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What if The Decision never happened? (CHAPTER I, 2011-2012 SEASON)

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The Decision - 2010

What if THE DECISION never happened? (Edited)


The one stain on LeBron James' career has been the infamous night of July 8th, 2010. On this night, LeBron James held a special, announcing his free agency choice. On this night, a new hatred would be born for The King of Akron, as he broke the hearts of everyone in Cleveland, electing to join Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade on the Miami Heat and create a superteam.

But what if, on that very same night, LeBron uttered the words, "This fall, man, this is tough, I'll be staying home, and leading my hometown team to their first NBA Championship." LeBron would immediately be praised as a hero of sorts, opting to stay home and win on his own terms instead of leaving a villain.

Going into the 2010-2011 season, the Cavaliers wouldn't be able to add anyone amazing, but a Mo Williams-for-Baron Davis trade would get LeBron a second option who could create his own shot. After a few more moves, including holding onto 2009 second round pick Danny Green, and picking up Memphis' G Tony Allen, the rotation for the Cavaliers would look like this:

Baron Davis-Tony Allen-LeBron James-Kenyon Martin-Shaquille O'Neal

Key contributors off the bench: Danny Green, Anderson Varejao, Ramon Sessions, Sean Marks

Next episode, I'll recap the 2010-2011 season before getting into the offseason and then officially starting the diary episodes!

So now, I'll explain why LeBron's career being rewritten didn't happen. So simming into a few years ahead, there's issues with 2k's development and eventually, there was 50-60 90+ rated players and the save would just not work out with many of them being left in free agency due to cap space not being available. So I've taken a different route and I will rewrite the decision, showing what would have happened if LeBron had stayed with Cleveland in 2010.





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Image result for lebron james baron davisThe Dynamic Duo of Baron Davis and LeBron James (2010)

PROLOGUE, PART II: The aftermath of The Decision (2010-2011 season)

The defensive starting lineup of Davis-Allen-LeBron-Martin-Varejao would get the Cavaliers off to a 7-2 start after coach Mike Brown would move Shaquille O'Neal to the bench in the opener against the Toronto Raptors. The strong start would be cooled down though, as Kenyon Martin would suffer a broken right leg and be ruled out for 6-8 weeks. The Cavaliers would struggle as the unit of Varejao and O'Neal playing together would be victimized by stretch fours as neither Varejao or Shaq had the perimeter defense to match that.

Towards the end of the season, despite LeBron averaging nearly a triple double at 32.0pt, 10.6r, and 9.4a, the Cavaliers would only be able to secure the fifth seed in the conference, with co-star Baron Davis playing underwhelming at 12 points and 9 assists a game. The standings would be as following, with the Atlanta Hawks (67-15), Chicago Bulls (61-21), Orlando Magic (58-24), and Boston Celtics (53-29) finishing ahead of the 47-35 Cavaliers. Behind the Cavaliers would be the Milwaukee Bucks (42-40), Philadelphia 76ers (40-42), and rounding out the Eastern Conference would be the 40-42 Miami Heat, led by Wade and Bosh, with Bosh being injured for a portion of the year. Despite only being the fifth seed, LeBron's averages of 31.2/10.5/9.6 on 58/49/78 would be enough for a third consecutive MVP, as LeBron's 49% shooting from three showed how far he had come from his 33% the previous year.

In the West, it would be the San Antonio Spurs (59-23) coming in at first, the Los Angeles Lakers (59-23) second, the Thunder (57-25) led by the young trio of Durant/Westbrook/Harden, in fourth the veteran Dallas Mavericks (57-25), Utah Jazz (48-34), Portland Trail Blazers (47-35), Memphis Grizzlies (45-37), and lastly the Phoenix Suns (39-43). In the first round of the Western Conference, the Spurs, Mavericks, Grizzlies (upsetting Los Angeles), and Oklahoma City Thunder would advance, pitting the Spurs and Mavericks head-to-head while the Grizzlies and Thunder would go at it.

In the East, it would be the Hawks handling the Heat, with such a deep roster while the Bulls and Magic easily advanced. The only close playoff first round series would be the Cavs vs Celtics, which extended to seven games.

