You know, maybe we don’t think we have a rivalry with Washington, but Cleveland fans definitely feel a rivalry with DeShawn Stevenson.

-Washington fans also love to whine about LeBron getting all the calls. In 2 of the 4 games, Washington has shot more FTs than Cleveland, and today they took the exact same amount of free throws. It sure seems hard to lay the blame for this series on the refs if you’re a Washington fan. Furthermore, LeBron had 5 fouls today, which severely limited his effectiveness down the stretch. Amazing how you can get 5 fouls called on you when you “get all the calls”.

-The Cavaliers’ assists were back up today (23), but unfortunately, the turnovers (17) were still up as well. The Cavs did a horrible job of taking care of the ball in the Verizon Center. Hopefully when this team heads back home, where they have been playing significantly better than on the road since the trade, the turnovers will come down a bit.

-Anyone who thinks this series is over hasn’t been following the Cavaliers this year. Don’t think for a second with the way this team struggles with motivation that they can’t go back home and lose badly to Washington. Focus is always the key, and that’s why Charles Barkley was right. Washington is dumb for doing anything to motivate this team, because that’s one of Cleveland’s biggest weaknesses.

-The 2nd quarter run was nice, but the late 3rd/early 4th quarter collapse was unacceptable. Again, it seems to go to the point of motivation. As soon as it looked like Cleveland was poised to put this game away, they fell asleep at the wheel and started turning over the ball, playing lousy defense, and looked generally disinterested….and that’s when this one became a ballgame again.

-The offensive rebounding in this game for Cleveland was the ultimate difference. 51 total rebounds is nice, but the 18 to 6 advantage on the offensive glass for the Cavaliers was another way they were able to tip this game in their favor.

-Ok, Delonte’s shot was great, and yes he was wide open. But this team continues to win in spite of coaching it seems like, instead of winning because of it. That Cavaliers’ offense down the stretch was atrocious. No movement AT ALL and LeBron standing around dribbling, scared to drive because of the 5 fouls on him. Then, on the last possession, LeBron stood around dribbling, again, and then took a few dribbles forward before passing to a 37% 3-pt shooter. I’m glad the shot went in, but there has to be a better way to run an offense with a player like LeBron.

What The Inside World Is Saying

“By my count, this game was the sixth time LeBron James has beaten the Wizards with a pass or a shot in the final minute of a playoff game. His short jumper in Game 3 in 2006, his baseline layup past Antawn Jamison in Game 5 the same year, his pass out of the double team to Larry Hughes, who passed to Damon Jones for the winner in Game 6 (hockey assist). Last year in Game 3 he hit Sasha Pavlovic out of a trap for a 3-point to clinch Game 3 here at the Verizon Center. Then this year his two shots in Game 1 and the pass to Delonte West today. Wizards are sick of this stuff.” [Brian Windhorst]

“Actually, the Cavs don’t want Wallace to shoot – ever. Maybe if he has a wide-open dunk. He’s not exactly Carlos Boozer on the offensive end. Wallace has become quite surly to reporters as of late. The few people who know him say he gets that way in the postseason.

He’s not been saying much to the media since he was asked about a foul he had on Caron Butler early in the series. When asked about it, he said, “You’re asking me about that foul? This is the playoffs.” And, that was it.

He can be a mime as far as I’m concerned if he continues to play like he did on Sunday. He definitely impacted the game, something he hasn’t done much of since he was sent to Cleveland on Feb. 21.” [Bob Finnan]

“Asked if the Wizards can get back into the series, LeBron James emphatically said “No.”

Yes was the Cavs’ answer during the last few seconds. After Gilbert Arenas made an incredible bank shot to tie the score with 28 seconds left, it became James’ time. But after a 34-point afternoon, it was the passing James who took over.” [Branson Wright]

“Gibson is returning to form at just the right time. After missing 18 games in the middle of the season with a sprained left ankle, he appears to be close to the same player who was such a force during the Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit last year.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

What The Outside World Is Saying

“So when my brother raised the question of changes, I don’t know where to start. Something must be done, I know that. We can’t just trot out the same crew with the same coach anymore, otherwise we’ll be losing in the first round until 2028. But as this game indicated, who stays and who goes? Gilbert? Eddie? Someone else? Everybody had their moments today, and everybody struggled at times. Is there anyone in particular you can really blame for that? ” [Bullets Forever]

“Down three games to one? Heading back to Cleveland? To face a team that’s ended your season two years in a row? In a building where you just lost by 30? That’s, you might say, is a tough mountain to climb.

