Monday, June 29, 2015

Sandberg Steps Down

No caption needed

The Hall of Fame player turned Phillies' manager resigned his post on Friday. Ryne Sandberg spent six years managing minor league ball clubs, riding buses around from small town to small town waiting for his chance to prove he could excel as a manager the same way he excelled at second base for the Chicago Cubs. It took him less than three full seasons to realize he no longer wanted the opportunity to prove himself at the big league level, not with these Phillies anyway.

In a fairly shocking move, Sandberg let the Phils’ brass as well as the general public know that he had had enough as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies after compiling a record of 119-159 in parts of three seasons in South Philadelphia. Sandy took over for Charlie Manuel, the best manager in Phillies’ history, in August of the 2013 season. Hope was not exactly springing eternal at that point, and it never really got much better for the stoic former slugger.

Sandberg was officially named manager for the 2014 season (he had the interim title finishing up 2013) and came in on his medium sized horse preaching “fundamentals” and “doing things the right way.” Basically, he came in and supposedly placed emphasis on playing baseball hard-nosed and old-fashioned because the Phillies no longer had the talent to not play that way. Turned out, which everybody saw coming, the Phillies don’t have enough talent to win ball games even when they are playing the game the right way.* Sandy had to know this. He had to know that best case scenario for the 2015 Phillies was winning 70 games and netting something of value for Cole Hamels. If he didn’t know that, and he didn’t expect to be this awful, he was not the man for the job then anyway.

I just don’t quite get the timing of what Sandberg did though. He has another year left on his contract and clearly wanted this big league managing job something fierce as evidenced by his willingness to toil so long in the minor leagues despite his HOF credentials. So how was he just going to give up on the team that had originally drafted him?

Sure the losing gets to you, but he had to know that the fan base certainly wasn’t holding him responsible for the schlop on the field that he was tasked with managing. The Phillies have Cole Hamels and then 4 guys who don’t belong in Major League Baseball starting for them right now. Did we think that was Sandberg’s fault? The Phillies have a platoon of outfielders so mediocre that Ben Revere is clearly the best of the bunch. Dom Brown and Jeff Francoeur made plays that little leaguers wouldn’t have made this weekend. Did he think that we think that’s his fault?

So I don’t like the move by Sandberg. I haven’t exactly enjoyed his managing tactics or overall demeanor, but I never once placed the blame of losing on him.  Sandy stepping down the day after an off day out of nowhere in the middle of a season is just perplexing and I’m sorry to say a little gutless. He had to have assumed he would be fired at the end of the season, but if I was him I would have stuck this thing out and made the Phillies fire me. Resigning in the middle of the season on a team that has quite a few young players, including the stud Maikel Franco is becoming, gives off an even worse vibe to a team that has had nothing but bad vibes since Ryan Howard tore his Achilles. It doesn’t sit well with me, and it can’t sit that well with the players either as nobody wants to change managers midway through a season.

Please excuse me while I jump in the mind of Sandy here real quick to see if I can’t come up with some sort of theory as to why June 2015 was the time to leave the Phillies.

I lost the clubhouse. I had it out with Kenny over his lack of respect for my authority when I called for that intentional free pass a few weeks back and Kenny’s only been in the league a year. I'm a hall-of-famer for chrissake, doesn't that mean anything to these kids? The guys aren’t winning so they feel like they don’t have to listen to me, and I can’t abide by that. When Chase had his spat with Bob (McClure – Phillies pitching coach) over the Frenchy relief appearance that was it for me. Maybe I left Frenchy out there a bit too long, but still.. Chase was the one guy in this clubhouse I couldn’t afford to lose and that was all she wrote. Chase put the writing on the wall for me.

In a sick twist of irony, Sandberg had to sit through his resignation press conference sitting next to the one and only Ruben Amaro Jr. If I’m Sandberg I would have insisted the PA guy blared Slikk The Shocker’s late 90s hit “It Aint My Fault” when I took my seat on the dais. Because truthfully, Ryne Sandberg has had about as much to do with the Phillies losing ball games at a late 90s like pace as I have. 