After being put out by the Celtics in the second round in 2010, LeBron James would conquer his demons against Boston in Game 7, AT Boston, pouring in 38 points with 15 rebounds and 11 assists to match, leading the Cavaliers to a 99-93 win and advancing to play the Hawks. Clearly exhausted after the seven game series, the Hawks would blow out the Cavs 104-78 in Game 1, with LeBron shooting 11-30 on the night. After back and forth games, we would once again see Cleveland in a 3-2 hole, which surprised many as Cleveland was expected to lose in 4 or 5.

But much of it can be attributed to Baron Davis finally showing up as his playoff averages ended with 22.3 points per game and 8 assists, with him feeling comfortable and giving LeBron a second star to help him. With the help of two 30 point games from Baron Davis, LeBron would score 37 and 44 to send the Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference Finals, once again leading the Cavaliers out from a hole and the praise would be attributed to him, with analysts saying we've never seen anything like this playoff performance before (31.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 10.8 assists). In the Eastern Conference Finals, the gassed Cavaliers would finally be ousted by the aggressive, defensive Chicago Bulls led by MVP runner-up Derrick Rose. LeBron wouldn't be stopped though, as despite only taking one game, he scored over 30 points in four out of the five games. LeBron's playoff averages finished as 30.7 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 10.3 assists, as analysts praised him, with people saying he may one day take Michael Jordan's spot as the greatest of all-time and everyone praising him for staying with Cleveland and leading a weak roster to the conference finals, and even taking a game off of this Bulls squad.

The Bulls, would be matched up with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. Despite the Mavericks' gutsy performance, the defense of the Bulls, along with the three-point shooting, and the overall effect of Derrick Rose being on the team, the Bulls would defeat the Mavericks in six games, becoming the 2011 NBA Champions and Derrick Rose would be named Finals MVP with averages of 21.4/3.5/8.6 on 51/40/86. Moving into the offseason, the Cavaliers would fire Mike Brown after a poor scheme in the Bulls series, which involved LeBron James playing post-defense against Carlos Boozer instead of playing up top on Derrick Rose, which allowed Rose to have his way with the team. In protest, Cavs GM Danny Ferry would resign, which allowed the Cavaliers to hire David Griffin. With the LeBron James-led Cavaliers without a coach, the Cavaliers would turn their attention to one man...

Brad Stevens, a man who had just come off leading the Butler Bulldogs to two straight National Championship games, with Butler only being a fifth and eighth seed in the two years. Just a few days before the NBA Draft, David Griffin and Brad Stevens would be spotted together nearby the NBA Draft. Just a few hours later, the Cavaliers would announce Brad Stevens had agreed to a four year, 40 million dollar contract, but as it turns out, that wasn't what Griffin/Stevens were discussing, it was what would happen later in the night...







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Image result for lebron james chris paul cavaliers The NBA's new Batman and Robin (2008)


After Brad Stevens was hired, the Cavaliers turned their attention to the 2011 Draft, in which they held the Clippers first round pick from the Baron Davis trade. In luck for them, the pick fell into the fourth slot which meant the Cavaliers would be able to select an amazing rookie to pair alongside LeBron James. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Hornets were looking to shop their superstar Point Guard, Chris Paul, as he told the organization he had no intentions of returning following next season.

With the Hornets holding the second pick in the draft, the Hornets began shopping him. And despite Baron Davis' breakout playoff performance, the Cavaliers made an offer, which became official just moments before the Charlotte Bobcats made Duke G Kyrie Irving the first pick. The Hornets, Cavaliers, Raptors, and Kings had agreed to a four team trade that brought David West to Sacramento, and Chris Paul to Cleveland... The details were as followed:

New Orleans receives: Clippers 2011 First Round Pick (#4), 2012 Sacramento First Round Pick (Lottery Protected), 2014 & 2015 Cavaliers First Round Picks, 2013 Toronto Second Round Pick

