CLEVELAND 117, KINGS 110
CLEVELAND - LeBron James wasn't celebrating.
That much was clear. The Cavs' star and his teammates were less than thrilled that they couldn't pound the Kings like fellow Eastern Conference heavyweight, Boston, did back on Dec. 28. Their reaction was enough to make you wonder if the Kings have become the bottom-of-the-barrel barometer by which elite teams judge themselves. Winning isn't enough, the thinking would go, and anything less than winning huge is a failure.
But while the Cavs were moaning about giving up 110 points and their inability to stop Kevin Martin, some of the Kings weren't content to have merely competed either. Chief among them was swingman Francisco Garcia, who took exception with my question of whether the Kings actually believed they could pull off the upset.
"Did we believe it?" Garcia responded with a sideways stare. "We beat the Lakers (on Dec. 9)...and we're playing better than we were playing before."
But when the Cavs made their second-half push and this team that has become so accustomed to losing had to respond, I continued, did these players believe in their heads that they could really do it?
"I don't know where all the other heads are at, but my head is (thinking), 'We're going to go out and try to get a win no matter who we play,'" Garcia said. "It don't matter to me. I don't know if other people could say that. But if you ask me, I'm going to always say 'We have a chance to win every game.' That's all.
"I think defensively, we just keep giving up easy shots, easy threes. That's what killed us in the second half."
Mo Williams was the star of that show, of course, hitting seven of 12 threes in achieving his own scary slice of history. By finishing with 43 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, James' new sidekick became the first player to record at least 43, 11 and 8 since Feb. 15, 2006, when - you guessed it - James had 43 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists at Boston.
"Mo Williams was unbelievable with his shot," said Martin, who had 35 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. "His shot selection was great, and it was falling. You show so much (defensive) attention to LeBron, so we let (Williams) float and he had the hot hand and he was just hitting them."
KINGS JAMES AND HIS VIEW ON THE KINGS
The LeBron mania in this city never ceases to amaze me.
The billboard next to 'The Q,' as they call Quicken Loans Arena, is the most famous reflection of his incredible local cachet...
...but I witnessed a lesser-known display of his market saturation inside the Cleveland Plain Dealer building on a visit to the offices with Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst.
As you walk into the newsroom, the first sight is on the wall to the right: there you see six frames that are reprints of a special LeBron section that they'd published. They essentially turned his first name into an acronym for words that captured what his presence on this team means to the Cavs and the city (I didn't jot down the actual words unfortunately). Nonetheless, it's certainly symbolic that it's the first thing you see inside such a relevant local establishment. The Kings, by chance, play an unflattering part in the display, as one of the posters features James in his first NBA game at Arco Arena in 2003 soaring over Brad Miller (below).
After witnessing yet another performance that helps justify the hype, I asked James to assess the Kings' roster in terms of talent. In short, is this a 10-win team or an underachieving squad?
"I have no idea," he said. "They have some talent, but I don't know what goes on in their locker room. I don't know what goes on besides that, so I don't know. They played well."
Did they surprise you with how they competed?
"Every game is its own game," he said. "No matter the record, you've got to play the game. We won it, but we're not satisfied. It's not like we're in here having a party about our win tonight. We're not satisfied by tonight's game."
Speaking of Windhorst, he reports that the Kings-Cavs trade talks have quieted and a deal between these two squads seems unlikely because of Cleveland's declining interest in making a move.
BOSTON-BOUND? NOT SO SURE
This blog session has been brought to you from the warm confines of a hotel that is quite a contrast to the icy, sleet-filled, snowy weather outside. And considering this is the view just outside the window in downtown Cleveland...
...there's a very real possibility I won't make it to tonight's game. I already had my morning flight cancelled and am crossing my fingers that my 3:30 (ET) flight isn't wiped out as well. We shall see...