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Finals thoughts before Cleveland Cavaliers-Atlanta Hawks Game 4: Bill Livingston

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Basketball and baseball thoughts converge in a comparison or two between the sports before tip-off:

LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James hugs teammate J.R. Smith after defeating the Atlanta Hawks in overtime. Joshua Gunter, Northeast Ohio Media Group Sunday, May 24, 2015. Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio.

1. Major league teams monitor pitch count so closely that the unstated theory behind it is that each pitcher has only so many pitches in his arm, so why push it? No one knows how many, but fewer is better than more.

2. It’s the same with games in the NBA playoffs. The fewer the better. The more you play, the more you court injury.

Attrition by injury has already cast a big pall over the Cavs-Hawks series, what with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Thabo Sefolosha (in an off-court fracas with New York police) and Kyle Korver out.

The Cavs obviously don’t want to go back to Atlanta for Game 5, where Matthew Dellavedova will be greeted with all the enthusiasm of Sherman’s troops or an outbreak of yellow fever.

Golden State had a chance to close out in Houston on Monday night, Steph Curry got head-banged and wasn’t the same when he returned even after passing a concussion protocol test, and now the Warriors are facing a Game 5 and more stress, even though it’s in Oakland.

3. The Cavs are playing at home. It would seem obvious that a fast start might discourage the 0-3 Hawks and make closing out a little easier, although it never is really easy.

4. The other baseball analogy is to the double-play slide at second base and Delly. The slide is OK if it’s in the basepath, but leads to retaliation in various ways if the base runner goes out of his way to hit the shortstop or second baseman.

That’s what Delly is accused of doing by the Hawks.

5. I did see an angle that made it appear that Al Horford’s feet were knocked out from under him by Dellavedova and that he fell on him and slammed him with the elbow then, instead of leaping off the turnbuckle and doing a pro rasslin’ pile driver

6. I also saw an angle that showed Dellavedova being pulled down by Horford. So whatever gravity effects occurred later started with the yank, because Delly’s fall unbalanced Horford.

7. A lot of what’s gone on in the playoffs simply shows how hard it is to referee the game. More pushing, shoving and street crime goes on in rebounding than on corner kicks in the World Cup – and far more frequently, especially if LeBron James is trying threes.

The more games you play, the more you risk injury.

8. Does a 3-0 lead with this supporting cast for James indict the quality of play in the Eastern Conference?

I wouldn’t go that far.

Both the Hawks and the Cavs beat “The Chosen Five,” the Warriors, at home in the regular season. Of course, more preparation time makes the playoffs a whole different animal.

9. The Cavs cannot beat either Western team without Kyrie Irving being on the floor and occasionally exerting more than the Damon Jones Effect as a decoy or one-trick pony. Currently an assistant coach with the Cavs, Jones stood on a board in the corner, waiting to a hit a three off James’ penetration.

10. You can make a convincing theoretical argument than five equals top one superstar and his supporting cast, even in the playoffs, because the opposition doesn’t know who will take the big shot on the “Five.”

But in reality, it doesn’t work that way.

The ability to create one’s own shot is so critical. And it increases in importance when a player who can do that also can make the “pocket pass” to shooters better than anyone in history. (That means LeBron, in case you haven’t been reading these dispatches.)

11. Game 4 sure would be a different feeling if Jeff Teague, one of the “Five,”  had knocked down that open 3-pointer at the buzzer of the overtime third game, wouldn’t it?

12. Everyone knows who will take the last shot for the Cavs.

James will — certainly after he  overruled coach David Blatt in the crucial fourth game victory on his buzzer-beater in Chicago, probably after James was vilified nationally for hitting an open Donyell Marshall in the corner in the Detroit series when the Cavs went to the NBA Finals in 2007.

Even though Marshall was a very effective stretch big and was coming off a six triples game at New Jersey to close out the Nets, even though his three would have won it, even though the game was on the road where overtime favors the home team, the national media members were insistent that James should have taken a game-tying layup.

13. I’ve always thought he made the correct basketball play back then, but I didn’t realize it’s not about basketball as much as it is celebrity and snark.

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Finals thoughts before Cleveland Cavaliers-Atlanta Hawks Game 4: Bill Livingston

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