Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “NBA playoffs”

Dropping a deuce on Chicago

The Cavs took the Bulls best shot in Game 2 Monday night and, for the Bulls, it wasn’t good enough, which means the series is effectively over.

The Bulls scored 21 second-chance points, scored 56 points in the paint – the third-highest total against the Cavs this year – committed just four turnovers and took 22 more shots than the Cavs. Shaq only played 15 minutes because of foul trouble, Z was mostly non-existent and Anderson Varejao struggled.

And the Cavs still beat them by 10.

Then there was the brilliant idea by some of the Bulls to dare LeBron James to shoot from the outside.

“They were telling me I can’t make jump shots,” James said. “They asked me to shoot a jumper so I did that. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.”

James finished with 40 points on 16-of-23 shooting, so that may not have been the best strategy on the Bulls part.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Chicago.

14 more wins to go.

Play Today, Win Today

There’s a tradition in tournament play to not talk about the next step until you’ve climbed the one in front of you. I’m sure going to the state finals is beyond your wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there. – Coach Norman Dale

Pretty in the first quarter, gritty the rest of the way, the Cavs took the first step on what hopefully will be a long playoff road by beating the Bulls in Game 1 of their first-round series.

Like several of their games this year, the Cavs took a big early lead (22 points at one time, helped by seven turnovers and several missed shots by Chicago in the first quarter), let most of it dwindle before putting the game away with some clutch shooting down the stretch – after a Brad Miller basket cut the lead to seven with 2:29 to play, LeBron James’ traditional three-pointer and Mo Williams 3-point shot put the Cavs back up by 13 and sealed the win.

The Bulls actually outscored the Cavs over the final three quarters of the game, something that hopefully won’t give them momentum heading into Monday’s Game 2.

And while Derek Rose had 28 points and 10 assists for Chicago, Williams offset him nicely with 19 points and 10 assists. If Williams can stay close to Rose’s output for this series, what little chance the Bulls have to win the series evaporates quickly.

The Cavs were right at their season average in free-throw shooting as they hit 70 percent (12-of-17) for the game. Something to keep an eye on as the series progresses, plus the Cavs were weak from 3-point territory, hitting on six of 23 attempts.

Any rust the Cavs may have had due to taking time off or injuries was a non-issue, as Shaq looked ready as he and LeBron combined for 36 points and seven blocks.

Plus Shaq irritated the crap out of Joakim Noah. Always fun.

Game 2 comes Monday night.

One down, 15 more to go.

Rest is the Sweet Sauce of Labor

“Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit: team, team, team – no one more important that the other.” – Coach Norman Dale.

Coach Dale preached and practiced the concept of team first, a valid philosophy that Cavs coach Mike Brown is right to follow as the regular season comes to a close Wednesday in Atlanta.

Despite the fuss raised by some about the Cavs resting key players down the stretch, with Tim Povtak of FanHouse leading the brigade of fools, Brown is paid to make the hard decisions and look at the big picture – how to get the 16 playoff wins needed to capture the team’s first championship. And he has been masterful at putting the team’s needs above everything else down the stretch.

Finishing the season with 61 or 62 wins is completely unimportant – having the team ready when the playoffs start is priority one. And while some of the players, most notably Shaq, may need the first round to shake off some rust, that shouldn’t be a problem. While the Cavs may not have the cakewalk they experienced last year in the first round against Detroit, any lingering impact from players resting should be minimal.

Plus the Cavs earned the right to rest players by fighting for the best record in the NBA. They worked hard during the season and this is the reward for that effort. If other teams don’t like it, oh well, maybe they should win more games so they have the opportunity to do the same.

With playoff positions becoming more focused, the pieces are falling into place perfectly for the Cavs. It looks like Boston will draw Miami in the first round, and if Kevin Garnett thought Kevin Durant got all the calls, wait until he gets a load of Dwyane Wade in the playoffs. Orlando will have to deal with a tough Charlotte team followed by a potential second-round matchup with Atlanta.

The pairings are working perfectly in the Cavs favor, why risk going against your gut instinct just to appease a few people?

