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View From Pluto: Two Cleveland Teams on Very Different Paths to a Championship


There are  not one but two Cleveland sports teams in the midst of championship runs. But most of the attention is on the Cavs, who are now down two-games-to-none to the Golden State Warriors.

Game 3 of the NBA Finals is tonight in Cleveland. WKSU’s Amanda Rabinowitz ask our sports commentator Terry Pluto what happened to the Cavs in Game 2 on Sunday night.

Pluto says generally, a team will play better in the second game because they've had the chance to see what their opponent's strategy is. "And [the Cavs] totally regressed," he says. 

Pluto says Cavs coach Tyronn Lue's post-game press conference was telling. "You know it's bad when he comes out and says, 'Well, we played a good first quarter.'

"There was nothing great about that first quarter other than it was one of the few quarters they actually won. I understand Lue is a rookie coach and he’s trying to look like the surrender flag isn’t getting ready to be posted, but I would have much preferred him to say, ‘We didn’t do much of anything right. We’ve got to get it together and get it together now.’"

No heart?
After Sunday's 33-point loss, many fans and reporters questioned the Cavs' drive and heart.

"I think they’re overwhelmed," Pluto says. "They went 12-2 in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Those teams were even worse than they thought."

Pluto says he never underestimated Golden State, but, "I did not think that after the first two games the Cavs would be outscored by a total of 48 points."

Game 3 strategy?
Pluto says one of the keys to winning Game 3 at home is LeBron James.

"It starts with him.  They need to actually maybe guard somebody once in a while. Their defense has been horrendous. LeBron’s gotten discouraged watching this."

And he says coach Tyronn Lue may have to start using more players from the bench. "He may just have to figure out that 'I’ve got to get some guys out there who wants to play hard and keep this close.'”

A momentum shift
Pluto says tonight's game is a must-win.

"You win one, and then you start to think actually you can do it. Because it’s funny how series shift. Golden State was down 3 games to 1 to Oklahoma City. They haven’t lost a game since.”

Lake Erie Monsters
Credit Wikipedia
The Lake Erie Monsters are 1 win away from the Calder Cup

The other championship contender in town
Meanwhile, the Lake Erie Monsters are just one win away from a Calder Cup -- the American Hockey League title. The Monsters are the minor league affiliate of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets. They've won eight straight games and hold a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Hershey Bears. They can win the title Saturday night at the Q.

“Dan Gilbert’s going to get a title one way or another. He owns them both, the Cavs and the Monsters," Pluto says. 

"I’m hoping they win the Calder Cup. Fans have been going crazy. They’re getting 10,00 to 13,00 fans [each game]; they’ve been loud. It’s just been exciting to see that happen here.

"I’m not a big hockey fan at all, but I was looking at some of the history and they're going for their first title since 1964. The same magic year as the Browns!" Back then, the Monsters were the Cleveland Barons. 

"The cool thing about minor league hockey is, you can take your family to it," Pluto says.

"And if you’re a hockey fan, you’ll be watching the Bears and the Monsters playing and probably within three years, probably about 30 percent of those guys will be the National Hockey League.

"We’re not playing to a purest here, you’re playing to a bunch of Cleveland  fans starving to see somebody win and bring a championship here, finally!"

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