Cleveland receives: Chris Paul, 2012 Toronto First Round Pick

Toronto receives: Baron Davis, 2012 & 2013 Hornets Second Round Picks, 2015 Hornets First Round Pick

Sacramento receives: David West, Marco Belinelli, Jeff Green, 2015 Cavaliers second round pick

And with that, the Hornets would select San Diego State F Kawhi Leonard with the second pick, and after that, the Pistons would grab G Klay Thompson before the Hornets made their next selection, Chris Paul's replacement, National Championship MVP Kemba Walker. With the NBA's newest dynamic duo in Chris Paul and LeBron James, teams felt the need to go out and improve themselves. One team that took this to heart was the underwhelming Miami Heat, who barely snuck into the playoffs last year despite having Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Signing with them? None other than Carmelo Anthony, another member of the 2003 NBA Draft Class. Anthony would ink a 4yr/108 million dollar contract with the Heat, bringing him to the big-market he wanted and now completing the Heat's Big 3, that they wanted LeBron to complete last year. The Warriors, following Jeremy Lin's breakout season, would trade him to the Pacers, who sent young F Paul George. Both teams in a similar dillema, with the Pacers wanting to win now, traded for a Point Guard, which they needed with their signing of star center Marc Gasol. That wouldn't be it for the Warriors, though, as they signed F/C Paul Millsap to add to their nucleus of George and Curry.

The Los Angeles Lakers, after a shocking first round upset, would sign Gilbert Arenas to a three-year deal, plugging a hole in the weak spot of their lineup. Meanwhile, the defending champion Bulls, stated they felt 'disrespected' with all the hype surrounding the new trios and duos as they had ran through the East, and they showed that champions draw interest by signing G/F Tyreke Evans to a 3yr/26m deal, adding more depth to the team. And the Kings, fed up with DeMarcus Cousins' antics, would let him walk, before he agreed to a 4yr/90m deal with Memphis, giving Conley and Gay a big man to help them. After averaging 18pt/10r for Detroit, Greg Monroe would sign a 4yr/62m deal with the Knicks. For the runnerup Mavericks, they wouldn't do much in free agency, as they would rely on the 29th pick of the draft, Marquette G Jimmy Butler to help them...

As for the Cavaliers, with their roster mostly unfinished, they would bring back key contributors from last year Kenyon Martin and Shaquille O'Neal, and make a wing depth signing in G/F Trevor Ariza (3yr/26m), and lastly add Ronny Turiaf and Mike Bibby for some depth, calling it an offseason.

With the Cavaliers, Celtics, Heat, and Bulls at war over the Eastern Conference, and the Western Conference always up for grabs, the 2012 season should be a chaotic atmosphere... the type you only see in Basketball.








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Related image The Celtics continue to haunt LeBron, even after last year's playoffs (2011)

CHAPTER I, PART I: The New Kings of the East?

Entering the 2011-2012 NBA season, the schedule pitted the new duo of LeBron James and Chris Paul to open on the road in TD Garden, against the Celtics, led by their big four of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo. The chemistry between the Celtics would be evident, as would the growing pains of the new Chris Paul-LeBron James duo. For the first three quarters, the Celtics dominated, including a huge third quarter which pushed their lead to 17 going into the fourth.

In the fourth quarter, Paul and James came to life, spurring a comeback that fell just short after a demoralizing three from Paul Pierce that pushed the lead to 104-98. The Cavaliers would attempt a three with Paul, but as it missed, the Celtics dribbled out the clock and started their 2011-2012 rebound campaign with a win over the men who ended their season last year.


After this uninspiring loss, the Cavaliers would travel to Minnesota, destroying the Timberwolves 123-83. After this, they would have their home-opener, against the Miami Heat... Who had just acquired star center Andrew Bogut in a trade with Milwaukee. In a close game, the Heat would tie it up at 109 with 17 seconds remaining...

