INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Try as it might, the sun didn't exactly come out in Greater Cleveland Wednesday morning. By the time the Cavaliers' jet was set to take off for Boston in the late afternoon, it was raining steadily.
But those Cavalier believers -- the Witnesses, those who have been "All Together" for a while now -- already knew that. Even the ones who spend their days in isolated cubicles.
It's a feeling, not something that needs to be seen. Cleveland sports fans have been here before. Been shocked. Been left at the altar. Been torn down and left to feel the rain.
This spring was supposed to be different. It still might be, but the panic button has been pressed.
"I can understand it from a fan's perspective," LeBron James said Wednesday. "Year after year after year..."
This whole thing has been Fumbled, and Driven, and Shot. And repeated. This is the Cavaliers' best shot yet, but they've lost two straight to the Celtics and now need to win two straight to stay alive. In the Eastern Conference semis. Well short of their goal.
The only thing Cleveland fans can do now is hope. And believe. It's hard -- so hard that some have actually been preparing themselves for some version of this for a while now. Proactive punishment. It's an odd concept, but this is an odd situation.
These Cavaliers seemed to have the pieces, the experience and the seasoning. They've now basically no-showed in two straight home games. But as they head to Boston for Thursday's Game 6 they say they haven't lost that hope.
"You don't have to be from Cleveland to understand," Anthony Parker said.
"Everyone knows what's at stake," Shaquille O'Neal said.
Hope might be in the oldest Cavalier, the only one with a championship ring. O'Neal has four of them. He's here solely to get another, and he's played like it the last two games.
"I've been here many times," he said. "We have time to get it fixed."
Hope is in that leadership -- whatever form it takes, whomever the leaders are -- getting this thing righted. It certainly wasn't there from James in his personal Game 5 nightmare, but hope is in the fact he's delivered in the bounce-back situation before. Just five days ago, the Cavaliers were in control of this series and James was The King after dominating Game 3.
"I need one of those games," James said. "I look forward to having it."
James said he's been calm and collected, in least the public eye, because he knows if he shows a sense of panic it may have a trickle-down effect. He knows he needs to lead and that he needs everybody to follow. The head coach knows that, too; he said he and his staff have looked "at everything" but aren't planning any lineup changes or drastic measures. If there's going to be hope, there has to be trust.
Hope is in the possibility that the pressure now may actually be on the Celtics, who certainly don't want to come back here for Game 7. But the true hope is in getting stops, in playing team defense, in a couple of steals and deflections leading to the type of easy points that can turn around a series that's been anything but easy.
"The problem has not been the offense," O'Neal said.
Hope isn't something that comes easy in Cleveland, especially as the rain really starts pounding. The traffic jams get longer, and the panicked sports-radio callers don't get any brighter -- in either sense of the word. It's not easy to be positive in Cleveland, not when you feel like you've seen this movie before.
But right now, hope is about all Cleveland has.
For more Cavaliers coverage, check out FOXSports Ohio and Zac Jackson's blog .