At this point, you have to point to ownership's lack of accountability for the baseball minds it employs almost as much as you have to point to Amaro's lack of competence. Even still, it’s Amaro who should have stepped down and allowed somebody with a clue to shepherd the Phillies through their rebuilding process. Somebody that doesn’t have emotional ties to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels. Because they all need to go, whether the Phils wind up paying them or not, they have to go. The Phillies will not have a winning season again with Howard and Utley on the roster, it’s time to cut the cord.**

So the beat goes on for the Phillies. The losing-est franchise in professional sports history will have to have a second half surge to avoid losing 100 games this year. Sources are talking about Andy MacPhail, former executive with the Twins, Cubs, and Orioles, coming on board to take a knife to this Phils’ squad. I think we’re all ready for that.

* They're not.

** It was time in 2012.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Vol. 2

2015 Philadelphia Phillies

I’ll start by saying I don’t watch this team any more. How can you? If you’re watching the Phillies on a nightly basis without more than just a fan’s regular interest in their team you probably need to readjust your priorities in life. We’re talking catastrophically bad baseball being played by a team with two talented baseball players, total. So let’s talk about them for the brief good portion of Volume 2 of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly that is the 2015 Phillies.

The Good

Cole Hamels continues to be, well, Cole Hamels. From early May until his second start in June he had a 6 start streak of at least 7 innings pitched and 2 earned runs or less. He’s the last Phillies starter to register a W in the win column, way back on May 23rd. Yes, we’re nearing a month without a win from a Phillies starter. After his first ever rough start against the Reds he bounced back with a masterful performance on Sunday in Pittsburgh in which he struck out 12 in 7 innings. He took a no decision and the Phils lost 1-0 in extras for the second time in the series. You gotta laugh.

Hamels has a 2.96 ERA, leads the NL in innings pitched (really great job Sandy), is 4th in strikeouts at better than a K an inning, and is also 4th in WAR at 2.8 wins above replacement. We’re a little over a month away from the trade deadline and I think it’s just fantastic that we’re letting Ruben Amaro be the guy who pulls the trigger on the impending Hamels trade. You know, he’s got such a great proven track record of judging prospect talent that we should entrust him with the trade that will need to be a cornerstone of the rebuilding process for these Phillies. He’s done so well since he’s taken over for Pat Gillick, I have phaith.

Next we have the only position player on the team I wouldn’t cut or trade if it were possible. Maikel Franco looks like he should be a ball player for the Phillies at the hot corner for years to come. He’s leading this group of batsmen with a .274 batting average while also leading them in slugging at .530. He has shown some slick fielding chops and will need to hone that craft a bit as he has been prone to some errors that should be avoidable as he gets more seasoned. He hit his 7th home run of the season last night and if you’ve watched him at the plate, boy, he does not get cheated with his swings.

The Bad

Alright, enough of the stuff that doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out when watching. Because trust me, that’s what you’d probably rather do if you were subject to watch 3 hours of abject garbage each and every night. Man, I would love to hear Larry Andersen’s off the record thoughts on this pathetic excuse for a baseball team.

So let’s get this straight, it’s hard to differentiate the bad from the ugly but we’ll start with this entire team. Since the last Phillies related Hitter’s Count post when they were in the midst of an obviously unsustainable offensive outburst, the Phils have gone 5-21. In the 21 losses the Phils are averaging 2.28 runs per game which includes being shut out in 3 of their last 5. During the current 8 game losing streak they’ve been particularly horrendous. In the 8 games they’ve been outscored 51-14, or basically 7 to 2 every night. Yikes, we may have just dipped into the ugly section early, but let’s save that for individual accolades – or whatever the opposite of accolades is.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the horror that is Phillies baseball. The Arizona Diamondbacks lead the NL with 291 runs scored (4.5 per game) and the Brewers are second to last at 50 runs less than the DBacks with 241 (3.6 per game). The Phils, dead last, have scored 41 less than the Brewers! They are at 200 runs on the season or 3.0 runs per game. What else are they last in do you ask? Home runs of course, with 37 on season or .56 a game. The Reds and Dodgers both have more than double the Phils home run total. They’re also last in total bases (by 50 total bags), last in slugging at .347 (next closest is .371) and last in OPS. Man, the Brewers are pretty damn bad as well as they kept the Phillies out of the basement in batting average and on base percentage, but not by much! Here’s a nice little fun fact, the McDonald’s Home Run Payoff winner last night won $800 because the Phillies had not homered in 8 games – the payout accumulates $100 every night the Phils don’t homer. Remember the days when we never saw that go past $100? They’re gone.

