Redemption Is Spelled C - A - V - S

Chad W. Lutz
There are many ways to spell redemption. Some say it’s revenge, some say it’s forgiveness. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, redemption is, “the restoration of man from the bondage of sin to the liberty of the children of God through the satisfactions and merits of Christ” ( Well, we won’t go that far, but in the world of sports nothing has come sweeter for the Cleveland Cavaliers than last night’s victory in a long, long time.

Few are those who can forget that fateful night: December 2nd, 2010, otherwise known as “The Return of the Queen.” King James, in an awesome display of his royal power, came back to the Q and burned the castle to the ground, dismantling the Cavs 118-90. James had 38 points 8 assists and 5 rebounds en route of the Cavaliers on their home court in his first appearance to the Q since departing for Miami. Last night, the one formerly known as “The King” came back to continue his reign of tyranny, but the knights of Center Court 1 had other plans in mind.
Jared Wickerham/Associated Press
From the very beginning of the contest, you knew things were different. The crowd was quieter and the hype was insignificant, if any. The game seemed to sneak up on Cleveland fans. Still recovering from the painful 26-game losing streak we all could barely watch earlier this season, last night’s game against the Miami Heat almost seemed to appear out of nowhere.

“Oh, we’re playing the Heat again…”

In December, it was a completely different story. News media had been talking about the ill-fated matchup since The Decision went down in early July. Almost from day one sports castors and news reporters speculated about the potential outcome of the game and what it would mean to the City of Cleveland, Miami, and the NBA. More specifically, how The Decision would affect the career of the young Lebron James, who is now in his eighth full season as a pro.
Quicken Loans Arena (3/29/2011)
After acquiring Antawn Jamison late in the season just before the trade deadline last year, Jamison instantly became a staple in the Cavalier’s offense this season after starting the 2010-2011 campaign coming off the bench. Youngsters JJ Hickson and Ramon Sessions showed promise early on, but never really blossomed to reach their full potential. A stagnant and otherwise show less Mo Williams was eventually dealt to the L.A. Clippers just before the trade deadline this year, setting up the Baron Davis-era of the Cavaliers featuring a much more fast-paced offense than what any Cleveland fan is used to. Newcomer Ryan Hollins and rookie Samardo Samuels both looked promising at times throughout the season, but neither of them stayed consistent enough to keep in the regular rotation.

Meanwhile, back in the Vice City, the Miami Heat were incinerating the competition. After struggling early on in the season, the new Big 3 finally brought it together and began disposing of opponents like dirty diapers. Heading into the All-Star break you would have thought Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James had played together all their lives. Throw in the likes of veteran Juwan Howard and the newly acquired Mike Bibby and the Larry O’ Brien Trophy seems to be all but bubble wrapped bound for the Sunshine State.

At the beginning of last night’s game, the Cleveland Cavaliers came into play with the league’s worst record (14-58). Fresh off a loss at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, the Cavaliers seemed poised for another defeat with Lebron James and Co. coming into town. The Miami Heat stood 51-22, good for third in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the NBA, a nightmare every Cavalier fan has probably had since he left come horribly true.

It just so happened that I was in Cleveland last night. Not for the game, but for the Cleveland International Film Festival. Fittingly, or so it seems, I watched a documentary on the elections in Ghana in 2008. An interesting film about the passing of power from the New Patriotic Party, Ghana’s then party in power, to the National Democratic Congress, the challenging political party in the election. It chronicled the turbulence of a young democratic nation trying their best to carry out the election process as peaceably as possible. Ever constant was the threat of violence and a close race ultimately led to strained tensions between the two parties and the people of Ghana. As I roamed the streets of Cleveland after the movie let out, there wasn’t the electricity that surrounded the first meeting of these two teams that there was back in December. The streets were a dull roar, at best. Only the faint sound of traffic and the stale Lake Erie breeze that picked up from time to time could be heard. There were no calls to vanquish #6, no major demonstrations against the Decision and the one they called “The King”. There were hardly even any venders set up. Maybe Cleveland had lost faith in its team, or worse. Maybe Lebron James had been right about leaving Cleveland.

“I don't need too much. Glamour and all that stuff don't excite me. I am just glad I have the game of basketball in my life.” – Lebron James

Well, about that…
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
From the opening tip it was apparent that the Cleveland Cavaliers had hardly forgotten the last time the Queen came to town. For 48 minutes, Baron Davis, Ryan Hollins, Anthony Parker, Alonzo Gee, Daniel Gibson, JJ Hickson, Ramon Sessions, Joey Graham, Christian Eyenga, and Luke Harangody put it all on the floor. The Cavaliers led by as many as 23 late in the third quarter and never relinquished the lead. In his first start, Baron Davis may have sealed his fate as a Cavalier, dishing out 7 assists and scoring 10. However, the true hero of the night was Anthony Parker. Parker scored a season-high 20 points on 7-9 shooting going 4-4 from deep in the Q, including two crucial three pointers late in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. When the final seconds waned, it was the Cavaliers this time walking off the victors 102-90. The Queen had been overruled.

A frustrated Lebron James worked his way up and down the floor on each possession as the final minutes drew nearer, the same expression of distrust in his teammates on his face that he used to exude in Cleveland when the going got tough. But in the end, Lebron James just wasn’t enough. It takes a team effort, not just one man, to win a game. Five Cavaliers scored in double digits with all but one player seeing active minutes scoring at least five on 55% shooting from the field. The Miami Heat shot 42% with only six players scoring baskets. It was truly a group effort last night from a team that has played like anything but all season. If the Cavs can play like this every night, it’s a sign of good things to come, especially when you consider a Antawn Jamison back in the lineup and with a healthy Anderson Varejao, who’s missed most of this past season due to injuries, there’s really no telling where this team can go.

It may not have been Game 7 of the NBA Finals or even close to being a post-season clincher. It decided no fates. It tipped no scales. It was contest number 73/82. Sure, we may not have the playoffs to look forward to for the first time in six years, but that won’t take away from the feeling of knowing that Lebron James had been beaten by the very people he walked away from. You couldn’t even write a movie with a better script than this. Cavs fans willing to stick it out through this rocky and overly tumultuous season finally had something worth cheering about last night. After suffering the agony of The Fumble, the heartbreak of The Drive, the confusion of The Shot, the embarrassment of The Sweep, or the utter disbelief of The Catch, Cleveland fans finally got a taste of something they probably won’t soon forget: Redemption.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
No sympathy for Lebron James.