A damn good day to be a Cleveland sports fan

   The Lindor Bomb--AP Photo/John Minchillo  
When I initially wrote this, it was 7 A.M. in the morning on Tuesday, and I was coming off the high of the Cleveland Cavaliers big win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and the 13-1 pasting the Cleveland Indians put on the Cincinnati Reds. Now, thanks to a busy schedule, it's 1:08 AM, and while hours have passed, I still feel exactly the same way. The Indians, behind Michael Clevinger in his debut start, and thanks to a Francisco Lindor blast, have won three games in a row, and have somewhat righted a very strange ship.

Life is good.

There really was something special about Tuesday, May 17, 2016, and you could feel it the second that you woke up, if you happen to be a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Indians, and have any sort of competitive fire in your blood. There's nothing like game day, and there's nothing like confidence. It's not often, as a Cleveland fan, the latter bleeds into the former.

Perhaps part of that was simply because the Eastern Conference bound Cavs had only played four games in the previous 23-days, leaving fans hungry for the next round, against an inferior team. Perhaps it was because the Indians were coming off 15-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds the prior night, and had the electric Danny Salazar on the bump. Perhaps it was because UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic would be attending both games, bringing home a championship to the championship-starved Cleveland fandom.

Maybe, in the end, it was just because both teams were playing at home, lighting up the plaza between Progressive Field and Quicken Loans arena with tens thousands of fans, donning the Wine and Gold and Red and Blue in a show of sports solidarity. While the Cleveland sports' tradition is often mocked, and even hated by the general sports masses outside Cleveland, there's a richness to it that seems to come out during these combo-games. The city comes alive, and while most of the time the blending of games don't turn into wins, there was something different in the air.

Whatever it was, it felt special, and it turns out the story is hyperbole, and not the statement.

First, the Indians, behind the surging Salazar, took it to the Reds right out of the gate. Once again, Salazar was barely touchable, as the Reds couldn't figure out the young Tribe starter, who's growing into one of the best pitchers in the American League. There's always been something special about Salazar, who routinely touched 100 MPH in his rookie debut in 2013. While many in the media speculated that he would find his way into the bullpen, because of injury history and perceived pitch arsenal, Salazar has methodically tilted his adjective from 'hard-thrower' to pitcher under the tutelage of Mickey Callaway. You see, greatness doesn't live in a bubble, and Salazar, always a worker, took his abundance of talent and learned some things.

In the meantime, the Indians were busy "hitting a grand slam with walks," according to fangraphs scribe and former Indians MLB beat writer, August Fagerstrom. It was only the sixth time in the history of the game in which four consecutive walks took place with the bases loaded.

Like I said, the day was far more hyperbole than any word I can come with, and I haven't even begun talking about the Cavs yet.

While Salazar would ultimately give up a run, as the Cavs were preparing to open the Eastern Conference Finals across the street, they would go on to beat the Reds 13-1, behind Salazar's eight K's, vs. only one walk. Every starter had a hit, and every starter scored a run, except for Francisco Lindor (He went 3-for-6, and earned a pass). Hell, even Lonnie Chisenhall went 3-for-4, allowing all the LonLovers their day in the sun.

Like I said, life was good, as the scene shifted from The Jake to the Q.

As I mentioned yesterday, LeBron James has shifted his game, and the Cavs, into a new direction. While many questioned the Cavs roster throughout the year, through head coaching shifts, passive-aggressive tweets and injuries, LeBron was busy biding his time.

It's clear, now, that the head coaching change that sent David Blatt out of Cleveland, while allowing Tyronn Lue in, was more than likely just an extension of LeBron than anything else. This isn't to say Lue hasn't put his mark on the team, because it's equally clear he has. In the end, however, this is LeBron's team now, for better or for worse.

I should have stopped at better.

Sure, things started off a bit off-center, as so many playoff games have gone this year for Cleveland, as Toronto jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
That didn't last long, as the Cavs Big Three essentially took the game over right from the start. By halftime, the Cavs were up by 22, and the trio of LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were the heart of the matter.
In the end, the Cavs won the game by 31 points, even with the backups in the game during much of the fourth quarter. While Irving led the team in scoring, with 27 points and 5 assists, in only 30 minutes of play, in the end, LeBron left his stamp on the game with perhaps the playoffs signature dunk, up to this point.

He ended the game with 24 points, 6 boards and 4 assists in only 28 minutes, on an incredible 11-for-14 shooting.

The Cavaliers dominated the game after that 7-0 run, and ultimately benched all of the starters in the fourth quarter, allowing them the potential rest they may need to make a serious run at whoever wins the West.

But that would be looking ahead, and honestly, who wants to do that, when today is a damn good day to be a Cleveland fan.

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