Friday, May 15, 2015

2015 NBA Playoffs ~ Round Two vs. Chicago

That's what we felt when the Cavs announced Kevin Love would be out for 4-6 months and the remainder of the 2015 NBA playoffs. During game 4 against Boston, Love was hurt when he got tangled with Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk while chasing a loose ball in the first quarter of the Cavs' closeout win. Olynyk clamped down on Love's arm and pulled so hard that it popped out of the shoulder joint. Watching it on TV, we knew it was bad, but we were hopeful he'd be back for part of the next series or later. In addition to Love's injury, it was announced that starter J.R. Smith would be suspended for the first two games of the Chicago series following a flagrant foul in the same game. Having to face a great Chicago team without two of our starters was heartbreaking. Although our hope was wilted, we had no other choice than to let our hope rest on the shoulders of the rest of this very talented team and their two superstars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. 
Shortly after the Boston series, GV Art & Design came out with this shirt. I immediately knew I had to get my hands on one. Not only for Kevin Love, but for the Love of the Cavs and for the Love of Cleveland. 
 Steve and I have been buying GV attire since they were selling out of their parents’ basement. Their inventory consists of mostly Cavs, Indians, Browns and Ohio State, but they're most noted for their CLEVELAND THAT I LOVE collection.  The Browns 2015 draft pick, Cameron Erving, was even spotted wearing one of their shirts at the Indians game the day after he was drafted! 
Not only are Greg and George Vlosich Lakewood natives, but Greg played basketball at Cleveland State, so we have ties there as well. They are both creative and talented artists and their designs prove it. Anyway, since GV opened their storefront in Lakewood, sales have been off the charts. Between Steve and I, we own 16 of their shirts!! Admittedly, I own 12 of those J Once I found out the Love shirts would be available in store on Friday, I knew I had a limited  amount of time to get my hands on one and showed up at 4:30. Not surprisingly, the store was packed and buzzing with people buying Browns, Cavs and Indians attire. I was able to snatch the last small on the shelves and had my outfit planned for Monday. I was ready for game one. 
Arguably the two best teams in the east, Cleveland and Chicago would have to meet in the conference semi-finals. The Chicago Bulls are no strangers to season-ending injuries. Their All-Star guard Derrick Rose has had a slew of them and has missed a total of 203 games between 2011-14. He even suffered a torn right meniscus earlier this year that led him to miss 20 games. Rose made his return on April 8th, making the Bulls a very scary team. 
 2015 NBA Playoffs – Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
Best of Seven Series vs. Chicago
Game One - May 4, 2015

 Sean and I attended game one together with one of his customers and a co-worker. Four of us? Yep! Every once in a while, Steve will forward me an email with the opportunity to buy tickets for family and friends. For game one, he had the chance to buy 4 SUITE tickets inclusive of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages for $100 apiece. I wasn't interested, but Sean thought it would be a great way to entertain his customer in town from Buffalo, so he bit the bullet and bought all four. I was not going to complain!

Our friends Kevin and Lisa very happily claimed my two tickets and all six of us were going to game one. Very cool. Dinner started at Zocalo Mexican Grill & Tequileria on East 4th Street where we enjoyed tacos and margaritas. 

Soon enough, we made it to our fancy suite just in time for intros and we were filled with a lot of nervous excitement. The suite was nicely appointed with nachos, chips, popcorns, soft pretzels, cookies, water, soda...and most importantly, a bathroom! There were 8 other people in the suite with us who all took advantage of the Cavs "friends and family" discount.

You could have alcohol and other food delivered to the suite for an additional cost, including this $480 drink package. Haha. We passed.

We did buy a 6-pack of Brew Kettle's "All for One" beer which cost a pretty penny, but no more than we pay at the concession stand.

The game started off as a total disaster with the Bulls coming out of the gate with a 21-7 lead early and a 27-15 lead at the end of the 1st quarter. With 8 days of rest, we thought the Cavs may be a little rusty, so we expected they’d come back in the 2nd quarter. The Cavs were able to pull within 5 points at the end of the first half, and although weary, we felt better about their last 12 minutes of play.

The Cavs tied it up at the 8:46 mark of the third (53-53), but the Bulls went on a 15-0 run to take a 68-53 lead with 6:11 left in the quarter. The Bulls continued to score in spurts and the Cavs continued to fight back. Going into the 4th quarter, the Bulls held a 81-70 lead. Kyrie Irving was playing his game; he was playing like a superstar, but we needed LeBron to step it up. Without Love and Smith in the starting line-up, the Cavs were short-handed, but the bigger issue was not being able to stop Rose or his pick-and-roll plays with Pau Gasol. The Cavs continued to make it interesting and the crowd was EXCITED! They pulled to within 2 and 3 points on a few occasions, but they just couldn’t stop Chicago from making their open shots.