Don’t like the metaphor? Too bad, because it’s already the one that’s hanging from above DeShawn Stevenson’s locker. The blue sheet of paper, roughly 8 and a half by 11, depicts the Wizards season in pictorial form” [D.C. Sports Blog]

“After Zydrunas Ilgauskas, it’s generous to call Cleveland “LeBron and the Extras”; King James and the Key Grips is more like it. Until he has a genuine secondary all-star, he has no immediate chance of winning one NBA title, let alone three championships, to even think about entering the Michael-Magic-Larry debate.

But the Cavaliers’ corn-silk-thin bench speaks even more about what kind of player could even fathom having faith in his teammates with their postseason in the balance. After Arenas hit that unorthodox bank shot to tie the game with 28 seconds left, LeBron dribbled downcourt. The Phone Booth exploded with noise, everyone standing, hollering. He cocked his ear toward the stands, essentially imploring a city whose basketball heart he has annually broken for three years now to hope and dream one more time — just a little bit more — for his and his team’s demise.” [Mike Wise]

“West said he never felt conflicted about beating his hometown team, especially since he grew up as a fan of the Chicago Bulls. Now West will join James and Damon Jones on the list of players who have provided postseason heartache for the Wizards at Verizon Center.” [Michael Lee]

“Arenas, who has made plenty of clutch shots in his career, was kicking himself afterward for his decision-making on his final shot. From the moment the ball left his fingertips, Arenas knew it was off target.

“I should have shot it the first time, when I bumped off” West, Arenas said of the moment when he initially received Stevenson’s pass. “I should have taken that shot, but I really don’t like fading back. Looking back on it, I had a better shot when I first caught the ball.”

Arenas missed a potential game-tying three-pointer from almost the same spot at the end of a Game 3 loss in the 2006 first-round series against Cleveland.” [Ivan Carter]


  • Adam

    wait, what? Mike Wise is saying lebron has broken our heart for the last 3 years? Yikes.

  • I think all these points about Wizards fans are examples of you building a strawman.

    I don’t think anyone on BF has blamed the results on the officials. Oh sure, there were some frustrating heat-of-the-moment comments during the game threads, but nobody’s blaming the officials for the way this series has gone. If anything, we’re blaming our team too much instead of crediting Cleveland, still resigned incorrectly to the idea that we’re the better team just not playing our game. That’s not the same as blaming the officials.

    Also, all this nonsense about a “rivalry” misses the point. First of all, I personally don’t ever remember using the word (you can show me a link if I did). Secondly, who really cares how people define the term? You can’t deny this series has been more heated than most playoff series. Whether that’s a “rivalry” or not is open to interpretation, but clearly, this series has been different, and that’s really all that matters on that point.

    You cite things you’ve read on “Washington newspaper sites and Washington blogs.” It would make things a lot stronger if you would be more specific. If you can’t cite specific lines in specific posts, it looks like you’re just creating a point of view out of thin air, hence the strawman objection.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong. I am saying you’re being too vague.

  • Really? You haven’t heard this series called a rivalry at all? Interesting. Anyway, we can play the semantics game all you want. Show me where I said that it was Bullets Forever who was blaming refs or calling this a rivalry. Etc etc etc.

    As far as my point about the word “rivalry”….It was really more of an offhand comment. But as far as this being “heated”, I still feel its one-sided. Washington harbors WAY more animosity towards Cleveland than the other way around. Yeah, we think Stevenson is a fool….but you don’t see Cleveland fans wearing shirts whining about calls from 2 years ago still. The Wizards consistently have tried to do anything to get under the Cavaliers skin, and its not working. Cleveland has time and again shrugged it off, and gone about their business of trying to win this series. And that’s why I said I don’t feel like this is a rivalry. I live in Columbus, which is the heart of the OSU-Michigan rivalry. Now THAT’S a rivalry. This is just 2 teams who by chance keep playing each other in the playoffs. They don’t like each other, but I wouldn’t call it a rivalry.

