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Buckley: Whether Celtics or Wizards, LeBron James is looms

May 9, 2017

Just sittin’ here and wondering what LeBron James is in the mood for next: the blueberry pie (Boston Celtics) or the cherry cheesecake (Washington Wizards).

Tell me I’m wrong. King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are feasting on NBA playoff competition. First they dismissed Indiana in four straight games, perhaps inspiring Pacers president Larry Bird to walk into owner Herb Simon’s office and slap his resignation on the desk. Next up: The Toronto Raptors. They, too, were dusted in four straight.

Now it’s on to the Eastern Conference finals for the Cavs, where they await the pie or the cake.

True, that’s not fair to either the Celtics or Wizards, who are engaged in a grueling, emotional, rock-’em-sock-’em Eastern Conference semifinal series that’s tied two victories apiece going into Game 5 tomorrow night at the Garden.

Have you noticed that most of the postgame analysis has been devoted not to what the wining team did right but what the losing team did wrong? It’s not supposed to work that way. The winning side is supposed to be looked upon as the team that had the better game plan, did all the little things, hustled, great teamwork, wanted it more, was on a mission, blah, blah, blah. But 99.99999999 percent of any postgame analysis and dissection of the Wizards’ 121-102 Game 4 demolition of the Celtics Sunday night focused on the losing team’s sudden decision to forget how to play basketball.

Included in 100 percent of the 99.99999999 percent of postgame analyses and dissections that blame the Celtics is a zeroing-in on that span of five minutes and 41 seconds when the Wizards went on a 26-0 run. Now think about that: 26-0!

But the Wizards couldn’t have scored those 26 straight points without a big assist from the Celtics: 19 of ’em came off of eight Boston turnovers. If you didn’t actually watch the game, try closing your eyes and imagine a team scoring 26 straight points on eight opposition turnovers in less than six minutes. It was like watching the original Dream Teamers go on a 46-1 run in 13 minutes against Angola in the ’92 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

How bad was that run Sunday night? So bad that Celtics coach Brad Stevens came across sounding like a late-night talk-show host when he quipped, “If you turn the ball over against these guys you’d prefer to drop-kick it into the stands so at least you can set your defense.”

It is true that this wobbly series is returning to the Garden tomorrow night for Game 5, and we all understand the importance of homecourt advantage in the NBA playoffs. My only problem with all this is that the very term — homecourt advantage — implies getting all the calls from the refs and being fired up by the local fan base. Is that why Washington lost Games 1 and 2 at the Garden? Is that why the Celtics lost Games 3 and 4 at the Verizon Center?

Partly, I guess. But when you give up 22 straight points, as the Celtics did in Game 3, and then give up 26 straight points, as they did in Game 4, it’s hard to blame the officials. And for all the grace under emotional duress and offensive flair Isaiah Thomas has shown in this series, it’s not a good look for him to be whining about the refs in the aftermath of back-to-back blowout losses.

And as all this is happening, we have LeBron James, kicking back, waiting for either the Celts or Wizards to show up for the Eastern Conference finals.

As you might recall, the Cavs rolled to a 114-91 regular-season victory over the Celtics last month, with LeBron scoring 36 points. Speaking with reporters after the game, a bored-sounding LeBron said, “I’m ready to get home (and) get some rest tomorrow. … Like I said, I don’t get too excited (about regular-season games). … I’m even-keel about the process. Tonight was an opportunity to get better, and we did that.”

The way the Celts and Wizards are looking so far, I’m betting LeBron is still in even-keel mode.