The Hooley, Thursday, April 6

posted by Bruce Hooley -

The NBA playoffs will begin April 15 and the defending world champion Cleveland Cavaliers would like you to remember they aren't dead yet in their attempt to win a second straight championship.

The Cavaliers dominant victory at Boston on Wednesday night hands Cleveland the inside lane to the top seed in the East.

Does that guarantee the Cavs advance to the NBA Finals? No. But at least now the Cavs won't have to play on the road in a deciding Game 7, should it come to that.

In case you doubted it, LeBron James proved once again that there is no singular force in the NBA like him.

He had 36 points and 10 rebounds to hand the Cavs a 114-91 victory on a night Cleveland played without Tristan Thompson because of a sprained thumb.

As he often does, LeBron took the game over in one breathtaking span of a few minutes and the Celtics, like every other team in the league, were powerless to stop it.

 Down one point in the second quarter, the Cavs went on a 22-4 run that started like this: LBJ jam, LBJ to RJ for jam, LBJ post-up score, LBJ steal and coast-to-coast layup, LBJ off rebound and putback, LBJ rebound and coast-coast jam, LBJ blocked shot.

Before that started, Celtics fans were booing every time LeBron touched the ball. But during that Cavs getaway, the booing stopped.

The Celtics fans were clearly demoralized, and I wonder if the Celtics are, too.

This isn't your father's Boston roster, one similar to anything the Cs had back when they were frustrating LeBron in the post-season.

Long before The Decision and LeBron's two titles in Miami, he had to go through Boston in his first tour of duty as a Cav in order to chase a championship.

That didn't go so well back in the days of the NBA's original Big Three in Beantown.

When the Celtics had Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, LeBron and the Cavs faced Boston in the playoffs in 2008 and 2010 and came up short both times.

The most infamous of those, of course, came in LeBron's final series as a Cav seven years ago. Perhaps with his mind already in Miami, he tanked in Game 5 in Cleveland with the series tied, 2-2, handing the Celtics a victory that book-ended with a triumph in Game 6 at home that ended with LeBron ripping off his jersey as he left the floor.

Several weeks later, he was taking his talents to South Beach and the jersey burning commenced in Cleveland.

Time heals all wounds, of course, and that championship LeBron won title-starved Cavs fans last season didn't hurt, either.

He commands the City, still, to the degree that if this playoff run goes south, the blame will likely land on just about everyone associated with the Cavs but LeBron.

That's locally, I mean. Outside Ohio, James will be portrayed as the bad guy if the halting March the Cavaliers have endured amid a brutal travel schedule ends up derailing their championship defense before they can get to a third straight Finals and LeBron can reach his seventh in a row.

But if the Thursday win proved anything, it's the folly of doubting LeBron at this time of year.

Boston came in the hotter team, having won eight of 10.

The Cavs entered looking like the old team that they are, ranking second in the league in average age.

They were just 19-19 on the road and sported an ugly 1-9 record in games on the second-night of a back-to-back.

But I'm a big believer that you have to knock out the champ before you are the champ, and I've always said that playoff basketball and regular season basketball are no more similar than lightning and the lightning bug.

LeBron confirmed as much in advance of the trip to Boston when he said, “I've been to six straight Finals. I’m the last person to ask about a big game in the regular season. I’m sorry."

James half-laughed when he said it, which probably didn't endear him to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for reinforcing the stereotype that NBA players don't care about the regular season.

But James will get back in Silver's good graces soon enough if he gets the Cavs back to the league's premier event once more.

Whether he'll enjoy the last laugh there remains to be seen, and won't likely come into focus for a few more months.

But as is often said in other matters, and it's definitely true if you're the Cavs...it's good to be The King.

Dustin Johnson tried to go at the Masters and could not.

From now on, he'll let someone else move the car.

Too bad, because it would have been fun to see if DJ could have won his fourth straight tournament.

But there are still plenty of good story lines, led by Jordan Spieth trying to atone for throwing up on himself last year on the 12th hole on Sunday.

Maybe this time, Spieth will try getting across Rae's Creek this way.

The Blue Jackets could use a confidence-building victory at home tonight against Winnipeg. This is the CBJ's final regular-season home game, but they'll be back for playoff action against Pittsburgh.

While the Jackets know they will play the Penguins, they don't know which team will have home ice advantage yet.

Although, trailing the Pens by 3 points with 3 games to play makes it likely the series will begin on the road and Pittsburgh would host Game 7, if necessary.

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