Consistency is a Talent, Tribe Needs More of It

After losing both ends of a doubleheader last Sunday in Baltimore, and being shutout in both games, the Cleveland Indians reached rock bottom for the season.  They dropped to 9-15 for the month of June at that point.

There was nowhere to go but up.

And up they went, winning the next five games and now they have a chance to win what looked to be a very difficult trip to Baltimore, Tampa, and Pittsburgh.

So, everything should be looking up in Tribetown and all the critics should be silenced, right?

From our point of view, not quite.

Why?  Because of the consistency problem this team has, and has had all season long.

How many Indians have been consistent all year?  After struggling in April, Jason Kipnis, Cody Allen have been excellent.

Michael Brantley’s power numbers are down from 2014, but he’s a guy who can be counted on to provide quality at bats every night.

Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco can be depended on to keep the Indians in ballgames on an everyday basis.

David Murphy and Ryan Raburn have solidified the DH spot with their platoon.

And since being called up, 3B Giovanny Urshela has been good on a day in, day out basis.

The rest of the roster?  Not so much.

Carlos Santana is in the midst of a five-week long slump.  SInce June 1st, the switch-hitter has gone 19 for 103 (.184), with 3 HR and 9 RBI in that span.

Over the last 28 days, Brandon Moss has hit .202 (18 for 89) with 4 HR and 12 RBIs.  Over the last week, he’s gone 4 for 26.

MIchael Bourn has hit .185 with one extra base hit (last night’s double), three RBI and one stolen base over the last four weeks.

Mike Aviles has gone 4 for 26 over the last two weeks.

WIth Yan Gomes still struggling coming back from his knee injury, and Francisco Lindor going through the growing pains (at least at the plate) of being called up for the first time, this is why the offense has sputtered.

That’s five players in the batting order who have pretty much been terrible lately.  That makes it very tough to put together any offense.

In the bullpen, Nick Hagadone has an ERA of 6.00 over the last month, but he’s really the only problem in that area.

Look, we understand that players aren’t robots, and they can’t all be the bastions of consistency like Brantley.

However, you can’t have so many players who are feast or famine either.  That leads to months like the Indians had in April and June.

When Moss is swinging the bat well, and Santana is hitting too, the Tribe offense can look like a juggernaut.  Unfortunately, that only happens in spurts.

And that’s why this is a frustrating team to watch.

Fans have clamored for a right-handed power bat, but recently, the Indians have handled southpaws.

What the Indians really need is another “professional hitter”, a guy who is going to give them quality at bats night after night.

The one thing to contemplate is what happens if Murphy and Raburn, particularly Murphy, who is hitting .327, but is a .276 career hitter, go into slumps.

Then it will be necessary for Santana or Moss to get hot over a month period.

Our point is that we shouldn’t be fooled by this five game winning streak.  The Indians still need flaws they need to correct if they want to make a run at a post-season berth.  They can’t afford another April or June, that will bury them.

Let’s hope the front office doesn’t become complacent about what has happened this week.  That’s fools gold.

KM

Despite What “Experts” Said, Love Stays With Cavs

Once again, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have befuddled the national media.

Despite all the conjecture following the playoffs that Kevin Love would never resign with the Cavs because he wanted to be “the man” and get more shots, and his so-called personality conflict with James, the free agent announced he will ink a five-year deal with the wine and gold, and will be here to pursue a title.

Not only that, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert also re-upped with Cleveland, insuring that the same cast of characters that dominated the NBA entering the playoffs, and survived injuries to key players in the post-season, will be together again for the 2015-16 NBA season.

It was even reported the night before free agency started that Love was going to meet with the Lakers.  The four letter network really missed it here, and when it comes to the Cavs, they haven’t been right very often.

We believe that most of these national “insiders” take their own personal feelings into account, and they cannot believe that given a choice, anyone would want to play or work in Cleveland.  Therefore, they assume everyone wants out.

As for Love, he had steadfastly maintained all year-long that his intention was to be with the Cavaliers in the upcoming season, and instead of taking him at his word, these people chose to think he was just “saying the politically correct thing”.

And make no mistake, Kevin Love is very important to this team offensively.  The Finals should be evidence of that.

