A Cleveland Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List

This year has been one of the most memorable years in Cleveland sports history and with Christmas approaching I thought it would be fun to share my wish list for every Cleveland Sports fan.

1. A Browns Win: Time is running out for the Browns to avoid becoming the second team in NFL history to go 0-16. At this point just one win would be nice.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) funnels the ball after he was sacked by Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) funnels the ball after he was sacked by Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

2. A Franchise Quarterback: With each loss the Browns seem more likely to end up with the first overall pick. Look for the Browns to take their Quarterback with one of their two first round picks.

3. A Power Bat: This offseason the Indians have been linked to sluggers Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, and Cleveland favorite Mike Napoli.     I expect the Tribe to sign one of these powerful bats before Spring Training.

4. A Backup Point Guard: The Cavs were left without a veteran point guard after Mo Williams retired from the NBA this summer. The defending champs will trade for one in the coming months.

5. Browns Training Camp to Stay in Berea: A report surfaced last week that the Browns are working with the city of Columbus for a new training camp facility set to open in 2018. The move would be another blow to Browns fans in Northeast Ohio.

6. Ohio State’s Second National Title in 3 years: The Buckeyes take on the Clemson Tigers in the Semi-Finals of the College Football Playoff in the Fiesta Bowl on December 31.

7. A T-Shirt for J.R. Smith: J.R. has since found his shirt since stepping off the plane in Cleveland after the Cavs historic Game 7 victory, but the shirtless jokes will never get old.

8. Another UFC Event at The Q: Cleveland native Stipe Miocic successfully defended his UFC Heavyweight Championship on September 10th at The Q. Stipe’s victory has us begging for more UFC events in Cleveland in the near future.

9. A Boot For Draymond Green: Green’s kicking has continued into this season and it has already earned him a few flagrant fouls. Cavalier fans remember what Green did to LeBron in Game 4 of the Finals and they won’t forget it when the two teams square off on Christmas Day.

The Cavs championship banner heads to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena on October 25. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The Cavs championship banner heads to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena on October 25. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

10. More Championships Next Year: 2016 saw the Cavs end the city’s 52-year title drought, Stipe Miocic capture the UFC Heavyweight title, the Monsters win their first Calder Cup since 1964, and the Indians come within one run of a World Series Championship. The future has never been brighter in the city of Cleveland and next year could see more gold brought home to The Land.

 

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Taking a Look Back At a Magical October At Progressive Field

The scene before Game 6 of the World Series on November 1. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The scene before Game 6 of the World Series on November 1. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

This year has truly been a historic one for sports in the city of Cleveland. Stipe Miocic started it off by capturing the UFC Heavyweight title on May 14. The Lake Erie Monsters kept the ball rolling by winning the Cleveland’s first Calder Cup title since 1964. And of course, the Cavaliers brought home the city’s first professional sports championship in 52 years by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Indians joined in on the fun by moving into first place in the AL Central in early June and they never looked back.

Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor prepares to make a catch. Photo Credit-Erik Drost.

Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor prepares to make a catch. Photo Credit-Erik Drost.

The Indians squared off with the Chicago Cubs in a World Series that lived up to the hype. It was a matchup featuring the two longest championship droughts in baseball with a combined 176 years without a World Series title. It was a classic World Series that was capped by a Game 7 for the ages. The Cubs had a 5-1 lead in the 5th inning until Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis scored on Jon Lester. The Cubs extended their lead to 6-3 in the 8th inning and were just four outs away from a world title when Aroldis Chapman entered the game. Brandon Guyer hit a RBI double to cut the Cubs lead to 6-4 with two outs in the bottom of the 8th. Rajai Davis stepped up to the plate and smacked a dramatic two-run homer to tie the game at 6. The game would go to extra innings, but not before a 17 minute rain delay stopped play after the conclusion of the ninth inning. With the heart of their lineup due up, the Cubs came out firing as Ben Zobrist hit a RBI double that broke the tie in the top of the tenth. The Cubs would tack on one more run with a RBI single from Miguel Montero. Just like all season long, the Indians proved to be a resilient group to the end. Brandon Guyer drew a two out walk in the bottom of the tenth to get on base. Rajai Davis would strike again with a RBI single to pull the Indians within one run. The Indians magic ran out as Michael Martinez grounded out to end Cleveland’s quest for their first World Series title since 1948.

