Happy Wednesday, Blawg Pound. Of course, the “happy” part of that could well change by about 11 p.m. this evening. Big game tonight, folks. That NBA team up north — the one with all the history and pageantry that comes from naming oneself after a contemporary blockbuster movie; is there any doubt that an expansion franchise in 2016 would be called The Avengers? — took both games on its home court. A sense of hope has replaced despair among Canada’s basketball faithful. On the other side of the border, the good side, our side, sphincters have tightened and nipples have tingled as doubt has stubbornly crept into frame. We thought we were through this part. We thought the Cavs had hit their stride. But in Northeast Ohio…(you know the rest).
Anywho, we have a few NBA-related points to hit on today. But first, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Tribe has been kicking a little tail out there lately. They bounced back from losing three straight to take the last two from the AL Central-leading ChiSox and have now won 7 of their last 10. Last night they 1) handed White Sox ace Chris Sale his first loss of the season and 2) knocked Sale out of the game in the fourth inning; he made it through 7 IP in eight of his nine other starts. The Indians have a way, it seems, of playing their best when the least eyes are on them. Here’s hoping they keep it up after the Cavs’ playoff run ends — and that that doesn’t happen for a while yet.
Which movie scene best captures the Raptors’ hope? — There are a few choices in my eyes. I grant you that this is an uncomfortable way to look at things because it necessarily positions the Cavs as the bad guys, and the Cavs are never the bad guys. Not even if Sasha Kaun were to beat up a whole busload of schoolchildren like Farva in Super Troopers.
Anyway, the first is Rocky IV, and in this scenario the Cavs are Ivan Drago (Cav-an Drago?). This one is simple enough. The Cavs are the big bad machine from the imperialist foreign land, and the Raptors are the plucky underdog fighting for their country’s honor. The Raptors have finally landed a couple good punches, and some combination of Drake and the city of Toronto is bellowing in their collective ear, “YOU SEE? YOU SEE? HE’S NOT A MACHINE!” (This comparison would be even better if the Cavs had once beaten the then-Vancouver Grizzlies so bad that the team had to move to Memphis and/or one of their players died. In any event, I don’t want to think about this anymore because it hurts my brain to equate the Cavs to Drago.)
The next is Little Giants, the 1994 motion picture that sees two adult brothers, Rick Moranis and Al Bundy, fight for dominance in small-town Ohio by way of coaching rival pee-wee football teams. Bundy (known by some as Ed O’Neill) heads up the Cowboys, a Pop Warner juggernaut replete with top-notch uniforms, a full coaching staff, and a linebacker/halfback named Spike Hammersmith who can carry refrigerators like they’re textbooks. Age the kids up a few years and it isn’t hard to imagine them going toe-to-toe with the Dillon Panthers or T.C. Williams Titans.
Ah, but Rick Moranis instills hope in his ragtag bunch by relating a story about the time he beat Big Brother Bundy in a bicycle race down Cherry Hill, presumably the steepest and most fearsome hill in all of Urbana, OH. Bundy had beaten Moranis on countless occasions and was surely the more established cyclist. Big Brother might have won that race 99 times out of 100, but that leaves — say it with me now — one time, and one time is all it takes. This comp isn’t quite as clean given that we’re dealing with a best-of-seven series, but the point stands. (If Dwane Casey is Rick Moranis, then Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are quarterback Junior Floyd and cheerleader/linebacker Becky “Icebox” O’Shea.)
I could go on to equate the Raptors to Team USA in Miracle or D2: The Mighty Ducks, but the mere thought of either makes me want to puke. Go USA. Go Cavs.
Draymondfreude (n) — The pleasure derived from a particularly disliked basketball player’s misfortune. Draymond Green totaled an plus-minus rating of minus-73 in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals, both Oklahoma City Thunder victories. He’s still a wonderful player, but boy oh boy is he fun to root against. He’s a heel on par with Kevin Owens. I hope he falls into a well or gets locked in a pantry or something.
Bless you, Dion Waiters — At risk of counting chickens, Dion has steadily matured into a legitimate rotation player for a potential Finals team. He played 32 minutes in OKC’s Game 4 win, supporting Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to the tune of 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. He has been one of the Thunder’s more consistent defenders. He has slightly curbed his appetite for 20-foot jumpers. He’s somewhat akin to J.R. Smith in that he has been forced to tone down his chucking in order to fit on a winning team, and such reclamation stories are always a treat. Given some of the personal hardships that Dion has gone through, it’s just great to see him doing work.
Big shout to Craig Sager — The colorful NBA reporter, who I’ve discussed in this space a couple times, is slated to get the Jimmy V Perserverance Award at this year’s ESPYs. The ESPYs, which combine the inanity of award shows with the silliness of athletes in tuxedos, are not generally a thing I care about. That said, the ESPYs have produced some very cool moments over the years, and this is fixing to be one of them. Jim Valvano’s speech will forever be the most enduring moment in ESPYs history. I don’t doubt that Sager will produce something approaching that level.
Have a day out there, gang. Cavs in 6.