With Love on the floor and his ability to shoot the ball, defenses have to account for him, meaning if he is at the three-point line, you have to guard him.  This opens up the lane for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to get to the basket.

Remember against Golden State how the Warriors packed the paint with defenders to stop James?  That doesn’t happen with Love on the floor.

James needs to be surrounded by shooters, and against Golden State, he was missing two of his most reliable guys in Irving and Love.  The wine and gold were down to J.R. Smith, an ailing Iman Shumpert, Matthew Dellavedova, and veterans James Jones and Mike Miller.

The latter two were not afforded a lot of minutes in the regular season.

Besides that, Love is a very good rebounder, averaging 9.7 per game in the regular season.  He might be the team’s second best rebounder behind only Thompson.

And he’s not as bad of a defender as he showed earlier in the year.  Once GM David Griffin traded for Timofey Mozgov, providing the team with a shot blocking presence, Love’s defense was much better, mainly because he didn’t have to guard centers.

Simply put, he’s one of the best players in the NBA, surely among the top 25 players in the game.  And he’s committed to stay with Cleveland for five more seasons.

So, the national media will have to deal with the fact that the Cavs aren’t going anywhere.  They will be making deep playoff runs annually with James, Irving, and Love.

They just don’t get it.  One more reason you shouldn’t believe anything they have to say regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers.

JK

Tribe Can’t Improve With Current Cast.

After getting swept in a day-night doubleheader by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday, and being shutout in both contests, the Cleveland Indians seems to have reached rock bottom.

They sit 12 games behind the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central Division, and are now 7 behind the New York Yankees for the second wild card spot in the league.

That wild card spot would mean the one game crap shoot to get into a best-of-five series, so the division title should be the goal, but at this point, you’ll take the one game playoff.

Right now, the Tribe is a mess.

They can’t score runs, they have dropped to 11th in the AL in runs per game, and the vaunted pitching staff also ranks 11th in ERA.  The defense is poor, so poor in fact that using defensive metrics, Francisco Lindor is by far the team’s best defensive player on the season, and he’s been in the big leagues all of two weeks.

Cleveland has players who can get on base, they just can’t drive them in, having a woeful batting average with runners on base.

We agree that there is still plenty of time left in the season, but based on the performance of the team for the first half of the season, the guys currently on the roster aren’t capable of getting it done.

The time is now for bold moves with this roster.

Michael Bourn’s production has declined to the point where he can no longer play for this team even in a platoon role.

The Tribe has a 26-year-old OF who can play CF at Columbus, and is hitting .306 with a 764 OPS.  He’s actually been with the Indians last year and has three at bats with the big club this year.

Why Tyler Holt isn’t on this roster right now is a complete mystery.

And he plays with an edge, something even veterans Jason Kipnis and Brandon Moss have said is lacking with the Indians right now.

What should be done with Bourn?  Well, we would release him.

Yes, yes, we understand the Indians owe him $14 million for 2016, and another $6.75 million for the rest of this season, but what’s done is done.  They will owe him no matter what he does, and right now they are paying him to not produce.

Why aren’t we complaining about Nick Swisher?  Because he’s on the disabled list, so he’s not hurting the squad right now.  If Swisher is activated and produces the same as he did before he went on the DL, then he should get the same fate.

It’s not fair for the rest of the roster to play shorthanded because the organization’s high-priced signings didn’t work out.

We’ve had people asking to wait and see if Bourn can be traded, but by the time that happens, even the slim hopes of a playoff spot the Indians have now will be extinguished.

The starting pitching is showing the strain of non-support from the offense and the woes of an ineffective bullpen.

The four starters who have been here all year have ERAs under 4.16, which isn’t terrible, but isn’t great either.

However, the relief corps has been inconsistent.

Cody Allen has been fine since a rough April, and Bryan Shaw has done the same.

Zack McAllister’s been fine, but seems to give up big hits at the most inopportune times.  Marc Rzepczynski has been prone to the same thing lately, such as Friday night, when he entered in a tie game and promptly gave up three straight hits on three consecutive pitches.