Indians outfielder, Rajai Davis. Photo Credit-Wikimedia Commons

Indians outfielder, Rajai Davis. Photo Credit-Wikimedia Commons

Despite a heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the World Series, I have never been more proud of a Cleveland team than I am of this Indians squad. All year this team was counted out, but it never seemed to matter to them. Through the injuries to Micheal Brantley, Yan Gomes, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer, Abraham Almonte’s 80 suspension to being the underdog in every playoff series, the Tribe overcame it all. When Terry Francona spoke to the media before Game 7, he said something that perfectly depicted the city of Cleveland and the Indians. He said “This city reminds me of our team a little bit. They got pushed around, now they’re starting to push back.” The Indians were pushed around by the Cubs in Game 6 and the same continued for the early part of Game 7 until Rajai Davis pushed back. Davis was struggling with a .121 batting average in the postseason, but he delivered in the biggest at bat of his life with his first career playoff home run. Davis and the Tribe would fight back again the tenth inning, but it wasn’t enough. This magical season didn’t end the way the Indians had hoped, but Cleveland fans should be extremely proud of their team for fighting until the very end. I always knew that Cleveland was a tough city, but if there is one thing that I have learned from this playoff run is that Clevelanders have fallen in love with baseball again. You can see it from the sold out watch parties at Progressive Field for the World Series road games or the thousands that packed Gateway plaza that went berserk when Rajai blasted his improbable homer.

Indians second baseman, Jason Kipnis. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

Indians second baseman, Jason Kipnis. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

Indians fans have reason to be excited as the future is very bright at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario. For starters, All-Star outfielder, Michael Brantley is expected to resume baseball activities next month and he should to be ready for spring training. Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco will soon begin “strength work” and will start a throwing program in December. The Tribe have already picked up Carlos Santana’s $12 million option for next season as well as the 2019 and 2020 team options for manager Terry Francona. The Indians did not extend a qualifying offers to first baseman Mike Napoli or Davis, but they have interest in bringing back both. The most exciting thing about this team is that the majority of the roster is under team control for the foreseeable future. Brantley, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Brandon Guyer are under control through 2018. Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Jason Kipnis are under control through 2020 and the young superstar Francisco Lindor is under team control through 2021. This young team is built to contend for years to come. Baseball is a tough game to have repeated postseason success, but I believe the Indians will come back stronger from this season. The 2015 Kansas City Royals came back from a Game 7 loss in the 2014 World Series to win the whole thing the next season. This Tribe squad is built similar to that Royals team, which should give fans belief that the Indians can seal the deal next season. All season long the Indians gave Cleveland something to believe in and even though they fell short I have never been more excited for the future. This resilient bunch of ball players will be back on the grand stage soon and this time they will have some unfinished business.

2016 World Series Preview: Indians-Cubs

world-series-logo

Indians: ALCS: Beat Toronto 4-1
Cubs: NLCS: Beat Dodgers 4-2

Game 1: Chicago at Cleveland Tuesday, October 25 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 2: Chicago at Cleveland Wednesday, October 26 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Chicago Friday, October 28 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Chicago Saturday, October 29 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Chicago Sunday, October 30 at 8:00 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Chicago at Cleveland Tuesday, November 1 at 8:00 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Chicago at Cleveland Wednesday, November 2 at 8:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant. Photo Credit-Wikipedia

Tonight the matchup that baseball fans have been hoping for all season begins, as the teams with the two longest World Series droughts square off in The Land. The Chicago Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 and are making their first appearance in the Fall Classic since 1945. The Cleveland Indians look to win their first championship since 1948 as they return to the World Series for the first time since 1997. With two lengthy title droughts on the line, this year’s World Series is shaping up to be epic. The Indians jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the ALCS thanks to terrific outings from starting pitchers, Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin. In Game 3, starter Trevor Bauer attempted to pitch after slicing open his right pinkie while repairing his drone just days earlier. What followed was a scary scene, as Bauer’s stitches opened up and he was removed from the game after 21 pitches. Tribe skipper, Terry Francona showed why he is arguably the best manager in baseball by once again turning to his bullpen to carry his team to a 4-2 victory.