LeBron James would win it at the buzzer with a stepback three over Carmelo Anthony and Andrew Bogut, dropping the Heat to 0-3 while the Cavaliers would hold a 2-1 record. After this, the Cavaliers would hit their early-season stride, winning THIRTEEN straight games, including another win over the Heat at home (93-74), a 19 point road win over the defending champion Bulls (105-84), and then the streak would finally be broken by the Bulls, who took the Cavs down 108-103 on November 25th at the United Center before the Cavaliers prepped for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

With an outstanding defensive rating of 95.6, the Cavaliers have built their foundation on tough, physical defense that has sucked the life out of their opponents while relying on Chris Paul and LeBron James on the offensive end, who have delivered. LeBron James currently posts an average of 31.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.2 blocks, and a career-low 2.0 turnovers on 58% shooting and 42% from three. His co-star, Chris Paul, has posted 25.5 points (career-high), 11.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 2.9 steals, and only 1.9 turnovers on 49% shooting and 40% from three.

Another reason the Cavaliers have been so successful is because they have averaged 12.7 turnovers, compared to the Pelicans 13.4 turnovers. The duo of Chris Paul and LeBron James have been aided by a supporting cast of Trevor Ariza, Tony Allen, Danny Green. One position they have lacked is a backup point guard, which should change as the Cavaliers have expressed interest in many backup point guards. The next game will be a battle, as LeBron leads his Cavaliers, looking to protect home-court against the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers, who have started the season 9-7 and have been adjusting with their preseason trade which netted them Andre Iguodala...













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This is a good diary idea honestly but I think it would be cooler to see this become a thread for a bunch of mini-series "What Ifs.." For NBA, such as What If Kobe was drafted to a different team, if Steph Curry didn't join the Warriors, stuff like that I think it would make for an interesting set of reading. Also, an amazing format you got going on. I hope you keep up with this and maybe move into a different "What If" question

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The re-emergence of Shaquille O'Neal questions a potential trade for a 3rd shotcreator for the Cavaliers (2011)


As the Cavaliers knocked off the Lakers 113-106, back-to-back losses to Houston and Toronto questioned Cleveland's shot-creating depth past Chris Paul and LeBron James. Analysts argued Trevor Ariza, but in Cleveland's 133-88 beatdown of Minnesota, Ariza injured his back and would take on a less significant role. Despite wins against Portland and Philadelphia, the Cavaliers would drop another game to Boston. An impressive win streak of eight had LeBron and CP3 carrying the team on the offensive side, but without a dominant post to control the tempo, the Cavaliers would were banking on LeBron and CP3 not getting tired. In a 10-8 stretch heading into the end of January, LeBron and Chris Paul seemed burned out at the end of games, unable to finish.

In recent weeks, coach Brad Stevens had begun inserting C Shaquille O'Neal into the rotation after Anderson Varejao's devastating broken left ankle at the beginning of January. With Mike Bibby struggling at the beginning of January, the Cavaliers also signed backup G Luke Ridnour, who has provided three-point shooting at 44% clip. A tough game against the Thunder would see the true reemergence of Shaq, as he posted a dominant 21 points on 10-13 shooting in just 13 minutes. He had his way with defensive center Kendrick Perkins... Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, a fourth quarter comeback fell short behind Kevin Durant's 14-17 shooting on 36 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists.


Going into a crucial game against Philadelphia, as Chicago remained above them in the standings (35-11), the Cavaliers looked to improve their offensive rating which stood just 15th in the league, opposed to their league-leading defensive rating. The answer was inserting Shaquille O'Neal into the rotation, allowing the Cavaliers to have a dominant post in the game when Shaq came to play. The production of Trevor Ariza was questioned when in a loss to Milwaukee, he scored 0 points on just 0-3 shooting. In a key game against Philadelphia, LeBron, CP3, and Shaq would combine for 81 points while Trevor Ariza added 15 more, but the Cavaliers would fall in overtime to the 76ers 117-111.

With the Bulls maintaining a lead over the Cavaliers, the 76ers stood in third while the Celtics were fourth. The Pacers, Hawks, and Heat all had similar records while Orlando rounded out the eighth spot for the playoff picture. The worst team? The 7-50 Brooklyn Nets. A five game winning streak would be stopped with three games to go before the all-star break, but this year, the NBA had announced in October that they would be doing something new this year.