The Ugly

Have to draw a line somewhere on this. We’ll get into some ugly, as if what I’ve said already wasn’t.

Here are starter’s lines during this 8 game losing streak.

Cole Hamels vs Reds – 6 IP 5 ER 2 BB 7 Ks 1 home run allowed – Lost 6-4

Aaron Harang vs Reds – 6 IP 7 ER 2 BB 5 Ks 4 home runs allowed – Lost 11-2

Jerome Williams vs Reds – 6 IP 4 ER 1 BB 3 Ks 1 home run allowed – Lost 5-2

Kevin Correia (who?!?) vs Pirates – 5.2 IP 0 ER 1 BB 4 Ks – Lost 1- in 13 innings

Sean O’Sullivan vs Pirates – 6 IP 4 ER 4 BB 1 K – Lost 4-3

Cole Hamels vs Pirates – 7 IP 0 ER 1 BB 12 Ks – Lost 1-0 in 11 innings

Aaron Harang vs Orioles 6 IP 4 ER 2 BB 2 Ks 1 home run allowed – Lost 4-0

Jerome Williams vs Orioles .2 IP 6 ER 2 BB 1 home run allowed / Dustin McGowan 3.1 IP 6 ER 2 BB 4 Ks 5 home runs allowed – Lost 19-3

Yeah, that's right. I listed the first two guys that pitched in the epic debacle that was the 19-3 loss to the Orioles. It was so bad Jeff Francoeur pitched the final two innings. He plays right field.

Even when they pitch well, they fall flat on their face at the plate is the point I’m trying to make here.

Chase Utley, where do we start?  After having a decent two week stretch at the end of May it looks like it could really be time for Chase to hang em up. He raised his average from .099 on May 8th all the way to .207 on June 2nd but since then Chase has 3 hits in his last 12 games and his average has dipped back down to .183. The guy just takes an oh fer every night. It’s depressing, he just is not a Major League Baseball player any more. Sandy and the Phils brass are keeping him in the lineup though! Maybe they want that option to vest, so they can get him another year at $14 million hitting under .200. Who knows? The Phillies certainly don’t.

Freddy Galvis hit .355 in April. He hit .237 in May and is hitting .140 in June. We call this regression to the mean.

Ryan Howard posted a slash of .280/.311/.550 in May as he swatted 6 homers and knocked in 15 runs. In June he’s slashing .174/.224/.304 and has 1 home run in his last 19 games. He has 3 RBIs in June. Three.

Lastly, the Phillies are sitting at 22-44 which projects to 54 wins. Gulp. They have a run differential of -111. The next closest team to them as far as run differential is concerned is Milwaukee at -72. In other words, the Phils are far and away the worst team in Major League Baseball. Staggering.

Okay, I don’t think I can go any further but I believe you all get the idea. Let’s go Phils, huh?

Now for the unique perspective of Mr. Andrew Eisenhart and his 3 paragraph essays -

The Ryan Howard Situation

The Phils are awful.  This we know.  Depending on how you judge success, they have become significantly worse successively over the last 3-6 seasons.  You cannot point to one specific example as the cause of this; there has been a series of events that have led us to where this organization is right now.  In a knowledgeable fan base such as Philadelphia, that sentiment is a fairly widely accepted belief.  However, if you listen to sports radio (Do they even talk about this Phillies anymore?  It’s all Eagles and Sixers draft.), Ryan Howard tends to bear the brunt of a lot of criticism and undoubtedly takes the most blame for where the Phillies are as an organization.  This common feeling can be attributed to two indisputable facts: Howard’s rather large contract and the downfall of his offensive production over the last three seasons. 

Numbers never lie, but they often fail to tell the whole truth.  Ryan Howard will be making a cool $25 million per year through the 2016 season.  Folks tend to see that number and just think, “another overpaid athlete.”  On the surface, this is understandable.  But people should look beyond the surface and realize this is a guy who has a very limited window to maximize his profit potential.  Every time I read anything business related, the underlying theme is always geared around maximizing your profit margins.  Athletes need to do this as well and we shouldn’t criticize them for it.  Rather, like any business, the blame should be directed at the mismanagement that has taken place.   