The pen was led by Andrew Miller who went on to win the ALCS MVP with some crazy numbers. Miller allowed zero runs on three hits in 7 2/3 innings pitched with 14 strikeouts and no walks. In the NLCS, the Cubs found themselves down two games to one to the Los Angeles Dodgers after being shut down by Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. Chicago’s bats came alive outscoring the Dodgers 23-6 over the next three games to punch their ticket to their first World Series in seventy one years. The Indians are once again facing an offense that is red hot, but as they have shown so far this postseason they are more than capable of facing the challenge.

Key Matchup

Danny Salazar delivers a pitch against the Yankees. Photo Credit-Arturo Pardavilla III

The matchup to watch for in this series is Cleveland’s starting pitching against Chicago’s offense. Chicago’s powerful lineup got off to a slow start in the NLCS, but finally turned it around in Game 4. The Cubs responded to a 6-0 loss in Game 3 by drubbing the Dodgers 10-2 in the next game. First baseman, Anthony Rizzo was 1 for 11 in the first three games of the series until he hit a home run and two singles for 3 RBI’s in Game 4. Rizzo would go on to add two more RBI’s in the final two games of the series. Shortstop Addison Russell joined Rizzo in the scoring frenzy with 2 home runs and 4 RBI’s in Games 4 and 5. The Cubs ranked third in the majors in scoring this season with an average of 4.99 runs per game.

The Indians have faced two explosive offenses in the Red Sox and Blue Jays so far this October and they will once again have their hands full with Chicago. The Indians will have their ace, Corey Kluber on the mound for Game 1 with Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin starting the next two games. The order that Bauer and Tomlin pitch depends on the status of Bauer’s pinkie. The Tribe will also have ALCS Game 5 hero, Ryan Merritt available to pitch as well as Danny Salazar who has been out since September 9 with a right forearm injury. I believe that Salazar could be the “X Factor” in this series for Cleveland. He will obviously be on a pitch limit, but he could give the Indians a few solid innings of relief. The key for the Indians will be to get at least five innings out of their starters and then give way to their prolific bullpen.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

Seven of the eight teams to win the ALCS in 5 games have gone on to win the World Series (The Minnesota Twins in 1987 and 1991, Oakland Athletics in 1989, New York Yankees in 1996, Anaheim Angels in 2002, and the Chicago White Sox in 2005). The lone exception was the New York Yankees in 2001.

Bonus Stat

The Indians and Cubs have gone a combined 176 years without a World Series title. The Cubs drought has lasted for 108 years. while the Indians last world title came 68 years ago.

Prediction

Indians first baseman Mike Napoli swings at a pitch during ALDS Game 3. Photo Credit-Arturo Pardavilla III

The Indians will win the World Series in seven games. The Tribe are the underdogs for the third time this postseason and it is evident that they like it that way. Francona’s team has thrived in this role and I expect them to do it again. There will be a lot of ups and downs in this series and it is important for Cleveland’s pitching staff to weather the storm of any offensive attacks from Chicago. The Cubs have shown that they can put up a ton of runs in a hurry so the Indians will need significant contributions from sluggers Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to add runs of their own. The Cubs have one of the best rotations in baseball with John Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey. Lester has allowed 72 stolen bases since the start of last season. The Indians led the American League in stolen bases so their ability to run the bases will be pivotal in this series.

Just like the previous series, if the Indians can take the lead after 5 or 6 innings they can control the game with their bullpen. One team’s painful title drought is going to come to an end and I believe it will be the Indians. The Tribe have overcome every obstacle that has been in their way this year: injuries to Michael Brantley, Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and Bauer’s pinkie in Game 3. So what if the majority of the country is rooting for the Cubs to break one of the longest title droughts in American sports history, the Indians have used their doubters as fuel all year. The Tribe have been through too much to give in now and they are ready to bring home another title for Cleveland.

