Sports

An Ohio Exorcism: This Time, The Decision Goes To The Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against J. J. Hickson of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, where Cleveland avenged an old injury. i i

LeBron James of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against J. J. Hickson of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, where Cleveland avenged an old injury. Jared Wickerham/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
LeBron James of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against J. J. Hickson of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, where Cleveland avenged an old injury.

LeBron James of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against J. J. Hickson of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, where Cleveland avenged an old injury.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The NBA regular season lasts 82 games, but don't be surprised if the Cleveland Cavaliers petition the league to end their season early. Preferably today. Because the Cavaliers, the team with the NBA's worst record, aren't going to achieve anything that beats Tuesday night's 102-90 home court win over Miami.

I'm sorry — it's not really fair to call it a home court win over Miami. It's more accurate to call it an Ohio exorcism.

Sure, it would've been great to do this last December 2. That was, in case you've been in a sports/entertainment blackout, the night northeast Ohio's native son, LeBron James, returned to Cleveland for the first time since making the decision — known to those who gave it a full hour on ESPN as "THE DECISION" — to bolt for Miami. Back then, James and his new buddies stomped all over his old buddies in a 28-point walloping that left the Cavs in shambles and the city hoarse (from booing) and depressed (from yet another sad-sack moment in Cleveland sports).

But now, in retrospect, it seems like Tuesday night was the right moment. It made the revenge seem even sweeter that that December night had added injury to insult.

It was clear that something was simmering hours before Tuesday's game. When James and his entourage arrived at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena for a pre-game shootaround, the parking garage attendant said, in effect, "No." A Cavs spokesman said visiting NBA players aren't allowed to park their private cars in the garage — although sometimes they can if requests are made ahead of time. Bron-Bron came back later, by himself, and they let him in. The entourage? Uh-uh.

The message, if you were looking for one (and everyone was): "Thanks, LeBron, for your seven years of great service as a Cavalier, but you're no longer one of us. Our arena, our rules."

And that attitude, translated into basketball, pretty much describes the Cavs' greatest game in this dismal year. They roared to a 23-point lead, lost it, and held tough in the waning moments. Along the way, a season's worth of highlights – Anthony Parker stroking three-pointer after three-pointer (he was 4-for4); seven-foot center Ryan Hollins playing with enough energy to light all of northeast Ohio and finishing a fast break with a soaring dunk that left people asking, "Was that the ball or his head going through the basket?"; newcomer Baron Davis, driving to the hoop near the end, scoring and making a gesture that said, as if the game already hadn't, "The door is that way."

Afterwards, James hugged a few members of his old team. He said all the right things: "The atmosphere is always great here. The fans are unbelievable. I've always said that. They deserve to win."

At least one sign in the arena demanded an apology from James for the way he left Cleveland. He didn't say he was sorry, as he didn't after the December game. He's clearly not planning to; it's debatable whether he needs to.

But what Cleveland got last night was better than an apology. It got a win. And yes, it got revenge. In this sunken chest of a year, Cavs fans got to stick theirs out and say to one of the NBA's best teams — and best players — "Not tonight."

Or, as Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert tweeted, "Not in our garage."

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