"The top two vote-getters will be captains for respective teams named after them, and will draft from the all-stars voted in the fans in an effort to freshen up and improve the all-star game. The winning team will donate 20k to charity."

LeBron James and Kevin Durant, sparring for the MVP award, would get the most votes. Team LeBron would sport a lineup of the Spurs' Tim Duncan, the Cavs' Chris Paul, the Bulls' Derrick Rose, and the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, along with the hometown hero LeBron James himself. His bench consisted of LaMarcus Aldridge, John Wall, Tony Parker, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, and Zack Randolph.

Meanwhile, Team Durant's starting lineup had Durant himself, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Magic C Dwight Howard, scoring leader Steph Curry, and 12-time all-star Paul Pierce. The bench contained Dwayne Wade, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Josh Smith, Manu Ginobili, and Rajon Rondo.


And now, the standings would look like this for the Eastern and Western Conferences.


While the East is a clear two-team race with potentially third and fourth teams, the West looks different. With the addition of James Harden, the Mavericks have hit a hot surge as he figures to be their future franchise player. Meanwhile, the scoring ability of Stephen Curry has taken a huge leap after averaging 39.7 points A GAME in 32 appearances last season. Now, having missed NO games this season, Curry has averaged 33 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.1 assists on 52%FG/51%3PT/85%FT, which is outstanding and has thrown a wild card into the seemingly two team race in the West. The Cavaliers travel to Indiana before ending their pre-all star break with hosting New York and Brooklyn on the 17th and 19th... Can the Cavaliers go into the All-Star Break with momentum? Or will their continued offensive woes keep them at the second spot in the conference?





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Dwight Howard and LeBron James square off in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs

CHAPTER I, PART IV: Feel It In The Air

The Cavaliers' season ended with a 61-21 record, as they were now tasked with the overall mission of this season: Securing the first NBA Championship for Cleveland, for LeBron James, for Chris Paul. And all of this started with a first round series with a familiar foe for The King, as he was pitted against the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard, who sent his Cavaliers out of the Eastern Conference Finals three years ago and advanced to the NBA Finals. But before the playoffs began, the standings for both conferences, along with the awards, were finalized and announced.


The playoff matchups were also finalized in the process, as the road to become the 2012 NBA Champion began for 16 teams, eight from the East, eight from the West... Last year, it was the Bulls who seized the moment... Can they repeat?






























Cavaliers vs Magic: Who wins, in how many games?
Celtics vs 76ers: Who wins, in how many games?
Hawks vs Pacers: Who wins, in how many games?
Bulls vs Heat: Who wins, in how many games?

Spurs vs Grizzlies: Who wins, in how many games?
Mavericks vs Trail Blazers: Who wins, in how many games?
Lakers vs Warriors: Who wins, in how many games?
Thunder vs Clippers: Who wins, in how many games?

The winner will be decided when the entire playoffs is over! The prize will be making very key decisions for me in the offseason!


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Cavaliers vs Magic: Who wins, in how many games? Cavs, 5 games
Celtics vs 76ers: Who wins, in how many games? Celtics, 6 games
Hawks vs Pacers: Who wins, in how many games? Hawks, 6 games
Bulls vs Heat: Who wins, in how many games? Heat, 7 games

Spurs vs Grizzlies: Who wins, in how many games? Spurs, 4 games
Mavericks vs Trail Blazers: Who wins, in how many games? Mavs, 6 games
Lakers vs Warriors: Who wins, in how many games? Lakers, 6 games
Thunder vs Clippers: Who wins, in how many games? Thunder, 5 games

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Cavaliers vs Magic: Who wins, in how many games? Cavs, 4 games
Celtics vs 76ers: Who wins, in how many games? Celtics, 6 games
Hawks vs Pacers: Who wins, in how many games? Pacers, 7 games
Bulls vs Heat: Who wins, in how many games? Heat, 7 games

Spurs vs Grizzlies: Who wins, in how many games? Spurs, 4 games
Mavericks vs Trail Blazers: Who wins, in how many games? Trail Blazers, 6 games
Lakers vs Warriors: Who wins, in how many games? Lakers, 6 games
Thunder vs Clippers: Who wins, in how many games? Clippers, 4 games

