July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

LeBron and sidekicks get job done

Ever since Cleveland se-lected LeBron James with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the Cava-liers have been trying to find him a sidekick, a “Robin” to his “Batman.”

The relationship refer-ence stems from the very team Cleveland vanquished with Tuesday night’s 96-94 Game 5 victory — the Chicago Bulls. It was the dynamic matchup of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen that brought the Bulls six NBA championships over an eight-year span.

The Cavs have a long list of players that have audi-tioned for the role — Carlos Boozer, Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes to name a few — and thought they may have finally found their man with the trade for Mo Williams two summers ago.

Then the acquisition of superstar center Shaquille O’Neal last offseason seemed like a lock for the job, but then the midseason trade for Antawn Jamison brought another big name that fit the criteria.

While many players now could fill the role of Robin, the way those players have stepped up their perform-ances during the opening playoff series, the Cavs seemed to have morphed into the Justice League — the most formidable super-hero All-Star team in comic book history.

The two biggest names in the League were Batman (James) and Superman (obviously O’Neal, right Dwight Howard?). But then you had big contributors like The Flash (Williams) and Green Lantern (Jami-son), who worked along side one another without that derogatory sidekick label.

Jamison and Williams were forces to be reckoned with all series long, and O’Neal had a solid perform-ance in Game 1 and looked like the Shaq of old during the Game 5 victory.

Jamison, who was picked up from the Washington Wizards on Feb. 17, averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and 1.25 blocks per game before Tuesday, and Williams was averaging 17.8 points and 5.3 assists in the first four games of the series.

It was Jamison to the rescue early Tuesday night, as James only took three first-half shots and went into the locker room at halftime with just three points.

Jamison hit seven of his 11 shots — including a pair of 3-pointers — for 20 points during the first two quar-ters. He also grabbed four rebounds and his long arms got in the faces of Luol Deng, Derrick Rose and Flip Murray to cause several Bulls misses.

It was also a big night for reserve guard Delonte West — let’s call him Captain Marvel — who put up eight points and dished out four assists during the first half, then hit several big shots — including a 3-pointer to help stop a Bulls run in the third quarter — during the sec-ond half.

Superman dusted off his cape Tuesday night and played with energy during the early going, too. O’Neal played over 16 minutes in the first half — nearly matching his average for a full game in the series — and scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and pulled down eight rebounds.

The “villain” that was the target of most of O’Neal’s highlights was Bulls backup center Brad Miller. O’Neal blocked a Miller baseline shot without leaving his feet, then outmuscled Miller for an offensive rebound and was fouled by the op-posing big man during the putback.

O’Neal let out a roar and yelled, “Get off me,” toward the Quicken Loans Arena crowd.

The Man of Steel continued to help the Cavs’ cause in the second half by picking up three straight Bulls fouls — two on Miller and one on Joakim Noah — simply by backing into the lane as the Chicago big men flailed against him.

Others on the Cavs roster also had big games in the series — Anderson Vare-jao’s 15 rebounds in Game 1, Jamario Moon’s 12 points off the bench in Game 2 and Anthony Parker’s 12 points in Game 4 — and the team is hoping for more as their postseason run continues against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Maybe a few more super-heroes could join in the future — Miami’s Dwyane Wade is now a free agent. Noah will be a free agent next summer, but the Cavs probably won’t need a Won-der Woman.

Contact Shaun Bennett at (440) 329-7137 or sben-nett@chroniclet.com.