Howard’s contract is critically regarded as one of the worst contracts in baseball by the “experts.”  On the contrary, I guarantee you the players and their agents hold Ryan Howard and his agent (CAA Sports) in very high regard.  The fans should view Ryan Howard’s contract and think, “Bravo, Ryan, Bravo.”  Why don’t we give him and his agent some credit for negotiating a good deal instead of the blame?  It’s not as if there is a real salary cap in Major League Baseball (See: Yankees, New York).  If the Phillies weren’t the laughing stock of Major League Baseball, would this negative sentiment still ring true?  In 2013, I bought a house for 20% less than the listed price.  I negotiated like a dog pleading for food on a bad day in Bosnia.  We went back and forth several times until we found some middle ground.  In the end, when the sellers agreed, people congratulated me.  Additionally, I felt great about what I had pulled off.  Who wouldn’t?    

This keeping-it-real opinion is brought to you by Chuck Shick.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Game 3 2015 NBA Finals - Warriors vs. Cavaliers Running Diary

Can Lebron pull another rabbit out of the hat tonight in Cleveland?

Improbably, the NBA Finals are tied at one game a piece as the series shifts from Oakland to Cleveland. Lebron James will look to continue to exert his will on a matchup that has become a one-man show. The Hitter's Count is bringing back the running diary gimmick for a pivotal game three after two straight overtime thrillers at Oracle Arena, so this game will probably be a runaway for the Warriors knowing my luck..

The Golden State Warriors and this year's MVP Stephen Curry have been a juggernaut all season. They posted the best offensive and defensive team numbers (according to those efficiency gurus that are so chic these days) which led them to a 67-15 regular season record. They went 39-2 at home and Cleveland handed them just their 4th loss all season (playoffs included) in game 2. Curry suffered through the worst shooting night of his professional career going 5-23 from the field including a putrid 2-15 from beyond the arc. Still, the Warriors are so deep that they stayed in the game with their best player having an off night. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala (the former Sixer who does not start for the Dubs) could all be considered better players than every healthy player on the Cavs aside from Lebron James.

But that's where James comes in. He's why I'm writing this right now. If you haven't been watching this series, you should start tonight. Lebron is in his 12th year in the league. He's won 4 MVPs, this is his 6th Finals appearance, of which he's won 2, and there isn't much of an argument to be made that he's ever played better or bigger than he has in the first two games of this series. To set the record straight I am a Sixers fan, first and foremost, but we all know how bad things have been since Allen Iverson left so I've just tried to latch on to watching history, watching greatness. I guess I understand the Lebron haters, there are plenty, but I'm not with that camp. I want to watch somebody transcendent if I'm not going to see my team win, and there's nobody better to watch on the planet than Lebron James. He's Magic Johnson, crossed with Larry Bird, crossed with Michael Jordan, in Karl Malone's body.*

In game two on Sunday night I finally saw what my version is of Lebron's best game. It came out of necessity. In the first round of these playoffs Cavs' All-Star forward Kevin Love dislocated his shoulder and was lost for the season. Love is a 6 foot 10 rebounding machine who doubles as the best 3 point shooter on the team. This was a big blow. The Cavs sauntered through the rest of the Eastern Conference Playoffs with little resistance even with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving missing games with tendinitis in his knee. Irving was having a terrific first game of the Finals until he went down with a fractured knee cap in the 4th quarter. These injuries put the onus 100% on Lebron James' broad shoulders for game 2 and he came away with the following line: 39 points 16 rebounds and 11 assists. Sure he shot an Iversonesque 11-35 from the field but he absolutely needed to take that many shots. Nobody else on the team is even capable of getting their own shot, aside from a step back 26 footer from JR Smith.

For years I've watched and hoped that James would impose his will on games and series like he has so far in this year's Finals. He's been the best player on the planet for about a decade and often times he has looked passive and wanted to be too much of a facilitator during big games. Now that Love and Irving are out, Lebron has nothing but defenders and rebounders playing along side him so he must be the scorer, the playmaker, and the unquestioned leader of his team and he's done that through two games. In this "pace and space" era of the NBA where teams cut, drive and dish, and constantly try to find open 3s for spot-up shooters the isolation offense has become almost extinct. Except for Cleveland, where the Cavs will get Lebron the ball on the left wing in post up position at least 20 times a game and let him go to work 1 on 1 against which ever defender the Warriors think can slow him down the most. Tonight I'll be doing a running count of isolation plays for Lebron, there will be plenty. Nobody runs offense like this any more in the NBA, but when you have the best player in the world it does seem to make sense to just let him do his thing. 

