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CLEVELAND – The questions have gone beyond the suspect elbow to the head of LeBron James, shoulders slumped, his pulse, his spirit and legacy. A defeat of the playoffs this devastating and inexplicable actions of this almost requires a full body scan.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and a legion of fans panic are trying to come to grips with this disturbing and upsetting an uncertain future in the work of James, the city’s biggest sports icon.

On the night of Tuesday, the Cavaliers were humiliated by the Boston Celtics, 120-88, and pushed to the brink of elimination from the playoffs. James was strangely passive and ultimately ineffective. Took 14 shots, missed 11, and into and out of the infringement. Sometimes it seemed oddly separate from the game and his teammates.

It was not what was expected of a most valuable player twice and star par excellence of the league – not with the Cavs’ title hopes at stake and James’s future hanging in the balance.

Terry Pluto, a columnist for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, called James “passive” and “emotionally distant.” In a poll on the newspaper’s Web site, 53 percent of the fans of James blamed for the loss. (The coach Mike Brown was a distant second, with 23 percent of the vote.) The gap between James and his adoring public has never been greater.

The Celtics have a 3-2 lead in this series of second round and could close on Thursday night in Boston. The fans are already thinking about the potential apocalypse: Cavs lose, James leaves, franchise dies.

“It’s a panic,” James said Wednesday after a film session and team practice.

It casts a fresh confidence – indeed, an emotional distance – on all topics, from the state of his injured right elbow to the consequences of defeat in a series. He said it was “who I am”, which was not necessary to show too much.

“I mean, I do not know if I’m angry or not,” said James. “I’m not going to show that I’m angry. For me, if I show a sense of panic, as you say, you guys follow my lead.”

For now, critics say that James is not doing much at all major. In the last two games, two defeats, has averaged 18.5 points and 5 turnovers while shooting 31 percent from the field. His last performance was dominant in Game 3, when he led the Cavaliers to their last victory with 38 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

James has repeatedly dismissed concerns about his elbow, although it is his only physical ailment known. On Wednesday, said it was “a matter that will deal in the offseason – the first time he has been framed in such terms.

However, James did not show any discomfort for a shooting contest with their peers, launching three-pointers with ease. When lost, James profanely be punished himself. With reporters standing within earshot, he also made light of his injury.

‘I have a disabled sticker, “he said to his teammates,” so all you have to give me special privileges. ”

More than any other team competing in the league title, the Cavaliers are deeply dependent on their star of the franchise. James is the best scorer and rebounder player. Nobody can consistently create his own shot or the potential for others. So when it falls James, the Cavaliers are impotent.

In Game 5, the Celtics are filled with paint and active in the defense by cutting James customary units. But hardly challenged. Although known for his basketball I.Q. vision and tennis, James made several puzzling decisions – overdribbling, a series of final steps of stagnation and overall crime.

Brown called the performance “abnormal” and “characteristic of what he has done his entire career,” but James is not the fault of any lack of aggression.

James ignored her struggles.

“I am never disappointed with my game,” he said. “I feel like I can do more, but I’m not disappointed at all.”

If James does not do more, and soon, the Cavaliers‘ season is over. It is no exaggeration to say that Game 6 is the biggest game of the playoffs in its history. A victory brings the series back to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 7. A loss could mean oblivion. James is expected to be a free agent July 1 and has been vague about his intentions. Any further disappointment could push toward the door.

The Cavaliers were swept in their only final appearance in 2007, and has been a postseason bust in the last two years, losing in the conference semifinals in 2008 and in the conference finals in 2009.

The signs for Game 6 are not encouraging. Cleveland is 2-4 in elimination games in the era of James – 0-3 on the road – and has never won a series after facing elimination.

The office has tried desperately to get better teammates James, the acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal last summer and Antawn Jamison in February. Cleveland’s payroll is one of the highest in the league.

Team owner Dan Gilbert, who normally carefully chooses his words, made public their frustration Tuesday night.

“The last two playoff losses at home, and how we have lost these games, not about to be anywhere near the high expectations we all have of our organization,” Gilbert told The Plain Dealer. “Our fans deserve better and supporters.

Already there is intense scrutiny of Brown, whose settings in the game and the rotation has been frequently questioned. If the Cavaliers lose, will have to add heat to Danny Ferry, the general manager, not to surround James with better players.

For now, all eyes are on a transcendent player, his sore elbow and his dubious legacy.

“It’s no time to think in the past,” said James, “it is time to look ahead.”

That is exactly what the fans are concerned about the Cavaliers.


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