Luckily, we can be assured Brown will make the right call. He’s not the most successful coach currently in town for no reason.

Where would you rather be?

With all the foo-faa over where LeBron James will sign when he becomes a free agent this summer, one potential angle has been overlooked.

Fast-forward to opening night of next season. The Cavs are coming off a season that saw them capture their first NBA championship – only one fewer than the “storied” Knicks franchise – and the first title in Cleveland since 1964. Quicken Loans Arena is full and the TV audience is through the roof as the team prepares to raise a championship banner.

You’re LeBron James, the local kid who vowed to make Cleveland “light up like Vegas,” who put a dying franchise on his back and carried them to the top of the NBA, the reigning MVP who has exceeded every expectation placed on you.

On this night you could be with the Knicks playing a meaningless game against Toronto. Or you could be with the Nets, playing in a temporary arena in the Terminator-like wasteland of Northern New Jersey.

Or you could be on the court in your hometown watching as a championship banner is raised.

You have to wonder:

Where would you rather be?

Indian Fever Starts Today

The Wahoo Warriors open their 109th season of baseball this afternoon against the White Sox. Optimism is running, well, tepid is probably the best way to put it.

The consensus puts the Tribe around 75 wins – that’s the over/under in Vegas – with the Beacon Journal’s Sheldon Ocker going high – 82 wins – and Sports Illustrated going low – 66 wins. Everyone else falls into the 75-win range, with the five Plain Dealer writers splitting at two with 75 (Bud Shaw & Bill Livingston), two with 76 (Terry Pluto & Dennis Manoloff) and Paul Hoynes with 77. The New York Times puts the Tribe in fourth place, saying “The Indians should score but will struggle on the mound as they wait for a new wave of talent to mature.”

So what to expect this year? How can the Indians top most expectations? A solid start to the season would help. It’s no secret that the Indians struggled in April & May under Eric Wedge, so a reasonably good start will help things out. If the Tribe can pick up one win they weren’t expecting each month of the season that would add six wins to the 75 and put them at .500. Since most people believe the division can be taken with 88-89 wins, can the Tribe pull out a few more and contend? It’s hard to see that happening, at least this year.

One of the best things that could happen is also one of the worst for the Indians – a deep playoff run by the Cavs. Since everyone will be hyper-focused on the Cavs until June, there will be no pressure on the Tribe early in the season. However, if we all get up the day after the Cavs season ends and find the Indians 10 games under .500 and 12 games out of first, we’ll collectively hit the snooze button until training camp starts for the Browns. Apathy is far, far worse than indifference.

We’ve all been down this road before with a rebuilding team. Sometimes, like in the ’90s, it works. More often for the Tribe it turns out more like the 1970s. The 1996 book Total Indians recalls how fans were optimistic about a young team in 1977 that seemed to be building a core of young players in Buddy Bell, Rick Manning, Charlie Spikes, Duane Kiper, Dennis Eckersley and Jim Kern. That year, the Indians added 20-game winner Wayne Garland via free agency only to see him tear his rotator cuff that spring. Manager Frank Robinson didn’t make it through the season as the team lost 90 games. Two months into the season GM Phil Seghi traded reliever Dave LaRoche for two players and $250,000 to keep the team afloat. The team lost 31 of its first 57 games.

The following year the break-up of the team continued when the Indians traded Eckersley (who ended up in the Hall of Fame) before the season and Bell (six Gold Gloves) after the season for some spare parts.

They summed up the decade by saying “The Indians’ treadmill to nowhere, as usual, was running at full speed.”

Sound familiar to anyone?

Now we’re left to wonder what to make of the coming season. Do we root for Travis Hafner to return to his old self because it will help the team, or because it will increase his trade value? Do we want Grady Sizemore to make the leap to the next level, even though it would mean he would be pricing himself out of Cleveland? That’s the joy of being a Cleveland fan in today’s unbalanced Major League Baseball.

In any event, it will be an interesting season with lots of young players who will hopefully show significant progress during the season.

For a look at what they’re saying in the other Central Division towns, check out:

Chicago Sun-Times

Detroit Free Press

Kansas City Star

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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