When LeBron James turns 25 and the only number anyone is talking about is 48, you figure the Cavaliers probably pulled out a win.When the Atlanta Hawks are using phrases like "no comment" and words like "protest" after the game ... well, it's not hard to figure out they suffered their second loss to the Cavs in as many nights.
And that's exactly what happened, as the Cavs' used another strong fourth quarter to grind out a 106-101 victory Wednesday at the Q.
There were a million storylines in this one, but let's start with this because it probably says the most:
The Cavs are now 8-2 against teams with 20 or more wins. They have beaten Phoenix and Atlanta twice, and the Lakers and Orlando on the road. In other words, the Cavs probably can't wait for another shot at the fading Celtics.
Anyway, back to the storylines.
You already know all about LeBron's birthday and Varejao's 3-pointer with the clock winding down. You already know Varejao makes a three about as often as Tiger Woods decides to stay home with the family on a Saturday night.
You probably even remember the Cavs played a first half that seemed to indicate they were overconfident, bored and worried about nothing beyond whether or not LeBron would enjoy his many presents.
And, of course, you have already heard all about Shot Clock-gate, in which the Hawks were robbed of a few seconds on a possession late in the game. As Hawks coach Mike Woodson pointed out, his team had a one-point lead, with the ball, with 1:41 left in the game. "And we're rushing to get a shot," he said. "You figure it out."
But as LeBron pointed out, the Hawks probably wouldn't have noticed had he not stripped the ball away near the basket. Basically, no one on the Hawks griped about the shot clock until they missed what was a pretty good look at the basket.
The real bottom line is the Hawks led by double figures much of the game, and they fell apart at the end. And you can't really protest against the Cavs' defense.
Still, what made this such a gratifying win wasn't the fact LeBron scored 48 (although that was huge), or Varejao's first career 3-pointer (ditto), or the fact the Cavs have now won 11 straight at home and 11 of 12 overall.
More than any of that, this is a win that bodes well for the big picture. It shows that the Cavs not only have a superstar in James, and more depth than even the defending champion Lakers, but that they have some serious resolve. They are playing with extreme confidence and intelligence.
It's as if, for the first time in the LeBron era, they got tired of hearing people talk about the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Mavericks, Spurs and so on and so on.
Heck, during a recent ESPN broadcast, analyst Hubie Brown mentioned who he thought were the five or six best teams in the NBA, and the Cavs were never even mentioned. They weren't even in the discussion.
Now, chances are, the Cavs don't pay much attention to those things. But they knew no one gave them a chance against the Lakers, in L.A., on Christmas Day. They also must know league officials and network TV execs would prefer to have a team with tons of tradition and bandwagon fans, a team from a large market, a team like the Lakers, as their golden child.
But too bad, say the Cavs.
Right now, they are just better than everyone else. They very well might be better than last season. They are certainly more equipped to win a championship.
And when you think about Varejao's 3-pointer, you know the Cavs have a quality possessed by all title-winning teams. They're not just good, they're lucky.
The Hawks and everyone else can protest all they want. But chances are, the fact the Cavs are better than them isn't likely to change anytime soon.
Sam Amico covers the Cavaliers and NBA for NBA.com, and is a regular contributor to SportsTime Ohio and The Cleveland Fan.