Hooley: Another vexing LeBron game rears its head

I've never taken an effective medicine that tasted good going down, so that's what I have to hope the Cavaliers Game 3 loss to the Boston Celtics turns out to be -- a vile cure that proves good for the Cavs in the long run.

Beyond that, I don't have an explanation for what happened Sunday night at Quicken Loans Arena beyond what we've known about the Cavs all season --- whatever should come easy to this team winds up being a lot harder than it should.

With Celtics leading scorer Isaiah Thomas out for the remainder of the series, and coming off two dominant wins in Boston, everything set up for a Cavs' coronation as Eastern Conference champions before an adoring home crowd in Games 3 and 4.

Instead, the Cavs blew a 21-point lead they held midway through the third quarter, lost, 111-108, and now will have to return to Boston at least once more. That reduces their rest for the NBA Finals by at least two days.

The Cavs were 17-point favorites and lost. So their defeat qualifies as the biggest upset in the NBA this year and the largest in the post-season in the last 20 years.

That figures, doesn't it? The game after dominating the Celtics by 44 points? It's just so perfectly Cleveland, and, yes, so perfectly LeBron James.

The blame for this confounding defeat is landing squarely on James, because there's a cottage industry of haters out there who traffic in maintaining that James is and always will be an overrated choker when the moment gets big and the spotlight gets hot.

Yeah, never mind the three championships, the four MVPs, the two gold medals, the mounting stack of NBA records and all that. To them, LeBron will always be the guy who quit in Game 5 against the Celtics in 2010.

He's not the guy who scored 48 in Game 5 at the Pistons in 2007. Nor is he the guy who had 41 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists in Game 5 in a possible elimination game with the Cavs down 3-1 at Golden State last year in the Finals.

To continue to question James at this point in his career is just ridiculous and says more about those who mock James than whatever they say about him.

Is LeBron a confounding mystery sometimes?

You bet.

I have no idea why he occasionally seems to defer to his teammates. That's what it looked he was more interested in doing Sunday than he was in taking the game over, like he did in Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

In the final 16 1/2 minutes of Game 3, James shot 0-for-4 and didn't score.

Maddening?

Sure, but when is this team ever going to progress to a point where it can win a game when James is less than spectacular?

The Cavs went 0-8 without him this year, remember.

Ultimately, I've become resigned to trusting James' basketball instincts, because the payoff typically proves pretty special.

I expect he'll assert himself from the outset in Game 4 on Tuesday night, which the Cavs will win.

And then he'll be even better in Game 5 in Boston on Thursday, where the Cavs will clinch.

But LeBron will never win over the nut cases who think he's anything less than the second-best player of all time behind Michael Jordon. To listen to them, Jordan never had a bad game ever.

Maybe this is exactly what the Cavs and LeBron needed to refocus them on the importance of bringing it strong every night.

Every time they start believing in the tales of their greatness that built after they won their first 10 playoff games, they prove they’re better off inundated with drama and disrespect.

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