Views From The 216 Part 2: Indians-Blue Jays ACLS Preview

alcs-2016

Indians: ALDS: Swept Boston 3-0
Blue Jays: ALDS: Swept Texas 3-0

Season Series: Cleveland won 4-3
Game 1: Toronto at Cleveland Friday, October 14 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 2: Toronto at Cleveland Saturday, October 15 at 4:00 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Toronto Monday, October 17 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Toronto Tuesday, October 18 at 4:00 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Toronto Wednesday, October 19 at 4:00 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Toronto at Cleveland Friday, October 21 at 8 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Toronto at Cleveland Saturday, October 22 (if necessary)

After a dominating sweep of the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians are back in the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2007. The Tribe open up the LCS against the hard hitting Toronto Blue Jays tonight at Progressive Field. Cleveland came into the American League Division Series as underdogs to a Boston team that led the league in runs scored during the regular season, but that didn’t seem to matter to the Indians. Cleveland’s pitching rotation shut down the explosive Red Sox allowing only 7 hits from Boston’s “Big 4,” (David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Hanley Ramirez). Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin stepped up with big performances in Games 1 and 3, while Corey Kluber pitched like the ace he is after battling a mild quad strain during the final week of the regular season.

The crowd at Progressive Field stands for Game 1 of the ALDS on October 6. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The crowd at Progressive Field stands for Game 1 of the ALDS on October 6. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Cleveland’s bullpen proved to be crucial in Game 1 after manager Terry Francona made the brilliant decision to go to both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen early to carry the team to a win. The Tribe’s pen stepped up once again and weathered the storm of a late offensive attack by Boston in Game 3 to punch their ticket to the ALCS. On the offensive side of the diamond, the Indians were carried by the bottom half of their order throughout the series. Roberto Perez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Coco Crisp all hit home runs while solidifying the theme of this year’s team: any player can step up on any given night. The Indians will once again have their hands full with another top offensive team in the Blue Jays. Toronto is peaking at the right time and if any pitching staff could answer the call it would be Cleveland’s dominate staff.

Key Matchup

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista takes a swing against the Baltimore Orioles on April 24, 2012. Photo Credit-Keith Allison

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista takes a swing against the Baltimore Orioles on April 24, 2012. Photo Credit-Keith Allison

The matchup to watch for in this series is between Cleveland’s bullpen and Toronto’s sluggers. The heart of the Blue Jays batting order features reigning American League MVP, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista. All three players have been on a tear so far this postseason and they look to keep their hot streak alive against the Indians. Encarnacion was the hero of Toronto’s Wild Card win against the Baltimore Orioles with a three-run walk off homer. He went on to hit two more home runs in the ALDS and has a .375 batting average through four postseason games. Donaldson leads Toronto with a .500 batting average and five doubles including the one that put him on base to scoring the series clinching run against the Texas Rangers in Game 3 of the ALDS. Joey Bats rounds out Toronto’s powerful trio with two home runs and 5 RBI’s.

Cleveland has a tough challenge ahead, but they have the pitching staff to counter the Blue Jays potent offense. Indians relievers Andrew Miller, Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen allowed just 2 runs in 10 and 1/3 innings against the Red Sox in the ALDS. Pitching has been the Tribe’s greatest strength this season, but with the injuries of starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar the importance of the bullpen has never been bigger. Francona’s decision to go to Miller and Allen early in Game 1 against Boston set the tone for the series. The Indians know they can get seven plus innings from Corey Kluber, but when Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are on the mound the goal is to get at least five solid innings of pitching before the bullpen can come in to finish the game. This is exactly what the Tribe got in the ALDS and the goal remains the same against the Blue Jays. Sometimes the only way to fight fire is with fire and that is what the Indians will do in this series with their bullpen. The acquisition of Andrew Miller at the trade deadline solidified the Indians as championship contenders and since his debut he has been their biggest weapon. Miller shut down Boston’s high powered offense allowing just two hits with seven strike outs in four innings. I expect Miller to be the neutralizer once again against another offensive juggernaut.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

This year’s ALCS matchup marks the second time a Cleveland team and a Toronto team have faced off in a league semi-final this year. The Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals in May. This is the first time NBA and MLB teams from the same city will meet in a league semifinal in the same year since 1969 when the LCS was established in baseball.