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Cavaliers vs Magic: Who wins, in how many games? Cavs 5 games
Celtics vs 76ers: Who wins, in how many games? Celtics 6 games
Hawks vs Pacers: Who wins, in how many games? Hawks 6 games
Bulls vs Heat: Who wins, in how many games? Heat 4 games

Spurs vs Grizzlies: Who wins, in how many games? Spurs 5 games
Mavericks vs Trail Blazers: Who wins, in how many games? Mavericks 7 games
Lakers vs Warriors: Who wins, in how many games? Lakers 6 games
Thunder vs Clippers: Who wins, in how many games? Thunder 4 games

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Dwight Howard and LeBron James square off in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs

CHAPTER I, PART V: Man On A Mission

Game 1 for the Cavaliers and Magic would be a war until the last minutes. Up until then, the guardplay of CJ Watson and Jameer Nelson kept the Magic in the game, until shockingly, Kenyon Martin stepped up, scoring 12 fourth quarter points in route to his 23 points on the night. LeBron, posting a stat-line of 33 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, would look like a man on a mission as he sealed game one for Cleveland and picked up the slack for his co-star Chris Paul, who scored only 5 points on 2-13 shooting (1-7 3PT). But it would be the turnovers of Jameer Nelson (16) who single-handedly cost the Magic the victory.


Game 2 would feature a beatdown of the Magic, courtesy of the dynamic duo of Chris Paul and LeBron James, aided by Trevor Ariza and Danny Green. Despite a 30 and 10 night from Dwight Howard, the pace of the Cavaliers was too much to keep up with as Ariza, Green, James, and Paul combined for 108 of Cleveland's 132 points. The momentum swung in Cleveland's direction as they took a 2-0 lead over Orlando, heading back to Florida.


Game 3 would be must-win for Orlando, facing the potential of going down 3-0 in a series. The game would be hotly contested, as Orlando was up 103-97 with just 90 seconds to play. Somehow, the uncanny ability of LeBron James led them on a 10-0 run as Cleveland sounded the buzzer with the win, 107-103 and a 3-0 lead. After the game, Dwight Howard looked disappointed and answered the media bluntly, clearly upset after his 33 point, 17 rebound game had gone to waste.


With a sweep on the way, the Magic would come to fight, as Jameer Nelson would come out with 27 points. Unfortunately for the Magic, their funeral would be written for the ages as Danny Green scored a career-high 34 points on 12-13 shooting (9-10 3PT). Along with a classic LeBron triple double, the Magic would be sent packing out of the playoffs as the Cavs swept them.


As the Cavaliers ensured their spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the only other sweep to occur in the first round was the Oklahoma Ciry Thunder defeating the Los Angeles Clippers. In the West, the Spurs would destroy the Grizzlies 4-1, while Dallas showed fight against Portland, but came up short 4-2. The Lakers and Warriors would go to a grueling seven game series, as Steph Curry and Paul George went head-to-head with Kobe and Iggy. In the end, experience prevailed as Los Angeles booked its ticket to Oklahoma City.

In the East, a seven game series between Philly and Boston would see the city of brotherly love come out on top, awhile Atlanta annhilated Indiana in 5 short games. In six games, we saw an upset as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade took down the defending champions Chicago Bulls in Round one.

Cavs in 4
76ers in 7
Hawks in 5
Heat in 6

Spurs in 5
Trail Blazers in 6
Lakers in 7
Thunder in 4









Spurs vs Trail Blazers: Who wins, in how many games?
Lakers vs Thunder: Who wins, in how many games?

Heat vs Hawks: Who wins, in how many games?
Cavaliers vs 76ers: Who wins, in how many games?