Over the last 14 days, Nick Hagadone has pitched 1-2/3 innings and allowed five hits.  Over the last 28 days, he’s gone 6-2/3 frames, allowing nine hits.  Take out last season, and he’s never had an ERA under 4.09 in his career.

Ryan Webb’s numbers look good (24 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 18 Ks), but he doesn’t pitch often enough to evaluate him fully.

The other bullpen spots, usually two (for some ridiculous reason at the expense of an extra position player), have been revolving doors with the since released Scott Atchison, Austin Adams, Jeff Manship, and Kyle Crockett holding down the spot.

It might be time to change some roles up there as well.

Regardless, action is needed.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a strength of the front office.

The season is slipping away.  Maybe the administration could throw Tito and the boys a rope.

KM

Time For Tribe Shake Up If They Want to Contend

The Cleveland Indians are starting a 10 game trip which could make or break their season.

Yes, they are still just six games out of the second wild card spot in the American League, but their record is 33-39 and an unsuccessful trip would put them with too many teams to pass to claim a playoff spot.

From May 14th through June 2nd, the Indians went 13-5 and it looked like perhaps they turned around their season.

Unfortunately, that 19 day span is the only consistent baseball they played all year, and outside of that stretch, the Tribe is 20-34, a truly mediocre record over a 54 game span, which is one-third of the season.

The Indians will tell you there isn’t much they can do about the current roster, but that’s a lie.  Here is what we would do:

We hate to see anyone lose their jobs, but despite what the Indians front office will tell you, baseball is a results business.  They seem to think it’s an entertainment business.

1). Get a new hitting coach.  Ty Van Burkleo made not be the reason the Indians can’t hit with men on base, but sometimes a new voice is needed.  In 2005, Eric Wedge replaced Eddie Murray with Derek Shelton and the offense took off.

Maybe it’s a reach, but it’s worth a shot.  Rouglas Odor was just named the hitting coach for the AAA All-Star Game, so perhaps he should be promoted.

The offense has struggled for more than just this season, it was tough to score runs the second half of last year too.  It’s time to try something different.

2).  Eliminate the dead weight on the current roster.  Think about how many players Terry Francona doesn’t want to play or pitch with the game on the line.

It’s quite obvious the organization has lost confidence in Michael Bourn, relegating him to a platoon role.  It’s time to release him.

We know how much money he is making, but right now he is hurting the team.  A better alternative is to pay him (you have to anyway) and not have him hurt the team.  This roster would be better off with Tyler Holt or Tyler Naquin on the team instead of Bourn.

Besides, this is making Michael Brantley play more centerfield, which is not good for his back, which in turn is not good for his bat.  Brantley needs to move back to left permanently, and perhaps he will start hitting better.

The same goes for the bullpen. Francona doesn’t have faith in Nick Hagadone and it seems his confidence in Zack McAllister is waning as well.  Cleveland has organizational depth in relief pitchers, so why not use it.

They’ve been loathe to give Austin Adams a shot for most of the season, instead, going with Scott Atchison, and right now, C.C. Lee deserves an opportunity.

Why not see what you can get for Hagadone and McAllister and get some more prospects.

It’s not like these moves would be catastrophic.  The Tribe is struggling mightily now.  Why not try something else?  It is doubtful that the replacements for these players or coaches could perform worse than they are right now.

The front office of the Indians has a history of patience and sitting on their hands.  It’s time to get up and do something, and do it now.  Otherwise, the attendance figures at Progressive Field are going to keep declining.

And instead of coming up with reasons for that…just look in the mirror.

MW

The Off-Season Soap Opera for Cavs and LeBron

A little over a week ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers were trying to stave off elimination in the NBA Finals, just two wins away from an NBA Championship.

However, the season came to an end nine days ago, and the soap opera that apparently will be the Cavs’ off-season has begun.

It started with the rumors swirling that David Blatt was going to resign as head coach during the post-season press conference involved GM David Griffin and himself.

One television host even reported the resignation was a done deal.

Of course, Blatt is still the coach, but that doesn’t stop the speculation that the man who guided the wine and gold to an Eastern Conference championship will not be on the sidelines when the season opens in late October.