Prediction

Indians pitcher, Andrew Miller. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

Indians pitcher, Andrew Miller. Photo Credit-Erik Drost

The Cleveland Indians will win the ALCS in six games. There will be no sweep this time as the Indians have a large task at hand against the Blue Jays. The Indians have had no problem producing runs so far this postseason thanks to contributions from the bottom half of their order. I expect sluggers Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to join in on the scoring this series. Toronto has great starting rotation with Marco Estrada, J.A. Haap, and Marcus Stroman, but they lack the bullpen depth that Cleveland has. With the uncertainty of reliever, Francisco Liriano’s avabaility for the ALCS, the Blue Jays may rely heavily Jason Grilli and closer, Roberto Osuna, which can work to the Indians advantage. To me this series comes down to Toronto’s offense against Cleveland’s bullpen. If the Tribe’s relievers can successfully shutdown and contain the Blue Jays sluggers the Indians will have a great shot at reaching their first World Series since 1997.

2016 NBA Finals Preview: Cavs-Warriors

nba finals 2016Cavs: Eastern Conference Finals: Beat Toronto 4-2
Warriors: Western Conference Finals: Beat Oklahoma City 4-3

Season Series: Golden State won 2-0
Game 1: Cleveland at Golden State Thursday, June 2 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 2: Cleveland at Golden State Sunday, June 5 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 3: Golden State at Cleveland Wednesday, June 8 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 4: Golden State at Cleveland Friday, June 10 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Golden State Monday, June 13 (if necessary)
Game 6: Golden State at Cleveland Thursday, June 16 (if necessary)
Game 7: Cleveland at Golden State Sunday, June 19 (if necessary)

Cavaliers forward, LeBron James during a break in Game 5 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Tonight the NBA Finals rematch that has been a year in the making tips off, as the defending champion, Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers. After beginning the playoffs with a 10-0 start, the Cavs faced a little adversity in the Eastern Conference Finals by dropping two in a row in Toronto. Cleveland responded with a 38 point drubbing of the Raptors in Game 5 at the Q and a close out win in Game 6. The Warriors rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder to advance to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row. Last year, the Warriors beat a depleted Cavaliers team in 6 games. LeBron James was without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, but he still managed to have one of the greatest NBA Finals performances of all-time averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. This time King James has help as both Love and Irving are healthy and the Cavs bench is deeper. The key for the Cavaliers in this series is to play their own game and try to not replicate the Warriors playing style. The Cavs have already shown that they can hit the three ball at historic levels, but Golden State is still an elite shooting team. I expect the Cavs to not only contend with the Warriors from beyond the arc, but to also show that they can be just as dangerous when they attack the paint. LeBron James is playing in his sixth straight NBA Finals and he knows what the outcome of this series could do to his legacy. LeBron has played well throughout the playoffs, but you can tell that he has been conserving energy for this moment. I expect King James to have another historic series as he attempts to lead the Cavaliers to their first championship in franchise history.

Key Matchup

Cavaliers point guard, Kyrie Irving drives to the basket in Game 5 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The matchup to watch for in this series is between point guards, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry. The two-time reigning NBA MVP, Curry battled injuries during the first two rounds of the playoffs, but he has shown up when it has mattered the most. He scored 31 and 36 points respectively in games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Despite putting up big numbers, Curry is taking a lot of shots to get those points. In Game 6, he shot 9-22 on field goals, but he hit crucial baskets in the finals minutes of the game to give Golden State the win. Steph is still making the jaw dropping contested three pointers that he has become known for, but he is also missing shots that he should make, which shows that his knee is not at 100%. Kyrie Irving has continued to shine during the playoffs averaging 24.3 points on 48% shooting. Last year, “Uncle Drew” fractured his kneecap in Game 1 of the Finals and was  sidelined until December 20. This year he is healthy and ready for redemption. There were times during this season where Irving was criticized for playing a one on one type game. This type of game was what Kyrie was focussed on early in his career, but over the last few months that has changed as he is focused on the bigger picture. You cannot beat Stephen Curry one on one and Kyrie knows that. Irving has shown some bright spots on defense and he will have to be on top of his game against Curry. Kyrie Irving’s success against Steph Curry will be crucial to the Cavs title hopes.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

The previous three teams to make it to back to back NBA Finals after losing the previous year have won. Those teams were the San Antonio Spurs (2014), Miami Heat (2012), and the Los Angeles Lakers (2009).

