[Thanks to Easy Eis for today's game preview -yfbb]
Ahhh, Cleveland. America's whipping boy. I would say armpit but that's reserved for Detroit. Welcome to The Roast of Cleveland. This afternoon's guests in Joakim Noah's favorite vacation spot are the Chicago Bulls. The subjects of this afternoon's roast are the Cleveland Cavaliers and the city they unfortunately call home. I figured a roast would be appropriate given
Kevin Hart Justin Bieber got roasted a week ago. The Cavs (49-27) are currently sitting three games ahead of the Bulls (46-30) in the Eastern Conference, and this game today could potentially make or break any chance Chicago has of jumbling up the seeding going into the NBA Playoffs. There's not much either team doesn't know about the other already, they don't like us and we sure as hell don't like them. Let's get started.
The Cavs are 8-2 in their last ten and are clicking offensively. They rank 4th overall in the league in offensive efficiency with a rating of 108.1, post an assist ratio of 17% that ranks 10th overall, and again rank 4th overall in true shooting percentage at a clip of 55.8%. They also post a top 10 rebounding rate of 51% but rank in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency (103.9), yet strangely only give up on average 98.4 points per game. They are also one of the last four teams in the league with a home record that includes single digit losses (28-9). It's going to take a complete effort from Chicago on both sides of the ball to get a victory, but its an effort they've demonstrated they're more than capable of giving.
Kyrie Irving's nickname is Uncle Drew. For those unaware, Kyrie got this nickname from a character he played (plays?) in a Pepsi miniseries in which he dresses up as an old man and tricks people on pickup courts into playing against him. Kind of funny how he needs to show off his skills by balling against a bunch of out of shape white guys. But then again, what else would you expect from a guy that gives up thirty points to a player with a torn meniscus? Kevin Love also makes a rather unceremonious attempt to ball with Kyrie, only to be later on outshined by both Nate Robinson and Maya Moore. The funny thing is Love was actually of more use to Kyrie in this instance than he has been on the Cavs all season (or at least against the Bulls, shooting just 26.7% for the season vs. Chicago). Hopefully he has more success for the Lakers next year.
There's a lot of directions you can go when it comes to making LeBron James jokes. Jabs about rings are/were always fun but have become somewhat outdated unless you're comparing him to Jordan (which Bulls fans will always do, and he will always lose said comparison). PED jokes are becoming a fast-growing trend, and I must admit it is pretty funny that a two-week vacation in one of the steroid capitals of the US is what revitalized his season. Unfortunately, this doesn't become legit unless there's concrete proof. A joke about his relationship (or lackthereof) with David Blatt could work but is more of a knock on Blatt than anything. I mean, can you imagine any of the Bulls players doing something as ridiculous as giving Tom Thibodeau a passive-aggressive shove? Do you think the Bulls players even think about so much as touching Thibs? He would tear them apart with his savage old man strength, the same old man strength Nazr Mohammed used to send LeBron flying fifteen feet. I'll just take the high road and go with a flopping joke, as LeBron does more than enough to make fun of himself with statements like this:
"I don't need to flop. I play an aggressive game. I don't flop. I've never been one of those guys."
Followed up with actions like this.
And who could forget this.