Listen, if LeBron James walked into Dan Gilbert’s office and told him he wouldn’t stay in Cleveland if Blatt was still the coach, the latter would be looking for a new gig.  But, we don’t think that will happen.

However, this is life for your team when LeBron James is part of it.  Especially with ESPN in their tear down LeBron at all costs mode.

Next on the agenda are the contract situations.

Several players ended the season with options on their deals.  Timofey Mozgov’s club option was picked up by Cleveland earlier in the week, but yesterday, Kevin Love declined his player option and is now a free agent.

Even though this was totally expected, as is James’ same decision, which will come soon, it didn’t stop the angst among basketball fans here that Love is going to leave.

He may go elsewhere, but if we hold Love to his statements made throughout the season, when he repeatedly said he would be back, it is simply a procedural move for the former Timberwolves’ power forward.

Remember, Love can make more money in Cleveland, that’s the way the NBA is set up.  And, he’s coming off a shoulder injury and may not be ready for the beginning of the regular season.  The probable scenario is that Love will stay in Cleveland on a one-year deal with a player option for 2016-17, so he can be eligible for the cash influx the league will get at that time.

Again, it’s possible that Love leaves, anything can happen.  But if Love wants to win a title, then Cleveland is the best place for him to get the most money and have a chance to get a ring.

We can’t wait to hear the noise when LeBron opts out in a few days, even though he and everyone in the media have told us that is indeed what will happen.

In some public statements made since The Finals, James has reiterated that he loves being back home and that he is looking forward to next season here.

That won’t stop the four letter network from speculating that James will be looking to leave once again after next season.  It’s what life with LeBron James is all about.

All that said, this drama is much better than worrying about who to take with the first pick in the NBA draft tonight.  Just remember who the rumors are coming from and what is their agenda for saying what they say.

JK

Using WAR to Identify Tribe Veterans Not Helping Club

This seems to be an annual thing to write when it comes to the Cleveland Indians and their manager, Terry Francona.

It is about the difference between patience and stubbornness.  Even Francona himself acknowledges that he can be stubborn at times because he trusts the players you have performed for him in the past.

Once again, it seems like Tito and general manager Chris Antonetti have some decisions to make if the Tribe is to remain in contention for the playoffs in 2015.

As the season nears the halfway point, it is becoming apparent that a few players aren’t contributing to the success of this team, and the question is should they be replaced?

Now, we aren’t total proponents of WAR (wins above replacement player) because our opinion is that it is tilted toward middle of the diamond players.  One of the selling points on Michael Bourn when he signed in 2013 was that he had a 6.1 WAR in 2012.

We looked at the stats and said he was a terrible offensive player for most of his career.  His WAR rating was high because he plays centerfield and he was a solid defensive player.

However, within a team, WAR does tell you who is contributing and who isn’t.

For example, the lowest WAR among position players on the Indians belongs to Nick Swisher at -0.6, meaning a player in AAA would be better than him.

The only other position player with significant playing time and a negative in this category is Jose Ramirez.  Which kind of validates the statistic.

On  the pitching staff, the hurlers who have a negative WAR on the season are Bruce Chen, who is now retired, T.J. House, who is currently injured, and two current members of the bullpen.

Those two would be veteran Scott Atchison and Nick Hagadone.

The former is now 39 years old and had an excellent season with the Indians in 2014.  Unfortunately, that was last year.

This year, he’s allowed six home runs in just 18 innings of work, and Francona can’t be comfortable bringing him into a game.  By all accounts, Atchison is a great guy, but he doesn’t appear to be able to be effective anymore.

Hagadone is one of those pitchers who has unbelievable stuff, and he’s left-handed to boot.  Scouts and personnel people always love guys like that.

His problem though is that he can’t throw strikes consistently, and that leads to problems.  He’s given up more hits than innings pitched and has walked ten in 23 innings.  His career ERA is 4.79.  And he will be 30 on New Year’s Day.

The point is this isn’t some 24-year-old flamethrower we are hoping will be able to corral his pitches.  He’s another guy that Francona has to be hesitant to bring into the game.

You can’t tell us the relief corps wouldn’t be better off with Austin Adams (2.38 ERA in 7 games) and Kyle Crockett (five scoreless appearances) pitching in Cleveland rather than Columbus.

