CLEVELAND - When the final horn honked in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) at the Quicken Loans Arena, the full-house crowd of 20,562 stood in dreadful shock as the Golden State Warriors went on an 11-0 run in the last 3:09 of play to steal the win, 118-113.
The arena, which had erupted in jubilation just minutes before, suddenly went mute. It was like a roomful of kids were just told the the fat dude who slides gifts down the chimney on Christmas does not truly exist.
A day after the smoke of battle cleared, you've probably seen multiple replays of Kevin Durant swishing a stone cold 3 with 45 seconds to go. And if you are a Cavaliers fan you must still be scratching your head over the ensuing play in which Kyrie Irving hoisted an ill-advised step-back 3 that barely grazed the rim.
As horrific as Irving's attempt was, it wasn't the only play the sealed Cleveland's fate.
Kevin Love bungled a layup that could have pushed the Cavs' lead to 8 with 2:25 remaining. Even on a night when he struggled immensely, missing eight of nine shots, there is no excuse for Love to miss an open look under the basket. He is, after all, a four-time All-Star who makes $21.6 million this season.
When it comes to making a corner 3, Kyle Korver is the best in the NBA, shooting 59 percent from that spot during the regular season. But in the final 52 seconds of Game 3, the Cavs up 113-111, Korver couldn't deliver.
"It's a make or miss league," a somber LeBron James told reporters at a post-game press conference.
For three Finals games thus far, the Cavaliers have employed every conceivable strategy devised to stop the rampaging Warriors. It turned out to be an empty, demoralizing pursuit.
Hope is the only thing left for the Cavs heading into Friday's Game 4, but hope is no match against the blunt reality that this Warriors team, a beckoning dynasty, is much too great for anybody to beat, including one who fancies himself as the 'King.'
In the history of the NBA Finals. 12 teams have taken 3-0 leads. All 12 went on to score a sweep and there is no empirical proof that these bumbling and stumbling Cavaliers can buck the trend. They're simply outclassed by a selfless team with more talent, firepower, purpose and desire.
When the Warriors accomplish their mission of redemption on Friday, LeBron James would lose his fifth NBA Finals series in eight appearances and his running total of NBA Finals games would stand at 17 wins with 27 losses, a spotty 39.5 percent success rate.
LeBron's eight NBA Finals appearances merit both our respect and admiration but when measuring legacies, how one actually performs at the highest stage is more important than how many times one gets there.
When it was time to cash in the chips, Michael Jordan was sure as death and taxes, going 6-for-6 in the NBA Finals for a cool 100 percent clip. LeBron is 3-for-8 in the Finals, a pedestrian 37.5 percent batting average.
When the going got rough, the ruthless Jordan always grabbed the bull by the horns, pun intended; LeBron, meanwhile, has a history of shrinking under the bright lights.
Through five games in the 2011 NBA Finals that the Dallas Mavericks won in six, LeBron scored just 11 points in the five fourth-quarter plays or an average of 2.2 per. It created a running joke, "When you ask LeBron change for a dollar, he'd only give you three quarters because he doesn't have a fourth quarter."
In Game 4 of that same Finals, when the Heat had the golden opportunity to go up 3-1, LeBron scored a mere 8 points. Ouch.
So let's do ourselves a huge favor and not waste saliva arguing whether LeBron is better than Mike. When it comes to Jordan's everlasting greatness, LeBron needs to hear what rapper M.C. Hammer said in a hit song, "U can't touch this."