Of course, you can't talk about Cleveland without mentioning the laughingstock of the sports world that is the Cleveland Browns. I could talk all about how bad the midwestern equivalent of the Oakland Raiders have been over the past, what, thirty-something years? But let me try to keep it at least somewhat in the present. On April 11th, 2014, a movie entitled Draft Day starring Kevin Costner was released to the chagrin of football fans everywhere. The movie focuses on Kevin Costner attempting to finally lift the Browns out of mediocrity by putting together a solid draft for them. One of the chief subplots of the movie is a player named Bo Callahan, a heisman trophy-winning quarterback unanimously projected to go number one overall. Costner shocks the world by passing on Callahan, and the implication that the Browns know something the rest of the league doesn't (that Callahan is a womanizing douchebag with no real friends) causes his draft stock to tumble. So, despite the fact that Costner essentially threw up an enormous red flag to the Browns and the rest of the NFL saying DO NOT DRAFT A PLAYER LIKE THIS, it only took one incredibly desperate text from Johnny Football to convince Browns GM Ray Farmer to draft him a month later. Farmer himself has a poor history of appropriately dealing with text messages. I'll admit getting professional advice from a semi-fictional move is probably not the best move, but has anything the real Browns have done worked out recently? Now Manziel is in rehab and the organization is apparently 90% done with him. Never change, Brownies, never change. Unless you want to "change" your logo. That works I guess.
Okay, lets get back to basketball. The Bulls have won six of their last eight and finally appear to be getting healthy again (and Kirk being injured has never proven to be a bad thing this season) but of course have had some predictable hiccups along the way. Derrick Rose unfortunately won't be making a heroic return this afternoon, so that's going to leave the Bulls with having to run point through Aaron Brooks and Jimmy Butler. I'm a little concerned that Brooks will get offensively manhandled by Kyrie all game long, so hopefully Thibs will dedicate Butler to guarding him while likely having some combination of Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell deal with LeBron. The big key, however, is going to be rebounds. In both of Cleveland's wins against the Bulls this season, they have won the rebounding margin by over 10 (52 to 42 in October, 54 to 40 in January). In contrast, the one win the Bulls had against Cleveland this season in February saw them win the rebounding battle 47 to 43 while also committing half as many turnovers (Bulls had 8, Cleveland had 16). These are obvious indicators of victory but the the Bulls still find themselves straying away from them with performances of late like this, so its going to be imperative that Thibs stresses their importance throughout the course of the game. A shooting percentage north of 40% would also be nice, but as we unfortunately know is not always a guarantee.
By the way, did you guys know Cleveland once set the river that runs through their proud city on fire? It's true! In fact, since 1868, the Cuyahoga River has been set on fire a ridiculous 13 times. I know Chicago has its own history with fires and putting stuff that shouldn't be there in rivers, but this is still hilarious. A description of the river from a 1968 Kent State University symposium reads, "The surface is covered with the brown oily film observed upstream as far as the Southerly Plant effluent. In addition, large quantities of black heavy oil floating in slicks, sometimes several inches thick, are observed frequently. Debris and trash are commonly caught up in these slicks forming an unsightly floating mess.... The velocity is negligible, and sludge accumulates on the bottom. Animal life does not exist. Only the algae Oscillatoria grows along the piers above the water line. The color changes from gray-brown to rusty brown as the river proceeds downstream." The best part? Citizens were actually in favor of it. They viewed the river pollution as a necessary evil with respect to keeping the industries alive that were revitalizing the city, even after fires such as this one in 1952 caused north of a million dollars in damages. Obviously environmentalists eventually put a stop to this archaic way of thinking, but it just goes to show you how desperate Cleveland is for success: that its citizens will go as far as to bear trudging through their own sludge, filth, and feces in order to obtain it. Clearly their methodology has worked out swimmingly.
This would be an enormous win for the Bulls as the season winds to a close. A win over a conference rival and evening the season series would no doubt be a massive moral boost to a team that seems like it badly needs a kick in the pants. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah have alluded to this team having a switch that flips on for big games and will for the playoffs (even though Pau Gasol claims no such thing exists), so hopefully we'll see a renewed effort today. If the Bulls can limit the spurts of the Cavs offense, win the rebounding battle, and keep their turnovers to a minimum, then they will walk out of Quicken Loans Arena with a victory. Well, that's enough roasting from me. I leave the remainder of the job to the Chicago Bulls.
Disclaimer: Easy Eis is not responsible for any bad sports karma incurred by thoroughly skewering the dumpster fire that is Cleveland and/or its respective sports teams.