In the end, the Cavs fell 99-92 and down 0-1 in the series. Kyrie finished with 30 points, while Iman Shumpert had 22. Sure, LeBron got his stats with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists, but he also had 6 turnovers. He cannot be our third-leading scoring and he needs 25+ points per game for us to win this series. Rose finished with 25, Gasol 21 and Butler 20 to lead the Bulls. As a team, Chicago shot 50 FG% and 56% (3-pt) while the Cavs shot 42 FG% and 27% (3-pt). With J.R. and Love still out for game 2, they'll have to do a lot better than that.

Free gold "All-In" t-shirts and the Cavs fall 99-92


Still 4 down and 12 to go

Game Two – May 6, 2015
Following a disappointing game one, the Cavs had no choice other than to come out with guns blazing and win this game with enthusiasm and energy. Still without Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert had to play as he did in game one and LeBron needed to step up his game. He needed to be aggressive and get to the hole…and not turn the ball over!


I attended game two with my friend Kaila. She and Britt picked me up from work and we headed down to Barrio for their delicious and cheap happy hour (see also round one, game two J)

Well, LeBron listened to my plea. LeBron was the leader of this team during game two and he delivered. In game one, he got to the free throw line two times…twice…1-2…just not enough. He is a beast and he has the physique that draws fouls and gets to the line. In game two he got to the line five times in the first quarter alone. He finished 7-9 FT for the game.
 When I asked them to come out with guns blazing, they heard me loud and clear. The Cavs scored 38 points in the first quarter and never looked back. The Bulls came within 11 points during the 3rd quarter, but the Cavs didn’t let them get too comfortable. Kevin Love even made an appearance and received a standing ovation.
 Overall, things went well for the Cavs. It helped that the Bulls actually missed some shots and following his stellar performance in game one, the Cavs held Derrick Rose to 14 points on 6-20 FG.
The Cavs cannot win a championship with LeBron alone and every series has to be a team effort. In game two, Tristan Thompson was a difference maker with his 12 rebounds while Shumpert scored a steady 15 points with 7 rebounds. James Jones came out of nowhere and scored 17 points on 5-9 from three, while Kyrie scored 21, including 10-12 from the line.

Game three is on Friday in Chicago and the Bulls will want redemption.

Great times and Cavs win 106-91
5 down. 11 to go.

Game Three @ Chicago – May 8, 2015
Steve’s parents were in town for game three, so we had a small gathering at our house. In addition to the usual suspects of Kevin and Lisa, Kaila, her parents and cousin joined us as they were in town for Kaila’s graduation.
 It was a very close game from start to finish with 19 lead changes and 17 ties. With 41.5 seconds left, LeBron James hit two free throws to take a 93-92 lead. A Butler layup and two subsequent FT’s by Gibson gave the Bulls a three point lead with 23.5 seconds. The Cavs had possession and then J.R. Smith hit a dramatic three-pointer to tie the game with 10.8 seconds remaining. We got excited, but we’re smart enough to know that a lot can happen in 10.8 seconds.
We were right.
As time expired, Rose banked in a 3-pointer to finish with 30 points and give Chicago a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
So sad and Cavs fall  99-96.

Still 5 down and 11 to go. 

Game Four @ Chicago – May 10, 2015

Game four fell on Mother’s Day. I joined my mom, Tracy and Alex for our annual Mother’s Day brunch at the Union Club while Steve and his parents enjoyed brunch at Jammy Buggers.
 By game time, Kevin and Lisa had arrived and we were nervous, but ready. It was another must-win game for the Cavs. After the devastating loss on Friday, all Sue really wanted for mother’s day was for the Cavs to bring home a win J
 Albeit an ugly, painful and low-scoring game with some questionable officiating, LeBron hit a jumper as time expired to give the Cavs the win. We hugged, we screamed and we jumped up and down…a lot.

It’s not crazy, it’s just sports.

That phrase couldn’t hold more true to us after these last two games. LeBron finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists while four other players finished in double-figures. Kyrie is clearly limited with an ankle injury, but he has to fight through. They need him in order for the Cavs to continue to compete.

Who needs the bank when LeBron pays in cash? Cavs win 86-84.
6 down. 10 to go.
Game Five – May 12, 2015
That is the magic number. LeBron James had zero turnovers in game five. He was spectacular. His play was reminiscent of a younger LeBron and he again showed why he’s Cleveland’s one and only.

