Wednesday, May 6, 2009

So much for rust

Eight seconds. That’s how long it took the Cavaliers to get in game form after their nine-day sabbatical. (Thank you very much asinine NBA schedule makers.) LeBron James takes a handoff from Delonte West (or “Delonnie” as Dick Stockton calls him), flashes across the baseline for a dunk, and there goes any worries about rust.

To be fair, the team looked a bit out of it defensively early on. Atlanta started off hitting seven of nine field goals, many of those at or near the hoop. The Hawks shot 56% in the first half, but the Cavs were still up by 5 at the break. It was an unusual game in the sense that LeBron acted as more of a scorer than a distributor early; that was likely due to the Hawks choosing not to double cover him, as well as guys (namely Z, who had his worst game of post-season) just not hitting shots.

What’s great about this team is how unspectacular they can look and still control a game. The Cavs simply squeeze teams to death with their unsexy but effective boa constrictor defense, which I’m now convinced is the best in the league. Cleveland gets a few stops, creates a few turnovers (17 for the Hawks last night), and before you know they’re up by 16.

I still think Atlanta’s explosive enough offensively to take a game from us at their house. However, the energy the Hawks get from their home court, where they possess a 31-10 regular season record, may not be enough to bridge the overall gap in talent, depth and experience the Cavs possess. In other words, a 27-point Cavs victory at home may just translate to a six-point win on the road. We could be looking at a sweep, but I’ll play it conservative and stick with Cavs in 5.
The Tribe has gotten short shrift this season here at Cleveland Sports Torture. They are steadily becoming the third horse in this town behind the Browns, whose draft has been the subject of much hand-wringing among fans, and of course the surging Cavs, who unlike the Browns actually deserve all the praise and attention they’re receiving.

The Indians are the Fredo of the Cleveland sports triumvirate. They’re just…kind of inconsequential and sad. I feel like they should be managing some Mickey Mouse nightclub in Boca Raton at this point. The disturbing thing is there is not one aspect of the team you can point to and say, “They just need to fix that and they’ll be in contention.” No…there are nights when the starting pitching falters, other nights when they strand a boatload of men in scoring position. The bullpen is once again utterly atrocious, giving up 7 runs against Toronto yesterday afternoon.

Mark Shapiro signs a legit closer in Kerry Wood, a good move, but the rest of the ‘pen is unable to even get to him. Oh, the irony. The cruel, cruel irony. They’re also dealing with Pronk’s creaky shoulder. The big man recently visted MLB’s very own Dr. Doom, orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, to have that $57 million shoulder looked at. Never a good sign.

The Tribe is already near the bottom of the league in attendance. Continued ineptitude likely means you’ll see more fans at Browns training camp than at Progressive Field come July. The franchise almost has an air of complacency, from Larry Dolan on down. They seem content to contend once every couple years, with hopes of building the farm system to supplant the players they inevitably lose to big-money teams. Put simply, I’m getting very bored with this club’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude. Judging by the half-empty stadium most nights, I am not alone.