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Image result for lebron james exhaustedLeBron James lays on the floor, exhausted. (2012)

CHAPTER I, PART V: Man On A Mission, Part 2

Many expected Cleveland to run Philadelphia out of the water in their second-round series, as many believed the Cavaliers to be the better team. LeBron James and Chris Paul had shown Orlando what it was like when Cleveland was hitting on all cylinders, but this time felt different. Throughout the regular season, the 76ers ranked #3 in rebounding at 52.9 because of the foursome of Enes Kanter, Elton Brand, Andrew Bynum, and Thaddeus Young. And in game one, this hardly served as a problem, as the Cavaliers got out and ran on the 76ers, with Paul/Ariza/LBJ combining for 70 points, as the Cavaliers would take it 114-105. For the 76ers, rough shooting nights for Lou Williams (5-15), and Andrew Bynum (3-11) would bury the idea of stealing the first game in Cleveland. But the most concerning thing for Cavs fans had to be the number of fastbreak points they scored... Just 4. In a shocking turn of events, the Cavaliers would outrebound the 76ers 54-45, but would have 12 less second chance points than them, as Philly outscored them in that department, 22-10. In the end, the Cavs would prevail, grabbing a 1-0 lead.

Game 2 would see the 76ers take full advantage of their rebounding speciality, as a 50-38 margin dominated the Cavaliers inside the paint. With the dynamic duo of Chris Paul and LeBron James still running rampant, the 76ers would sneak a victory, 127-122. Lou Williams would drop 38 points on the Cavaliers defense, as he shot an outstanding 13-19, 5-63PT as the 76ers showed everyone they weren't here to play, and that they should be taken with caution. Despite this, the Cavaliers would assume home-court advantage again in Game 3, as a hot start was never matched by the 76ers, and despite a poor shooting night for Trevor Ariza, they would take the 3rd game, gaining 2-1 series lead, 110-104.

With their backs against the wall heading into Game 4, for the first time all season we saw the Cavaliers' defense fold when it comes down to the thick and thin. All season, the #1 defense in the league was reliable, but in Game 4, the Cavs were outscored in the first three quarters, as a 23 point lead heading into the fourth quarter sealed the game for the 76ers, as seven players scored in double digits for them. A hot shooting night for the 76ers (51-99, 52%) along with a poor night for The King (11-28), the 76ers took full advantage of the Cavaliers short comings at Center, as they dominated the paint, outscoring LeBron's Cavs 58-34 in the paint. A 60-41 edge on the boards would also seal Cleveland's fate as they headed back to Quicken Loans for a crucial game five.

Another slow start would mean that Philadelphia headed into the fourth quarter with a 13 point lead. Fearing the possibility of falling into a 3-2 hole, the Cavaliers' Shaquille O'Neal scored 10 points in the fourth, along with LeBron's twelve. The Cavaliers would take a 100-99 lead with just 1.2 seconds left, as the 76ers inbounded the ball under the basket. They would throw it up towards the rim, and Andrew Bynum would get up over Anderson Varejao, knocking the ball in with a tip-in as he crashed to the floor, as the buzzer sounded. 101-100 76ers. 3-2 lead heading back to Phila. Could the Cavaliers season be in doubt?

Not yet. With the cards stacked against them, Chris Paul and LeBron James would once again rise to the occasion, with LeBron James scoring 36 points, with 11 rebounds and 12 assists as well. Meanwhile, Paul would score 30 points, with 9 assists and 3 steals, making Jrue Holiday's life a hell, as Holiday committed 4 turnovers. A strong third quarter that made the lead 16, the Cavaliers got very, very comfortable and allowed the 76ers to battle back, making the lead just two points at one point in the fourth quarter. A strong finish though, provided Cleveland with the series-defining win it needed and momentum to head back to Cleveland and finish the series out. But tragedy would strike, as after Game 6, in which Trevor Ariza left to an ankle injury, news broke Ariza had tore his left achilles and would be out for the rest of the playoffs, despite having a breakout performance, averaging 18pt/4r/3a/2s on 45/44/89.

ESPN Analysts would call this series defining for LeBron's career. He doesn't have the rebounding he needs to battle with them inside, like he has before. And now, he's comeback from a 3-2 hole, and now he has a chance to close it out in front of his people on his way to his first championship. Can he do it? That's the question everyone wants to know.