Perhaps its smoke and mirrors and the Warriors will find their groove in Cleveland. They are without a doubt the better team, but right now they don't have the best player and that's what matters for Cleveland.

Check back later in the day for random thoughts and updates. The game begins at 9 PM.

*** Running Diary Starts Here - Shown In Reverse Chronological Order ***

11:51 PM EST: Well, Steph Curry gave it up after an early double team and even though he had a lot it was too little too late. Remarkably, the Cavaliers take a 2-1 lead in the series. Lebron has the most points in the first 3 games of a finals with 123. That's 41 a game if you're scoring at home.

In the post game interview Lebron responds that Delly is made of steel when asked about the Australian's composition. He refers to the team as gritty. He says he's not sure if he can keep putting up these numbers but I figure he can at this point.

Final score Cavaliers 96 Warriors 91.

What an incredible game. I won't soon forget it. Thanks for enjoying it with me.

11:49 PM EST: Give James 40 as he calmly nails both free throws after a tense inbound. Maybe ball deny Curry here.

11:46 PM EST: Unreal whistle on the inbounds play and the referees are conferring for over 3 minutes. The replay clearly shows it should be Cavs ball after Klay Thompson touched the ball while standing out of bounds. They're not even reviewing it!
Oh, now we have our replay guru on saying "Sometimes you have a brain cramp" and alluded to the refs not knowing you can review in this situation. It is now Cavs ball. Are you kidding me what else can happen? Took them at least 3 minutes to decide to review. What a mockery.

11:43 PM EST: Never a guarantee at the line, James drains 2 to make it a 6 point game. Give him 38 and Curry comes down with a legit YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME 3! Timeout Cavs up 3 with 18.8 to go. This series has delivered 3 gems. If I wasn't typing I'd be speechless. You will have to see this Curry 3, a thing of beauty with a pull up on a near dead sprint around multiple screens to keep them in this game.

11:40 PM EST: To quote Snatch "Of course f**kin, of course." Steph Curry drains a corner 3 off an inbounds play with an inch of daylight to make it. He has now hit 6 3s in the game. The Cavs just struggle to close out these games. 92-88 with 28 seconds to go, yeah, he made it in 2 seconds of game time.

11:39 PM EST: Cavs with back to back ugly turnovers just asking to keep the Dubs in it. WIll still take a borderline miracle without any timeouts down 7 with 30 seconds to go.

11:36 PM EST: Lebron steals the inbounds from Steph Curry. He makes both free throws on the foul that stopped what would have been one of the coolest breakaway dunks in a while.  Curry kiddin me?  

11:35 PM EST: Matthew Dellevadova has 20 points in an NBA Finals game. You gotta be shitting me. Under a minute to play and the Cavs will have to hold off the best 3 point shooters in the game to do it, amazing the Warriors are even in it but after getting it to a 1 possession game the Cavs responded with aplomb.

11:32 PM EST: Curry has found his stroke and keeping his team alive. He nails a 28 footer to get it back down to 5. 

11:28 PM EST: Steph Curry with a serious WTF moment after dribbling behind his back multiple times he throws the worst pass of his life. A behind the back no look to the guy in the front row and boy does Lebron make him pay. James nails a 3 at the other end to put the Cavs up 7 with 105 seconds to play. It's not your ball game, but it's devastating for a team that just erased 16 points of the 17 they needed to at the beginning of the quarter.

11:27 PM EST: Holy shit DELLLLYY!!. He drains a running rumbling bumbling stumbling heave and 1 to erase the 3 from Curry. He's got 18. HE'S GOT 18!!!

11:26 PM EST: We've got a David Lee sighting in the 4th quarter for the Dubs. Dude had 17 points all playoffs and has 8 in the quarter. Curry nails a 3 to cut the lead to 1.