Bonus Stat

LeBron James will be making his sixth straight NBA Finals appearance. James Jones has also made the Finals for the sixth straight season, but he did not play a minute in 2011 Finals with the Miami Heat.

Prediction

The Cleveland Cavaliers will win the NBA Championship in 6 games. The Cavs have quite the challenge ahead of them as the 73 win Warriors have the momentum coming off a 3-1 comeback in the Western Conference Finals. However, this Cavaliers team has become an offensive juggernaut. The Cavs are 8-0 in both the regular season and playoffs when their Big 3 of James, Love and Irving have scored 20 plus points in a game. LeBron has delivered in the Finals before and he will need Love and Irving to be at the top of their game for this series. Cleveland will also need strong contributions from starters J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, as well as bench players Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert. The sharp shooting Warriors will go on many runs throughout the series, but the key for the Cavaliers will be to weather the storm and produce on the offensive end. The Warriors may be the popular favorite to win this series, but the Cavaliers are a team that is focussed and on a mission. LeBron said after Game 3 of the Conference Semi-Finals, “We’re a team that’s destined for greatness, and I really believe that.” King James just may be right as his Cavaliers are four wins away from delivering Cleveland its first professional sports championship in 52 years.

Views From the 216: Cavs-Raptors Eastern Conference Finals Preview

cavs-raptors

Cavs Second Round: Swept Atlanta 4-0
Raptors Second Round: Beat Miami 4-3

Season Series: Toronto won 2-1
Game 1: Toronto at Cleveland, Tuesday, May 17 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 2: Toronto at Cleveland, Thursday, May 19 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Toronto, Saturday, May 21 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Toronto, Monday, May 23 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 5: Toronto at Cleveland, Wednesday, May 25 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Toronto, Friday, May 27 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Toronto at Cleveland, Sunday, May 29 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)

Cavaliers point guard, Kyrie Irving. Photo Credit: Erik Drost

After steamrolling through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cavaliers are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year. The Cavs will open up the ECF tonight at the Q against the Toronto Raptors. Cleveland has dominated their opponents so far by averaging a postseason-leading 16.8 three-pointers made on 46.2% shooting. If the Cavs can keep up their impressive shooting, this could be an ugly series. Cleveland’s NBA record 25 three pointers in Game 2 against Atlanta was a thing of beauty and it shows just how dangerous this team can be. Toronto is playing in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. The Raptors enter this series after winning their first two matchups in seven games and they are a little banged up. Toronto center, Jonas Valaciunas will not play in Game 1 and is doubtful for Game 2 with an ankle injury. Raptors forward, DeMarre Carroll also battled a wrist injury in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The depleted Raptors will need their two All-Stars, Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan (both have played with injuries of their own) to play at a high level to make this an interesting series. The duo combined for 63 of Toronto’s 116 points in Sunday’s game 7 win over Miami, but they are shooting a combined 36 percent after the first two rounds. If the Cavs can keep Lowry and DeRozan in check, this will be a quick series.

Key Matchup

Raptors point guard, Kyle Lowry. Photo Credit: Keith Allison

The matchup to watch for in this series is between point guards, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry. This year’s Eastern Conference Finals will feature a clash between two All-Star point guards and perhaps the two best guards in the Eastern Conference. Despite Lowry’s poor shooting percentage, he has shown up when it matters the most for Toronto this postseason. He struggled is a Game 1 loss to the Heat going 3-for-13, but on Sunday during Toronto’s second straight Game 7 this postseason, he was brilliant. Lowry scored 35 points on 11 of 20 shots and added 9 assists in the series clinching win. He has been battling a right elbow injury since January and he had it drained in late March, which may explain his recent troubles. Kyrie Irving has been terrific so far this postseason leading the Cavaliers in scoring, averaging 24.4 points in eight games. Kyrie has showed a strong defensive effort so far in the playoffs by handling Detroit’s Reggie Jackson and Atlanta’s duo of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder. Irving will have more of a challenge against Lowry as he is a tough defender, and he hit can hurt you from both inside and outside of the paint. This will be an entertaining matchup to watch and I give the advantage to Kyrie Irving. Kyrie has been on a roll so far this postseason and I think that will lead into success against Lowry.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

The Cavaliers can become the first team in NBA history to go 12-0 on its way to the Finals with a sweep of Toronto.