    I may have been vague, but I didn’t feel like spending an hour going through and quoting every single usage of the word ‘rivalry’ on the Washington Post’s site or on various Washington blogs. I suppose I can do so, though, it will clear things up for you.

  • Anyway, my main point was simply that if you compare Cleveland’s sports sections and blogs with Washington’s sports sections and blogs, this “whatever you want to call it” is pretty one sided. And that was all.

  • Rick

    “This rivalry keeps getting wierder and weirder”

    for another refference


    “The way that this rivalry is escalating, I halfway expect this to be the culmination (long clip…the 3:20 mark would be an adequate start)”

  • Okay, fair enough. I just wanted you to cite specifics. Even one would have been good. I just don’t particularly like reading things that lump all Washington sports blogs and newspapers together.

    I do agree with you, this doesn’t really fit my definition of a rivalry, mostly because the Wizards have yet to win anything significant. At the same time, though, it does fit some people’s definitions, and I don’t think it’s too crazy for DC fans to say this is a “rivalry.”

  • I get where you’re coming from. And for what its worth, I really wasn’t taking a swipe at your site. It was just an offhand commentary on an observation I have made, that this series is much more heated on the Washington side than it is on the Cleveland side. And like I said, I know what it’s like to be on either side. I don’t think it’s crazy for DC fans to call this a rivalry….my point is just that it seems like Cleveland fans don’t share that opinion. I hope that makes sense.

  • -The Wizards owned Cleveland in the regular season this year so I don’t think it makes sense to say that Washington can’t beat the Cavs.

    “By my count, this game was the sixth time LeBron James has beaten the Wizards with a pass or a shot in the final minute of a playoff game. His short jumper in Game 3 in 2006, his baseline layup past Antawn Jamison in Game 5 the same year, his pass out of the double team to Larry Hughes, who passed to Damon Jones for the winner in Game 6 (hockey assist). Last year in Game 3 he hit Sasha Pavlovic out of a trap for a 3-point to clinch Game 3 here at the Verizon Center. Then this year his two shots in Game 1 and the pass to Delonte West today. Wizards are sick of this stuff.”

    Also he is using some pretty thin stuff there to get to his number of 6. The way I count it looks like 3…

    -The Cavs shot 20 more FT in game 1 than the Wizards. If that game had been called in a manner that was even close to unbiased the Wiz would have won that and the series would be tied 2-2

    -Most of the time when people are talking about Lebron or Kobe or Jordan getting all the calls they aren’t just referring to foul shots they are talking about traveling, pushing off etc. Lebron does get away with that kind of stuff ALL DAY.

    -I don’t think this is a rivalry the way that UNC-Duke is a rivalry or Army Navy is a rivalry. I think this is smaller than that bc there isn’t a history. I do think that if they keep meeting in key series and trash talk ensues it will become a rivalry.

  • -The Wizards and Cavs split the regular season series. 2-2. Neither team “owned” the other. That’s just a ridiculous thing to say. In fact, Cleveland beat the Wizards with a roster of Eric Snow, Damon Jones, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Dwayne Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and 2 D-League callups. Furthermore, if you read this post, I said that anyone who says this series is over hasn’t been following the Cavs. Nobody outside of the Cleveland locker room thinks this is over.

    -Fair enough. That was Brian Windhorst’s comment, not mine. I just posted it because I found it interesting. I agree he’s using some thin logic.

    -Thank you for proving my point about Washington fans whining about and blaming officials.

    -Again, more whining about officiating. Thank you.

    -Fair enough. That’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. I’m just telling you, from the Cleveland side of this, I’m not reading a lot of people calling it a rivalry.

  • Matt

    “-The Wizards owned Cleveland in the regular season this year so I don’t think it makes sense to say that Washington can’t beat the Cavs.”

    Owned? The Wizards were 2-2 against Cleveand in the regular season.

    And I’m not sure how Wiz fans can complain about free throws when the team’s defensive strategy is based on fouling LeBron.

  • Wow… “owned.” I’ve seen it all…

  • Hoy

    Maybe the word Washington fans should be going with here is “Grudge” they have a grudge against the Cavs because we keep ending their season. I think a grudge is more of a one sided affair so that would probably be a better word than rivarly.

    Also Matt makes a great point about the officiating and Washington’s ‘keep lebron out of the paint’ strategy.