11:25 PM EST: You believe this Pixels movie with Adam Sandler? I don't.

11:22 PM EST: Heart's beating a little faster with each Golden State launch at this point. James with a little pageantry playing up a possible tweaked ankle after a ridiculous alley-oop dunk on the break from Delly. He's at 31-12-8 and the Cavs are up 5 with under 4  to play.

11:20 PM EST: Shumpert misses two free throws in a 3 point game with 5 to go. That can't happen.

11:17 PM EST: Of course mettle had to be tested tonight. It couldn't be that easy for the Cavs. 6 to play in a 3 point game after Curry knifed through the D and drained a sweet reverse kiss off the glass. Where was this all game? Trademark slick behind the back move shook him free at 23 feet.

11:11 PM EST: The vibe has been completely flipped. Lebron misses 1 of 2 at the line and the crowd is deathly silent. They've been punched in the gut. It's 18-5 in the quarter only 4 minutes in. Curry nails a step back 3 to cut it to 4, he's finally showing some MVP form with 10 in the quarter.

11:09 PM EST: The lead is down to 6! and it feels like the isolations have slowed for Lebron. It was working like clockwork through 3, they'll get back to it.

11:04 PM EST: There's the first mini blitz of the game to start the 4th quarter. 3 buckets including a 3 from Iguodala in the corner to quickly make a 17 point deficit only single digits at 72-63. It's about damn time they scored more than 4 in a row. Timeout Cavs.

11:01 PM EST: Lebron is back in the game.

11:00 PM EST: Lebron is not on the floor to start the quarter and Delly just took a 1 footed 3. 

10:52 PM EST: I've lost count of the isos, but if you've seen that video I posted below I could have just made a carbon copy of it. James is dominating like only James can dominate. He's racked up 4 more assists while dropping 13 more points. Back-to-back triple doubles are within reach as the Cavs head into the 4th quarter up 17. We're seeing a virtuoso performance. He capped the quarter off with his 2nd block of the game stuffing Festus Ezeli at the rim. The Cavs are up 72-55 and it would be an all-timer at this point to see the Warriors come back. Feels like we're witnessing an all-timer for Cleveland though.

10:51 PM EST: After another assist from Lebron on a Mozgov dunk to put the Cavs up 20 Steph Curry finally gets a 3 to go. They're needs to be more where that came from.

10:49 PM EST : The lid is off the building as JR Smith drains a 3 assisted by Lebron to put the Cavs up 18! 66-48, this is some incredible basketball being played by the Cavs. 

10:43 PM EST: It's all Cavs with 4:41 to go in the 3rd. Lebron is imposing his will and the Warriors aren't quite self-destructing, but that term is certainly in the conversation. Getting 8 thus far in the quarter from Delly while Curry and Thompson have combined for 7 is tough to take.

James is doing it all I'd say. The Warriors have no pep in their step. They can't seem to get a bucket, or a call, but they are obviously a quick strike team.

Say it Mark

10:41 PM EST: So much action all for the Cavs mid way through the 3rd. Delly! Reigns another 3 off a rocket pass from Lebron out of the post. Curry finally gets a mid-range jumper to fall. But off a turnover Lebron hits a wide open 3 to put the Cavs up 11. The Cavs are playing with that pace the Warriors are looking for on the past few possessions.

10:38 PM EST: Steph Curry hasn't hit a bucket in 28 minutes. James hits a jumper from the wing, Warriors are in heap big trouble if that jumper starts to fall. It was the 12th iso.

10:32 PM EST: Here's a sequence for you. Matthew Delleavedova drains a 3 from the wing while Klay Thompson comes down and barely hits rim on a 3 he released so quick you only saw it clang off the backboard, then off that rebound Delly comes down and hits a floater. Cavs up 10. The Q going wild. Mark Jackson lets us know Delly is "feelin himself". Timeout Dubs. "Next man up" as the Cavs like to say.

10:31 PM EST: James has 13 9, and 3 but is only shooting 6-17. If he gets near a triple double tonight the Dubs are in trouble. 

The second half is underway and James scores on his first touch on a driving lay-up.