 I met my friends Lisa and Renee for skinny margaritas and tacos at Barrio (see also round one, game two and round two, game two J) I love Barrio and you really cannot beat their happy hour prices!
Kevin met me at the game after work and we were pumped. The first four games of this series have kept us on our toes and our hearts pumping, so we expected nothing less from this game. The drama wasn’t as high as game four, but it was intense.

The Bulls came out with a quick 10 point lead to start the game, but the Cavs fought back to go ahead 25-24 at the end of the first quarter. Chicago kept it close and came within one point during the third, but the Cavs continued to respond.

 Cleveland led by as many as 17 in the 4th quarter, but Chicago made a late charge that had us sweating. Up by only two points with 1:18 remaining, Kyrie finished with four made free throws to seal the deal and the Cavs held on to win. Kyrie fought through his injury and had more lift in his shot, finishing with 25 points.
Let me preface this by saying I love my stats. Working with Cavs Media Relations forced me to analyze box scores more than normal, particularly when you’re analyzing a bad box score for a bad team! The full play-by-play tells a story and this was truly a storied game. LeBron finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, tying Chicago’s own Michael Jordan as the only other player with 51 playoff games with 30+ points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists.
After the game, we took a deep breath and made our way to the Diamond Lounge at the Horseshoe Casino. It seemed only appropriate to toast to the King of Cleveland with a shot of Crown and a Great Lakes Dortmunder.

Steve joined us for a celebratory drink before driving us home.
My favorite fun fact is that LeBron became just the third player in NBA postseason history to record at least 35 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks. He’s the first NBA player to ever do it with no turnovers!!
Like I said, ZERO is the magic number.
The King returns and the Cavs win 106-101
7 down. 9 to go.
Game Six @ Chicago - May 14, 2015
 Game 6 was all about the team. The big three was now the big 1.5 with Kyrie hobbling around on two bum legs. We were pretty nervous at the thought of the Cavs playing without him when he went down at 9:47 left in the first half. It was not awesome. 
 But the TEAM stepped up. There was no dominant performance by LeBron James and Kyrie was out, but Matthew Dellavedova, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and even James Jones stepped up their game. That was awesome
 I have to admit, this series has been detrimental to my everything. My routine is extinct. My diet? Done. I feel like I'm always planning my next road game party or home game happy hour. Poor me. It's been too long and
  Our watch party team is one of superstition. We wear the same shirts, sit in the same seats and drink the same beer. I have so many Cavs shirts, but I have a hard time deviating from the tried and true that I've worn during the past three games. So what if we're twins!
On Thursday night, Kevin and Lisa arrived early enough so we could watch our new theme song.
 Our routine went awry when the power went out in Lakewood! I texted my brother Sean and his was out too. We immediately got on our cell phones and called the four nearest bars. The Winking Lizard Lakewood still had power so we jumped in the car and made our way. We saw others panicking as they peeked onto the streets so we knew we were ahead of the pack.
Both teams came out early and were ready to play. After a high-scoring first quarter, the Cavs held on to a 33-31 lead. After 31 points in the first quarter, the Bulls played deflated and combined to score 42 during the final three quarters of play.
 Delly has been one of my least favorite players all year, but the dude is a tough little sh*t. He hit big shots and he was the Cavs leading scorer with 19 points. Tristen was a beast on the boards, adding 17 rebounds and 13 points to help the Cavaliers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2009.
  Sean arrived for the second half and it was fun to celebrate the win together. We're four of the best Cavs fans there are!
 I've said game six of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals is the best sports experience of my life. The Cavs had won four straight to beat Detroit and were able to clinch the series in Cleveland. The city was insane. The 2007 NBA Finals was totally awesome and it was a Finals team that wasn't Finals worthy, so San Antonio swept and Sean and I watched as the Spurs hoisted the Larry O'Brian trophy. This blog didn't exist in 2007, so here are some pictures of Sean and I at the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Orlando. Cheers to hoping the Cavs perform better this time around! A link to that post can be found here 2009 NBA Playoffs

 I've said it many times and I'll say it again. I'm a born and bred Clevelander and I'm overly proud of where I come from and where I live. Steve shares my passion, but he has also worked for the Cavalier organization since 1995. It's why he moved from Connecticut (via South Carolina) to Cleveland when he was 22. It's where we met and it's where he remains. He works every home game, so we are experiencing these emotions separately, yet together. We love the Cleveland Cavaliers and we love them for different reasons, but one reason that runs through us both is what their success brings to the city of CLEVELAND. 
 We're excited to keep the party going.
Fun. Relief...and so happy to get through this series.
Cavs win BIG 94-73.
8 down. 8 to go.





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