Here’s a list of players hovering around a zero WAR, meaning they are replacement players:  Carlos Santana (0.3), Bourn (0.3) Mike Aviles (0.4), David Murphy and Brandon Moss (0.5).

And these pitchers:  Cody Allen (0.1 although he’s been better since the end of April), Marc Rzepczynski (0.0), Ryan Webb and Bryan Shaw (0.4).

This shows there are a lot of Indians who aren’t getting it done, and they need to pick it up if this team is going to start winning.

Remember, once players get into their 30’s, they aren’t getting better.  You can live with Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor struggling a bit, because they will improve.

It’s not likely that Hagadone and Atchison will be better as the season goes on.

KM

Stats Show Tribe Pitching Just As Responsible For Up and Down Year.

We all know the Cleveland Indians got off to a bad start this season, and then played much better in May.

However, they are back in a rut again, treading water in June, having won just six of their last 15 games.

They are trying.  They’ve brought up heralded prospect Francisco Lindor to play shortstop and add Giovanny Urshela to play third base, and tomorrow will mark the debut of right-hander Cody Anderson, who will start against the Rays.

The hitting takes the bulk of the blame, but in reality, they are only half of the problem, because the team ERA ranks 12th in the American League, although they might rank higher if not for some questionable official scoring.

First, the hitting.  Despite ranking 3rd in the AL in on base percentage, and 9th in slugging, the Tribe ranks 10th in the league in runs scored.  This is mostly because they are terrible with men on base.

That’s mostly because they don’t have enough solid bats in the lineup.

Right now, they have Jason Kipnis, who is having an MVP quality season leading off, and Lindor is hitting second, with Michael Brantley third.  Kipnis (.417 OBP) and Brantley (.381) get on base a lot.

After that, there aren’t a lot of guys doing anything.

David Murphy and Ryan Raburn are doing well platooning at DH, but Raburn has slowed after a hot start.  Carlos Santana is batting .212, and his most consistent skill this year is walking.  While that is better than making an out, it’s usually not resulting in runs being scored.

Yan Gomes has been pretty consistent, but was out six weeks with a knee injury, and is batting .211 on the season.

Brandon Moss has shown some flashes, but because he strikes out a lot, he is prone to those 0 for 15 slides that don’t help the team score runs.  Michael Bourn is a blight on the offense with his .238 average and OPS under 600.

So, how would you expect Kipnis and Brantley to score based on who is hitting behind them?

We have always maintained you need to have at least seven solid hitters to have a formidable offensive team.  How many do the Indians have?

Right now, three (Kipnis, Brantley, DH platoon) and we think Gomes, Moss, and Santana can be.  That still leaves them one bat short.  Lindor and Urshela are too young and inexperience to be counted on, although both haven’t been bad so far.

The pitching has been a disappointment too. They lead the AL in striking out hitters, but when teams hit the ball, it hasn’t been good.

Tribe pitchers have the 2nd highest batting average against on balls put in play and have allowed the third most home runs in the league.  The first figure points out the Cleveland defense hasn’t been good most of the year.

None of the starters have an ERA under 3.00, and several parts of the bullpen have been crazy inconsistent as well.  Cody Allen has righted himself after a bad start, and Bryan Shaw has been solid lately too, but Zack McAllister is up and down.

Why Ryan Webb and Austin Adams haven’t received a better chance is a mystery, and it may be time to cut bait on Nick Hagadone and Scott Atchison.

The fifth starter spot has been held by several guys, and perhaps the best of them, Shawn Marcum (who pitched well in four of six starts) was designated for assignment on Thursday.

Maybe Anderson can stabilize that spot.

Because the American League is so tightly packed, if Terry Francona’s club can get some consistency and can rattle off something like 14 wins in a 20 game span, they would be in the top half of the league record wise.

Unfortunately, outside of a three-week stretch in May, they haven’t been able to do that.

MW

No Excuse, Cavs’ Injuries to Love, Irving Are Fact

We are sure that LeBron James will get criticized for speaking the truth after the deciding game of the NBA Finals, mostly because he gets picked on for pretty much everything he does.