10:25 PM EST:  Iguodala leads all Warriors scorers with 10 points. Thompson has 6 on 3-9 and is 0-3 from 3. The bench has 21 of their 37 points. Like to know what Kerr is saying in that locker room. Wonder if he's pulling a story from a Finals game with Michael or Tim? Or if he's in the now? He's got some experience to pull from in that locker room either way. The Warriors are in need of a personality change at half. 

The Cavs give it to Lebron - who is not turning the ball over at a terrible rate with just 2 despite being so ball dominant - and he controls the action to the point that the Warriors can't play their game. The Dubs are just missing shots they normally make is what it comes down to for the most part though. We're in for a dog fight in this second half.

10:14 PM EST: The end of this half has been a defensive battle and Lebron may have gotten hit on his latest foray to the hoop but he spent way too much time bitching about it. Get over it and move on. 15 seconds left in the half - Cavs ball after a timeout - the Warriors somehow will finish the half with 37 points. Of course James finds James Jones with a rifle pass for a 3 ball that he calmly knocks down. 44-37 Cavs at half. Where is the offense Golden State? Where is your game Steph Curry? Time to step up.  You gotta go down swinging at least. He's got 3 points on 1-6 shooting.

10:09 PM EST: Steph Curry has been borderline non existent but the Dubs are just hanging around. He has 3 points while Delly has 5 with under 2 to go in the half. Lebron misses a bunny on what I have as his 10th iso.

10:03 PM EST: Wow after Lebron spends an entire possession dribbling around and finally laying a nice scoop lay-up in Tristan Thompson inadvertently knocks the ball out of the basket just as it got below the rim. Oh well. James scores on a lay-up the next possession.

He's fine with keeping this game in his hands. So's Cleveland.

9:59 PM EST: Shumpert is back in the game and the Warriors are 3-13 from 3. On cue Iman drains a 3 to put the Cavs up 7, guess he's feelin' alright.  

9:56 PM EST: Mark Jackson alludes to Muhammad Ali wearing down George Foreman in reference to what the Cavs bigs are doing to Andrew Bogut and company. Meanwhile Draymond Green hits his first 3 in 15 attempts and the play is getting increasingly physical with the refs letting a lot of contact go. Can't believe they tell Draymond to keep shooting them. Curry has just the 3 points and the Dubs are only down 3. Really long commercial break here.

9:51 PM EST: Curry re-enters the game after sitting the first 4 minutes of the 2nd. Dubs down 3, let's see if he can get them going. 

Draymond Green has his minimum once a game freakout over a foul he clearly committed. Looks like a clown every time.

9:46 PM EST: 7th iso, I skipped one for your benefit. Lebron scores this time on a driving lay-up to the right side from the center of the floor. Next possession sees JR get his first 3 of the night and he's 3-3 from the field. 2 more to go for that not so bold prediction. 31-26 Cavs.
9:43 PM EST: James Jones gets beat back door and commits his 3rd foul. Shumpert has not returned form what looked like a serious arm injury. Cavs are running out of players they ever play. I'm smelling a Shawn Marion sighting!

9:37 PM EST: The first quarter is in the books and the The Lebrons are up 24-20. The Warriors haven't quite hit stride and the Cavs got contributions from Tristan Thompson, 6 points and 7 boards,  and of course scrappy play from Delly and the venerable Mike Miller.

James took 10 shots, but only made three. He must've missed 5 shots in the paint as it isn't jumpers he's missing. They haven't been easy shots but he's missed some he should have made.

Nice commercial for the new Terminator movie starring Arnold of course. Man, I can't wait.

9:31 PM EST: 5th iso. Iguodala with the D this time and James misses a lefty lay-up ugly.

9:30 PM EST: After a nice drive by Curry through the lane that resulted in an assist and easy bucket James Jones hits a 3 and gets fouled. Because of course he does. 4 point play. 22-16 3 minutes left in the 1st.

9:25 PM EST: JR Smith hits his first bucket and Klay Thompson trades a two pointer back with him. 14-10 Cleveland.

And bad news for the Cavs. Iman Shumpert just took a hard screen and looked to crunch something in his arm. The Cavs call timeout and as he's in serious pain. The replay looked ugly.

9:20 PM EST: Curry has a wide open look go in and out and on the ensuing possession Lebron turned the corner after a screen and there was no help as Lebron threw down a dunk and had to duck his head as it hit the backboard. Lotta juice there. JVG insists Bogut should have put James on his ass, I don't disagree. He was just that late he couldn't do it.

