LeBron’s old man strength, Coach Ty’s political capital, and more Game 1 musings: While We’re Waiting…

LeBron James Kyrie Irving
Sporting News

Happy Wednesday, Blawg Pound. The Cavs put a good old-fashioned butt whupping on the Toronto Raptors last night, scoring first blood in the Eastern Conference Finals on the strength of a 115-84 Game 1 victory. Boy howdy was it fun. Odds are you’ve seen some of the highlights by now: LeBron James dunking so hard he bent the ball; Kyrie Irving pulling out an NBA Street-level double behind-the-back crossover; the whole team breaking out the full catalog of celebratory postgame handshakes.

It was the sort of game that lends itself less to analysis than joke-cracking, and that’s just fine in my book. Here are a few others thoughts and observations from that gorgeous Tuesday night at the Q.

  • Game 1 rebounding totals: Cavs 54, Raptors 35. The Cavs shot so ruthlessly that it probably wouldn’t have mattered what the Raptors did, but Cleveland’s advantage on the boards added a little salt to the wound. The Cavs grabbed 10 offensive rebounds en route to 13 second-chance points, while the Raptors had just 4 and 4.
    • Richard Jefferson led all players with 11 rebounds. In a conference finals game. In 2016. Sure!
  • Kyrie Irving led all players with two blocks. Sure!
  • After such a glittery Game 1 performance, it’s fun to read quotes like this from Kyrie Irving. Via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
    • “When you have a great player like [LeBron] on your team, you just have to learn from him and take what you can from him,” Irving told ESPN.com on his way out of Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday, after sharing the postgame podium with James, a pairing that has happened regularly during the Cavs’ 9-0 start to the playoffs. “I’ve had a tremendous opportunity. I’m fortunate enough to have a mentor in Kobe [Bryant] and having a teammate, a brother like Bron. Those are guys that I can kind of bounce ideas off of. And every single day Bron’s been demanding excellence out of me. I think that’s been the maturity and the growth of this year.”
    • I swear Kyrie was born to play on national television.
  • It is a touch frightening when Iman Shumpert gets to dribbling with a full head of steam. Shump tearing ahead in transition makes me feel how I would feel if my grandmother were suddenly behind the wheel of a Lamborghini — I just hope nobody gets hurt.
  • While it wasn’t necessarily on display last night, LeBron James is almost certainly a touch slower than he once was. That’s all well and good, a natural side effect of spending over a dozen years playing professional ball. What isn’t discussed enough, in my view, is his ever-growing old man strength.
    • I subscribe to the notion — supported by heaps of empirical evidence, I’m sure — that old man strength is a real and true phenomenon. One needn’t be a professional athlete to develop it. Old man strength develops naturally, even in civilians, as years of opening pickle jars, hoisting car seats, and the like gradually strengthen the hands and forearms to the point that they reach near superhuman levels.
    • On the basketball court, old man strength tends to manifest itself in offensive rebounding. Veterans — experienced, hardened, often child-having veterans — are better able to rip the ball away from their foe as though they are snatching a baby away from a rabid Doberman. Once they have the ball, a sizable portion of said old man strength is converted into old man game, which is characterized by what could best be described as “wily-ass buckets from close range.”
    • I haven’t fully dived into the numbers, but LeBron had at least one world-class old man putback last night. I suspect there are more to come. Keep an eye on this very important development.
  • I’m not sure where to peg Tyronn Lue as an in-game coach and adjustment maker, but he’s looked awful good through nine playoff games. More encouraging, per a story by Ken Berger for CBS Sports, is how Coach Ty shook up the Cavs’ power balance. While the midseason move put Lue in David Blatt’s place could be read as placing tremendous pressure on the new coach, it seems that Lue was emboldened. Thrust into the top spot, he used his political capital to challenge his brightest star.
    • “They felt they were doing this for LeBron,” the person familiar with the internal workings of the team said, “instead of with LeBron.”
      Lue changed that the moment he first told James in a huddle, “Shut the [expletive up]. I got this,” according to a person who heard the exchange — and a few others like it. If Lue was going to get the stars and the role players to buy into the strategic changes he was determined to implement — play faster, space the floor, move the ball, take full advantage of Love’s versatility — he was going to have to restore order first.
      He did it in every way possible, starting with James — calling him out in film sessions, barking at him in practice, seizing control back. Only then could the Cavaliers evolve into the juggernaut we are witnessing now.
  • Last, and least related to actual NBA happenings: I want there to be a TV show that’s just J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters driving around the country together challenging random dudes to games of two-on-two. It’d be part No Reservations, part White Men Can’t Jump, and all wonderful.

Let us hope that we one day look at the Atlanta Falcons’ decision to lower their concession prices — for some items, anyway — as a trendsetter rather than an anomaly. Let us also hope that the food items do not shrink by 80 percent to keep those margins up.

On what team officials are calling a “fan-first menu,” a number of items will be priced at $2: soft drinks (with unlimited free refills at self-serve stations), Dasani bottled water, hot dogs, pretzels and popcorn.

Also part of the plan: Pizza slices, nachos, waffle fries and bags of peanuts will be available for $3. Twelve-ounce domestic beer will cost $5.

Hey, the Tribe has scored 28 runs in two games against the Cincinnati Reds! They’re over .500 and trending up! They have the fourth-best run differential in the American League! They’ve weathered some injuries! STARTIN’ TO COME TOGETHER, PEPPER, IT’S STARTIN’ TO COME TOGETHER.