James pointed out that the Cavs didn’t have good luck in the health department on their side, losing Kevin Love in the fourth game of the first round series vs. Boston, and Kyrie Irving also missed the bulk of the post-season, including the last five games of The Finals.

In a series where the Cavs struggled to find anyone who could shoot from outside consistently, the absence of Love and Irving, both players who can most definitely shoot, sticks out like a sore thumb.  Or shoulder and knee if you will.

For the regular season, Cleveland shot 36.7% from behind the three-point line, and in The Finals, they shot 29%.  Now, we agree that there would be some decrease in that percentage in the playoffs due to the stepped up defense.

As a comparison, Golden State’s percentage on long distance shots dropped from 39.8% in the regular season to 36% in The Finals, a drop of almost four percent.  The Cavaliers drop was double what the Warriors’ was.

There can’t be a question that having Irving and Love on the floor would have made a major difference.

Love’s replacement, Tristan Thompson, played marvelously in the playoffs, but he’s not an offensive threat outside of the paint.  There is no need to guard him away from the basket.

In terms of shooting, some of the shots Love would have had were taken by James Jones, and he hit only 4 of 13 from long distance in the series.  There is no question, Love would have helped Cleveland both in spacing the floor and in making shots.

As for Irving, his shooting from outside and his creativity around the basket would have added a different dynamic to the Cavalier offense.  His replacement, Matthew Dellavedova, a gritty defender who did a good job on Stephen Curry (so good that the league MVP in the regular season didn’t receive a single vote as MVP of The Finals), made only 6 of 26 three-point shots (23%) and doesn’t drive to the hoop nearly as well as Irving.

It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.

And it’s a fact ignored by several national media people who were exposed as trolls for constantly saying that LeBron James was a one man team during these finals.

He was, but only because two of the Cavaliers’ starters, and not just starters, but current and former all-stars were unable to play due to injury.

The insinuation is that the Cavs’ management can’t put a decent team around the best player in the sport.  The reality is they did, but a couple of freak injuries took their toll on the roster and forced David Blatt to shorten his rotation.

Which leads to another point.  Blatt is portrayed as a coach that doesn’t use his bench because he played really just seven players in The Finals.  However, with Irving and Love in the mix, he would have played nine guys.

The Cavaliers played the way they played at the end because it was the only way they could compete.  And they got within two games of an NBA title.

It’s too bad the national media came late to the party and didn’t see how they played when James had Love and Irving at his side.  In the last 35 games they played together, Cleveland was 32-3.

That’s why you should be optimistic heading into the off-season.

James will get criticized, because that’s what these guys do.  He is in the middle of the cycle where he has been around so long, people pick on him.

In a few years, he’ll be the elder statesman, and will go back to being loved.

After the game, he was honest.  That’s the best policy.

JK

Blatt Needs to Learn to Protect His Star

All year, Cleveland Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt has railed against being called a rookie coach.

While it is true that he has a tremendous amount of experience as a head coach on the international scene, certainly more than his counterpart on the Golden State bench, he is a novice in knowing the way of the NBA.

This has nothing to do with his ability to coach players, devise scheme, and put his squad in the best position to win.  While we can all debate how much LeBron James has to do with the Cavs’ success, and it is plenty, Blatt changed the style of play for the wine and gold enough that they can be competitive in this series despite the loss of all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Where Blatt needs to learn about the NBA ways is in protecting his superstar player.

He needs to speak out about how the officials are referring the best player in the game, LeBron James.

In last night’s 104-91 loss in Game 5, James shot just nine free throws, and one of those came as the result of a defensive three-second call in first half.

That means he shot one less free throw than Draymond Green, who took nine shots for the game, of which six were inside the three-point line.

By contrast, James took 26 field goal attempts inside the arc, and apparently was only fouled on four of those attempts judging by the number of free throws.

We think even the most even-handed professional basketball fan would think that is ridiculous.

The next time Blatt speaks to the media, he needs to mention that he has the sport’s best player, and that player is attacking the rim pretty much on a consistent basis, and he is simply not getting the calls.

Phil Jackson did this as an art form, both when he coached Michael Jordan and also when he had Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.  He cleverly pointed out that his guys got the short end of the officiating stick, especially when they lost a game.

