CLEVELAND, Ohio — LeBron James invaded the lane, looked the Magic defenders off to one side and in the same motion dunked the ball just before halftime.
A few minutes earlier, with 2:54 left in the second quarter of a 105-99 win, James tossed up a bank-shot 3-pointer and was fouled by Aaron Gordon for a 4-point play.
James also dunked on 7-footer Nikola Vucevic in a way that questioned the Orlando center’s manhood, and didn’t bother to look when he threw a perfect, behind-the-back, hug-the-baseline, cross-court bounce pass to Mike Dunleavy for a 3-pointer.
Count ’em. Four sensational plays from James, the 31-year-old who’s making a very, very early case for a fifth MVP. He led the Cavs with 23 points and nine assists to go with six rebounds.
And yet, when he walked off the court at halftime and heard the crowd roaring like crazy at something showing on the video boards, James knew the fans weren’t cheering one of his highlights.
” I knew it wasn’t a dunk,” said James, who said he’s “always looking at the scoreboard.
“I knew it was one of the plays from the Indians and our fans definitely showed their appreciation.”
We’re (keeping tabs and) holding it down for you in #TheLand, @indians. #RallyTogether pic.twitter.com/U2ZPRn07Va
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) October 30, 2016
The Indians’ 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the World Series invaded The Q Saturday night. It was perhaps even more of a cross pollination than Game 1, when the Indians hosted the Cubs to start the series while the Cavs were raising their 2016 championship banner and receiving their rings.
What a time to be alive in Cleveland. After 52 years of no championships, there could be two in four months.
J.R. shoots through tired legs in Cavs win
The Cavs are into the Indians in a big way. And so were their people in charge of video presentations who piped in the feed from the World Series.
During timeouts. All throughout halftime. When Magic players were shooting shots.
The reaction that stopped James in his tracks and made him look at the scoreboard at halftime was to Indians pitcher Corey Kluber’s infield single, which put the Tribe ahead 2-1 in the second inning.
Orlando’s Serge Ibaka shot a free throw with 1:12 in the fourth quarter that brought his team to within four at 98-94.
The Cleveland crowd went crazy. Why? The Cavs’ game ops showed Kluber retiring the Cubs in the fifth inning.
“That’d have messed me up,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought he might have missed one, but he made both of those. He probably didn’t know what was going on.”
There’s a very public, shared affection between the two franchises, which occupy the same block of real estate in downtown Cleveland — a side street separating the Indians’ Progressive Field and The Q.
James, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love, and other Cavs go to Tribe playoff games. They wear Indians jerseys and drink (beverages undisclosed) in the suite. They show off their championship rings.
When the Cavs were marching toward that Finals victory last season, the Terry Francona, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Francisco Lindor were among the Indians at the games.
With the Indians now one win from history, the Cavs admit they can’t look away. Even during their own games.
“When you flash it across the screen during our game, you’re going to see it,” Lue said. “I saw it. I looked, too. I’m guilty of that.”
The Cavs also say it’s a coincidence that they played so poorly in the fourth quarter against the Magic that they nearly lost while all those Indians highlights were flashing.
The Cavs opened the fourth quarter ahead by 18. With 3:59 to go, the Magic cut the deficit to three points.
“We’ve been to three games now and we’re big fans too,” Love said.” Of course, that catches our attention, but that’s not why we lost our lead.”
As Love was talking, Richard Jefferson, who lockers next to Love and may have been mocking the reporter who asked, said: “Maybe we can have (Andrew) Miller come in and be our closer too.”
“We are big fans and we want them to win,” Love finished.
It was Smith who bailed out the Cavs, saving them with three 3-pointers in the final 3:31.
“Yeah, I look up all the time to look at the Indians,” Smith said. “You have to at this point. They’re in the World Series. For our city and for those guys you’ve got to pay attention.”
But was it distracting to be watching the Indians while playing your own game?
“We’re professionals. We play in front of 20,000 people all the time,” Smith said. “So if you don’t get distracted by that you can’t get distracted by something like (the Indians). Distraction is part of the game. You’ve got to lock in and pay attention, whether there’s a baseball game on or they show Ohio State.”
Lue said the Cavs’ “messed around with the game,” took some bad shots and just didn’t hold the winless Magic in high enough regard. He wouldn’t say whether all the Indians’ watching played a small role in his players’ losing focus.
But, just maybe, it’s a little OK for the Cavs to get swept up in the Indians’ magic right now. Even if it is distracting, the Cavs are 3-0 anyway.
“I know right now it’s an emotional time for the city, emotional for the players,” Lue said. “We’re cheering and rooting the Indians on.”
.@KyrieIrving shouts out @Indians and reacts to Cleveland’s fans cheering on the Tribe and @cavs at the same time. https://t.co/yXMY4weXMG
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) October 30, 2016
Twice there have been Cavs home games on World Series nights. After both Cavs games, fans were allowed to stay at The Q and watch the Tribe.
“The fact that The Q arena leaves the arena open for them to watch the Indians game is spectacular,” Kyrie Irving told Fox Sports Ohio during the network’s on-court interview.
“It’s so amazing in Cleveland right now,” Irving continued. “Go Indians. Hopefully we can close it here, right across the way, and we can go watch.”
Let’s translate. If the Cubs win Game 5, the Indians would host Game 6 Tuesday night. The Cavs play the Rockets at 7 at The Q.
Irving’s saying he and his teammates would walk across Gateway Plaza after basketball to catch the final few outs of the Indians’ first World Series title since 1948.