Prediction

The Cavs will knock off the Raptors in 5 games. The Cavaliers are coming off another week of rest and are ready to go. It has been a historic year for Canada’s only basketball franchise, but their magical run will come to an end in the Conference Finals. Unfortunately, Toronto is too injury plagued to make this the competitive series that it could be. The question for Cleveland is can they continue their historic three point shooting from the first two rounds. It’s hard for any team to shot like that, but this Cavaliers team is special and is poised for a monumental run in June. The Cavs have shown that they are a legitimate championship contender and they will prove that once again by advancing to the NBA Finals for the second straight year.

Cavs-Hawks Round 2 Preview

cavs-hawks2

Cavs First Round: Swept Detroit 4-0
Hawks First Round: Beat Boston 4-2

Season Series: Cleveland won 3-0
Game 1: Atlanta at Cleveland, Monday, May 2 at 7 p.m.
Game 2: Atlanta at Cleveland, Wednesday, May 4 at 8 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Atlanta, Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Atlanta, Sunday, May 8 at 3:30 p.m.
Game 5: Atlanta at Cleveland, Tuesday, May 10 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Atlanta, Thursday, May 12 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Atlanta at Cleveland, Sunday, May 15 (If Necessary)

Cavaliers power forward, Kevin Love. Photo Credit-Erik Drost http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

After a more than a week off, the Cavaliers begin the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals tonight against the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavs know the Hawks all too well as they swept Atlanta in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and won all three regular season matchups this season. Cleveland has absolutely dominated the Hawks over the last year and this series could see more of the same. During last year’s conference finals, the Cavs were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving was out for the majority of the series with knee tendonitis. Both players are healthy and they looked great during Cleveland’s first round sweep of the Pistons. The Hawks are a very good defensive team holding opponents to a league-low 43% field-goal percentage. Atlanta is led by the front court duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford. Millsap had an impressive first round averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game against the Boston Celtics. Atlanta has struggled offensively at times this season, but Millsap and Horford have kept them in games with their rebounding. The Cavs have rebounding machines of their own in Love and Tristan Thompson. Cleveland’s big men must create as many second chance opportunities as possible to keep pressure on the Hawks, which will ultimately led them to victory.

Key Matchup

Atlanta Hawks small forward, Kent Bazemore. Photo Credit-Wikipedia

The matchup to watch for in this series is between LeBron James and Kent Bazemore. Cavalier fans remember Bazemore for his comments after the Hawks went down two games to none in last year’s conference finals. He said, “I still think we’re the better team. We just haven’t shown it yet.” Cavs fans responded accordingly as Bazemore was booed during the next two games at The Q. The Hawks will most likely throw Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha at LeBron during the series, but it will be Bazemore who will start off guarding King James. Bazemore and LeBron have a little bit of history as the young Hawks forward talked trash towards James on Twitter in 2012. One tweet read “LeBron is the equivalent to 7eleven, he doesn’t close.” Bazemore also shoved LeBron during game two of the conference finals. I think this will be a fun matchup to watch given Bazemore’s beef towards James. LeBron hasn’t responded to Bazemore and I doubt he will. King James is a man on a mission and it is pretty hard to get in his head, just ask Detroit’s Stanley Johnson.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

LeBron James is on track to make some more history during this series. He will tie former Cavaliers coach, Byron Scott for 14th place all-time in playoff games tonight with 183. LeBron needs just three more treys to pass Robert Horry for 8th place in postseason three-pointers.

Bonus Stat

The Cavaliers are undefeated against the Hawks in the postseason. Cleveland swept Atlanta in the 2008-2009 Conference Semi-Finals and the 2014-2015 Eastern Conference Finals.

Prediction

The Cavs will win this series in 5 games. Cleveland is well rested and will continue their dominance of Atlanta, but the Hawks are due to win at least one game. The Cavaliers are clicking at the right time and their strong play will propel them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year.