LeBron James would certainly heed this talk, as Game 7, LeBron James would score 33 of Cleveland's 38 FIRST QUARTER points, as then another strong second quarter, including three LeBron James 3pt shots, had the Cavaliers up 75-50 at halftime. Despite this, the Cavaliers would come out slow, and go through the motions for much of the second half, allowing the 76ers to once again battle back instead of closing them out for good. But at the end, LeBron James, exhausted, would slash his way to the hole and score an and-one, that put the lead to 6. Just moments later, the ball would be in his hand as they dribbled out the clock and the series was over, with a scare for Cleveland almost becoming a nightmare. LeBron James. 61 points. 9 rebounds. 7 assists. An all-time playoff performance, to send his team to the Eastern Conference Finals.Despite this, the signs of war were there, as now, with Trevor Ariza, their 3rd-leading scorer for the playoffs, the Cavaliers will once again be forced to adjust, to an Atlanta Hawks squad, that defeated the superpowered Miami Heat in 7 games.

Meanwhile, in the West, the Thunder rode their fearsome five with ease to the Western Conference Finals, beating Kobe Bryant in five games as meanwhile, the Trail Blazers put up a valiant effort, but the Spurs ways' proved to be too much, as six games ended their series... With Thunder vs Spurs and Cavaliers vs Hawks official, who will come out on top and book their NBA Finals appearances?





Spurs vs Thunder: Who wins, in how many games?
Cavaliers vs Hawks: Who wins, in how many games?

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Image result for cleveland cavaliers eastern conference championsLeBron James and the Cavaliers celebrate, having dispatched the 'teamball' mantra of the Atlanta Hawks in five games. (2012)

CHAPTER I, PART VI: Four... Games... Away...

After the seven-game scare against Philadelphia, coach Brad Stevens promised for the team to respond in this series and keep the focus away from the Western Conference Playoffs, which he believes hurt them in their quest to defeat Philadelphia. In Game One, in Cleveland, the Cavaliers would SHOCKINGLY lose on their home court, 106-101, behind seven Hawks scoring in double figures. Following the loss, the Cavaliers reportedly had a heart-to-heart team meeting, regarding the status of their play and unfortunate loss of Trevor Ariza.

In Game 2, the Hawks stayed neck-and-neck with the Cavaliers until the fourth quarter, where Chris Paul closed the game out, scoring the last eight Cleveland points, and win the game 121-113 to tie the series up. Going back to Atlanta, many feared Cleveland would drop both games, but the Cavaliers responded with a 17-point win in Game 3 behind a near triple double from Chris Paul (19pt/12r/9a), and 38pt, 7r, 9a from LeBron James. The final two games of the series would come down to the clutch, as in Game 4, a buzzer-beater would end the game as Chris Paul sunk a game-winning three to win 111-108 after a near perfect game from Hawks star Al Horford (30 points, 11 rebounds).

In Game 5, with the Hawks trying to starve off a Cavaliers Finals birth and begin the  comeback from a 3-1 lead, despite only shooting 28% from the 3pt line (8-29), the defensive ability of the Hawks would limit the forces outside of LeBron James and Chris Paul, allowing them to keep it close. With a one-point lead with ten seconds left, a pick-and roll with Chris Paul and Shaquille O'Neal forced the switch of a a small guard onto the frame of Shaq, who caught the ball from Paul, bodied Jeff Teague, spun around him, and laid the ball up, sinking it for a 97-96 lead with just 0.3 seconds left. As the Hawks tried an alley-op to tip the ball in, LeBron James smacked the ball down and the celebration was on in Cleveland, as for just the second time in Franchise history, the Cavaliers were headed to the NBA Finals.

Meanwhile, on the Western-side of things, the two powerhouses, on a collusion course, would prove to have a similar type of series. San Antonio would take the first game, but drop the next four as the best starting five in the NBA would overwhelm the technically-sound Spurs and force them into ill-advised shots, and the Thunder's offensive firepower would smash into the Spurs defensive wall and break it down in just five games, as the Thunder advanced to face the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals...

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