9:18 PM EST: 4 isos, this one is "too easy" and off the right block, James took Barnes down low and spun baseline for a lay in. 8-5 Cavs.

Dellavedova is throwing up Dellevedova like floaters - if that's a thing - and got one to fall on this attempt. 10-5 Cavs and Steve Kerr gets an early timeout. Down only 5 less than 5 minutes in seems a bit premature to me. The crowd was about to tear the roof off though. 

9:13 PM EST: This might get tough, 3 Lebron isos. All on the left block. Sticking to the game plane early.

9:12 PM EST: 2 Lebron isos.. Curry knocks in the first 3 he takes. 6-3 Cavs 2 minutes in.

9:11 PM EST: Lebron isolation play number 1 - left block. Blows by Draymond Green and lays it in immediatley.

They show a clip of Lebron bowing to Jim Brown who's sitting courtside just before tip-off. Decent athletes those two.

9:11 PM EST: We're off.

9:09 PM EST: Still haven't tipped. Because of course not. Mama there goes that man - Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy (JVG) and Mike Breen with the call. Jackson can't feel good calling this series having been canned as the head coach of the Dubs on bad terms last year. 

We'll see how much JVG complains tonight, hopefully he can contain himself.

9:03 PM EST: Rascal Flatts singing the National Anthem. I may have gone somebody a bit more rock and roll in Cleveland, but it was an impressive rendition and my wife certainly enjoyed it.

8:52 PM EST: We're listening to Doug Collins keys to the game. Number one is efficient offense in the first quarter. 

My key is:

The Cavs are going to get blitzed at some point in this game, probably more than once. If you've watched Golden State whisk their way through the playoffs it's some breathtaking hoops. The combination of Curry and Thompson is really like nothing any body has ever seen before. Their ability to launch threes with incredible accuracy in rapid succession makes them feel like they're 2 minutes away from flipping a 5 point deficit into a 5 point lead at all times. The Cavs have to limit those runs, which they've done by grinding the game to a halt by calling wheel Lebron all night.** Tonight will be about limiting those runs and somebody besides Lebron coming up clutch if the game is close late. 

I like the Warriors in this game but we're about to find out if Lebron can fulfill some destiny. It should be fun.

8:45 PM EST: Steph Curry has made 77 3s in this postseason. Most made all time.  Just another notch on his belt.

Per certain nefarious websites The Warriors (Dubs for the sake of the rest of this post to save my typing) are 2.5 point favorites with the over set at 196. Have to like the Dubs and the over no? You know if I was in Vegas.

The Cavs just took the floor for warm-ups and the atmosphere is raucous. The Dubs have entered and there is some Philly like boos getting rained. Reigned?

8:15 PM EST: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IFC. 

"This guy's been stoned since the third grade." 

Don't sleep on IFC, you should be up on that channel frequently if you enjoy the classics.

8:04 PM EST: Not so bold prediction number 2 - I got the over on 2.5 3s made by JR Smith tonight.

7:22 PM EST: What do you think Lebron is listening to right now?

5:10 PM EST: 

NBA Finals schedule first four games:

Thursday June 4th in Oakland
Sunday June 7th in Oakland
Tuesday June 9th in Cleveland
Thursday June 11th in Cleveland

Can somebody explain to me why in the world there would be a 2 day rest in Oakland and then a 1 day rest when these teams have to fly across the country to Cleveland? Is Quicken Loans Arena booked for the Monster Truck Jam coming through town Wednesday? Were Ringling Brothers in Oakland Saturday night? The dates of these games may be even more asinine than the time they start. I'm looking at you David Silver.

3:52 PM EST: Not so bold prediction number 1 - The talk of Matthew Dellavedova being able to stop Steph Curry ends tonight.

12:17 PM EST: The game is at 9 PM tonight in Cleveland. I know there's generally East Coast bias for any kind of national event, but do we really need to wait until 9 PM so the West Coast can be home for these games? We're looking at a close to midnight finish on a school night. I'm planning on a large Starbucks around 8, is that grande or venti?

* Jay-Z once rapped "I'm Michael, Magic, and Bird all rolled in one"
 ** Shout out Harley Moyer