LeBron James predicted the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, featuring himself and new Cav Kevin Love, would take a while to hit their stride. (“A couple of months and maybe a few,” as he put it last month.) He appears to have been correct: After starting 19-20 — with enough ups and downs that at times some commentators prematurely declared the Cavs to have gelled — Cleveland has won eight straight games, including impressive victories against the Clippers, Bulls, Thunder and Trail Blazers.We’re pretty sure that when James made that prediction, he wasn’t running regressions on historical NBA data. That’s because we tried, and we couldn’t find much evidence to back up the conventional wisdom.It makes sense that teams with lots of new players in major roles would get better during the season, as the new teammates get used to playing with one another. There just isn’t much statistical evidence to back up that theory — partly because it’s unusual for a team as good as Cleveland to rely so heavily on new arrivals.To study whether teams like Cleveland gel later in the season than more stable clubs like San Antonio, we looked at the fate of 939 older teams — those that played 82-game seasons back to 1978. To estimate how much of their contribution they were getting from newbies, we divided the total wins above replacement (WAR) of new players by the team total, omitting players who were below replacement value. Then we divided up the first 80 games of each season into 10 eight-game buckets — omitting the last two games because some teams rest starters — and checked how each team did, in each bucket, based on their opponent-adjusted point differential.There wasn’t a meaningful pattern. For instance, teams that peaked earliest, in the first eight games of the season, got an average of 20 percent of their WAR from new players. Teams that peaked in the middle of the season got an average of a little over 25 percent of WAR. But then teams that peaked between Game 49 and Game 80 averaged a contribution of about 21 percent of WAR from newbies.Part of the problem we had is that there haven’t been many teams that relied on new players as much as the Cavs do. They’ve gotten 63 percent of their WAR from new guys. That’s more than all but 48 teams in our data set — a group that doesn’t include James’s first Miami team, which got 57 percent of WAR from new players (the Heat peaked between Games 17 and 24). And most of those teams were lousy clubs, presumably rebuilding with rookies and cheap castoffs. Their average Pythagorean winning percentage was 36.3 percent.We nonetheless zoomed in on teams similar to Cleveland and found there is a small pattern of playing worse early and better at midseason, which fits the conventional wisdom. But it’s likely just noise. The only statistically significant difference was for the final 10-game chunk we studied, in which teams like the Cavs did a lot worse than average — which runs counter to the conventional wisdom of gelling and improving with time playing together.The lesson seems to be that a team starring James, Love and Kyrie Irving playing together for the first time might really need some time to gel, but there aren’t enough teams like the 2014-15 Cavaliers to say that their experience is typical. (One other possible reason it’s hard to detect much of a relationship: Some teams — like the Cavs — get new contributors at the start of the season, while others start playing rookies and midseason trade acquisitions late in seasons that are lost causes.)As is often the case in sports analysis, we have to trade off precision for sample size, and in this case the sample of teams like the Cavs is too small for the stats to beat the intuitive prediction of James.
2014ConnecticutAmerican Ath.34-0135.71Champion 2014Notre DameACC32-0225.61Finalist Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions. 1995ConnecticutBig East29-0135.11Champion 2012BaylorBig 1234-0127.31Champion 1998TennesseeSEC33-0131.11Champion 2002ConnecticutBig East33-0137.01Champion 1992VermontAmerica East29-02521.991st round 1990Louisiana TechAmerican So.29-0135.21Final Four YEARTEAMCONFERENCERECORDAP RANKAVG PT DIFF.SEEDRESULT 1997ConnecticutBig East30-0127.21Elite 8 2015PrincetonIvy30-013*24.9—— 1993VermontAmerica East28-01818.081st round 1998LibertyBig South28-0—18.3161st round 1986TexasSouthwest29-0127.41Champion 2010ConnecticutBig East33-0134.81Champion Last year, the women’s college basketball season culminated with a final between two undefeated teams. This year, the tournament will have at least one undefeated team: Princeton, which finished its regular season 30-0 with a 55-42 win over Penn on Tuesday.Most of the prior 14 teams to enter the tournament undefeated had far better pedigrees. Ten were ranked No. 1 entering the tournament, and eight left the tournament as undefeated champions. The only reason last year’s Notre Dame team didn’t enter the tournament as No. 1 or exit it as undefeated champ was that it faced another undefeated team in the final: UConn.Unlike UConn and Notre Dame last season, which were the clear top-two teams entering the tournament, Princeton won’t even be favored to advance from its region. None of its wins came against teams now ranked in the Top 25. Its conference schedule was a breeze: Penn was the only other Ivy League team with a winning conference record, and just Cornell joined Princeton and Penn with a winning overall record.Princeton’s nonconference schedule wasn’t all that hard, either. After Tuesday’s regular-season finale, senior guard Blake Dietrick said she started thinking 30-0 was possible when the Tigers beat Michigan by 30 in Ann Arbor. Dietrick called the December game “a monumental win for us against a nonconference team.” But Michigan finished 16-14, with a losing