Saturday, April 21, 2007

Queasy About the Wizards

You know the feeling. It's the one you had when the Browns were sitting first and goal against Denver late in the 4th quarter of the 1988 AFC Championship, or when the Indians brought in Mesa in the 9th inning of Game 7 against the Marlins, or even last year, at the end of Game 6 against the Pistons, when the ball simply would not go into the hoop.

I'm talking about the queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get when you sense that now is the time when the "Cleveland Thing" is about to kick in, and the wheels are about to come off your dreams of a Super Bowl, World Series or NBA title. I don't usually get that feeling at the start of a playoff series, but the strange and wonderful series of events that resulted in the Cavs vaulting from the fifth seed to the second seed in the East has me looking over my shoulder.

Instead facing Shaq and Wade, the Cavs have drawn a Wizards team that is missing both Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. As Ben Cox pointed out, the Cavs' path to the conference finals is absolutely greased, with Miami, Detroit and Chicago all safely ensconsed on the other side of the bracket. Not only that, but as The Sporting News noted last week, a #2 seed has won four of the last six NBA titles. The Cavs are healthy, they've got playoff experience, they've won 50 games for the second season in a row, and despite their up and down performance over the past month or so, all things considered, they're exactly where they want to be going into the playoffs.

That scares the hell out of me, particularly since they play a team in the first round that they ought to beat like a red headed stepchild. The Cavs are saying all the right things, but you've got to wonder whether, in the back of their minds, they're thinking about their second round opponent. That would be a big mistake. The Wizards remember last year's first round series very well, and would like nothing better than to lay the Cavs out, or at least put a good dent in their hopes to make a playoff run. And that, by the way, is exactly what I think they're going to try to do. My guess is that the Wizards strategy will be to whomp the living snot out of LeBron James, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.

LeBron should be familiar with this strategy. After all, he's a St. V's guy, and like several old St. V's football player pals of mine are fond of saying, "we didn't always win the game, but we always won the fight."

Even though I'm uneasy, I still think the Cavs should sweep this series, but in a nod to how bad they've been at times against the dregs of the NBA, I'll say that the Wizards take one game. If Washington wins more than one, I'm betting that we'll all start to get that familiar queasy feeling again.

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