Steve Kerr even did the same prior to Game 4, when he mentioned certain things being “legal”, and that he wasn’t aware of those things.  Kerr, of course, played for Jackson with the Bulls.

For the entire series, the Cavaliers, a team that has slowed the pace and tried to jam the ball to the basket, have shot just 12 more tosses from the charity stripe than the Warriors, who everyone would agree are a perimeter based team.

Based on the styles of play, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cleveland shot 5-10 more freebies than Golden State on a per night basis.

The insulting thing is how James hasn’t been able to get to the line.  Even some veterans NBA writers and observers, including ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, have commented on how James isn’t getting the whistles usually associated with great players.

He won’t mention it, because it would be out of character for James.  But his coach needs to have his back, and he needs to make the comment prior to tomorrow night’s game because the Cavs either win or go home.

You might say it is gamesmanship, and it might be.  It also may be the truth.  We all see the replays and there is no doubt LeBron James is getting hit on a number of his shot attempts.

He shouldn’t be penalized for his size and skill set.

JK

Poor Shooting and Iguodala (Again!) Lead to Game 4 Loss for Cavs

Imagine if the Golden State Warriors had won the first two games in the NBA Finals at home, and then the Cavaliers came home and did the same at Quicken Loans Arena.

There would be much more optimism around the hometown today, wouldn’t there?

But the series would still be tied at two games apiece heading into Sunday night’s contest in Oakland.  This means there is no need to panic.

However, after that game, somebody will have their collective backs to the wall.  One team will be able to win the NBA Championship on Tuesday night.

Yes, the Cavs showed fatigue playing their third game in five days (with a cross-country trip mixed in between), and that takes more of a toll on them because they are really playing seven players because of the injuries to all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

There were reports yesterday that several of the Cavaliers’ veterans were upset with David Blatt about not playing more guys, and hindsight being 20/20, he probably should have on Thursday.

On the other hand, he was simply doing what worked in the first three games, and that strategy gave Cleveland a 2-1 lead in the series.  The guess here is the coach will play more guys come Sunday night, giving Mike Miller and Shawn Marion, if healthy some time on the court.

The fatigue contributed to a horrible shooting performance from outside by the wine and gold, as they hit just 4 of 27 from behind the three-point line in Game 4, with only Matthew Dellavedova hitting more than one (2 of 9), and J.R. Smith missing all eight of his tries.

The main culprit in the Cavs’ eyes was Andre Iguodala, who had another crazy shooting night, much like the first game, which was the only other contest the Warriors have won.

The veteran swingman scored 22 points on 9 for 15 shooting, including hitting 4 of 9 from behind the arc.  As we said after game one, those kind of performances do not happen often for Iguodala, so the chances for it occurring twice in four games is probably astronomical.

Cleveland is holding the “Splash Brothers” under 50 points per game in the series, as they have combined for 172 in the four games, but the added production of Iguodala is both unexpected and damaging to the Cavs’ hopes.

Many experts are giving Steve Kerr mad props for his lineup switch, but if Iguodala had a normal shooting game, we wonder how much praise he would be getting.

Timofey Mozgov abused the smaller Warriors’ lineup for 28 points and Tristan Thompson added 12 more for the wine and gold.  The real reason for the defeat was the Cleveland guards simply couldn’t make a shot.  That happens.  The bigger question is will it happen again?

The players that Blatt depends on for outside scoring (Dellavedova, Smith, Iman Shumpert, and James Jones) made 7 of 38 shots in the fourth game.  That’s 19%. While it’s possible they could shoot that poorly again, it’s certainly not probable.

And remember that this was a six point game heading into the final quarter, so while the Warriors won going away, Cleveland certainly had a chance to win heading into the final quarter.

Golden State dominated the first half, but were only up six going into the final 12 minutes.

Can the Cavs win Game 5?  Well, they’ve already won a game in Oakland this series, so they certainly can.  They needed the two days off between games, and they now have a chance to adjust to the changes Kerr made before Thursday.

We will stick with what we said before the series started.  If they can hold Curry and Thompson under 50 points, they have a good chance to win.  The biggest key now has become Andre Iguodala.

JK