record in the Big Ten. Princeton is ranked 13th in the country, behind five teams with five or more losses.Princeton is more similar historically to three undefeated teams in the 1990s that were seeded No. 8 or worse and lost in the first round: Vermont in 1992 and 1993, and 1998 Liberty, which was knocked out by fellow undefeated team Tennessee. But Princeton will probably do better than those three teams did — it likely will be ranked higher in the final pre-tournament AP poll, and it has a greater margin of victory.Finishing in first isn’t the highest-priority goal for Princeton, which mainly wants to become the first Ivy League team since Harvard to win a game in the tournament. “That is No. 1 on our list right now, second is finishing my thesis,” Dietrick said. “It’s the thing I want to do most in the world, most in my life.”Below is each undefeated women team’s record, ranking and seed entering the NCAA tournament, along with how it finished, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info: 2009ConnecticutBig East33-0131.51Champion
2011Wisconsin37.450.0+12.624.11 2012Ohio34.444.1+9.737.51 Source: Sports Reference Jay Wright teams shoot a lot of threes. Since the 2006 NCAA Tournament, when Villanova went to the Elite Eight largely on the strength of Wright’s four-guard lineups, the team has been associated with perimeter offense. So when No. 2-seed Villanova plays No. 3-seed Miami tonight, it’s going to toss bombs. The question, given the team’s season-long shooting slump and its recent hot streak, is how many of them are going to fall.Some years, Wright’s team is very good from deep — last season’s squad made 38.9 percent of its attempts, the second-most for a Wright-coached Nova team. And others Villanova is just a bunch of chuckers — the 2012 team made 31.5 percent of its threes, and four Wildcats shot under 30 percent. But throughout Wright’s decade and a half on the Main Line, the team has dogmatically stuck with its perceived strength and has consistently ranked among the top half of Division I in 3-point attempt rate, or the percentage of field-goal attempts that are threes.This year’s team ranked 24th nationally in 3-point attempt rate, the most of any Big East team. Individually, several Wildcats have taken more than 100 threes a piece. In a lot of ways, this was a culminating season for the Wright-era Wildcats. Just one problem: The team wasn’t very accurate.During non-conference play, 49 percent of the team’s shots were threes, and the Wildcats connected on just 30.9 percent of those attempts. That didn’t get any better during the first month of conference play: 39 percent of Nova’s shots came from deep, and but just 33.5 percent were makes. What helped boost their offensive efficiency ranking, which topped the Big East for all but two weeks of conference play, and why VU could get away with such mediocre shooting and still win 16 games in the conference (and 27 overall) was the squad’s 2-point field goal percentage, which was 55.3 percent throughout league play.In February, a few more threes began to drop — 36 percent — and when Villanova entered March, the team’s offense consisted almost solely of a perimeter barrage. More than 41 percent of its attempts were from beyond the arc, led by Kris Jenkins, a Draymond Green-in-training who, at 6-foot-6, has the size to match up with opposing 4s but is an offensive nightmare because of how he moves around the perimeter. It was helped also by Ryan Arcidiacono, who’s become more and more consistent throughout his four seasons. From March 1, when Villanova played a home game against DePaul, through its annihilation of Iowa last weekend (1.26 points per possession), the team has converted 44.7 percent of its threes.Of the 16 remaining teams in the tournament, VU led the first two rounds in both 3-point percentage (48.9 percent) and differential between its perimeter shooting during the regular season and March Madness. Considering each Sweet 16 squad since the 2011 tournament, only four made a bigger leap in perimeter shooting than Villanova’s 13.8 percentage point improvement from the regular season to the first two rounds. The table below shows the Sweet 16 teams since 2011 with the most drastic improvement in 3-point percentage from the regular season to the first two rounds; of those, only five moved on to the Elite Eight. On the one hand, this is evidence that teams tend not to sustain out-of-character starts, which is obvious. On the other, two teams — 2013 Syracuse and 2012 Louisville — went on to the Final Four. 2012Baylor38.347.5+9.231.02 2014Iowa State35.848.8+13.037.51 2012Louisville31.840.0+8.238.03 YEARSCHOOLREG. SEASONFIRST 2 TOURN. ROUNDSDIFFERENCEREMAINING TOURN. GAMESNO. REMAINING GAMES 2015Xavier35.147.2+12.117.61 2015North Carolina35.852.9+17.161.51 2013Miami (FL)36.244.7+8.530.81 2013Arizona37.1%56.3%+19.233.3%1 2012Xavier35.148.0+12.920.01 On their face, these results are a good reason to disbelieve the Wildcats’ streaky shooting — but the improvement has been steady and recently fueled by crisp ball movement and superb player spatial recognition just as much as it has by sheer coincidence. That’s good, because Villanova will need more than luck against Miami and potentially Kansas (its probable Elite Eight opponent), which are adept at guarding the perimeter and have skilled close-out and ball-screen defenders. 2013Oregon33.348.5+15.235.71 2013Ohio State35.648.5+12.931.62 3-POINT PERCENTAGE 2011Marquette34.943.5+8.612.51 2013La Salle37.746.2+8.539.02 2015UCLA36.851.7+14.923.11 2012South Florida31.640.6+9.013.31 2016Villanova35.148.9+13.8—— 2016Iowa State38.648.810.2—— 2014Virginia36.946.4+9.533.31 2011San Diego State34.945.5+10.631.81 Sweet 16 teams that ran hot through the opening weekend 2013Syracuse33.542.9+9.429.33 2011Ohio State42.356.0+13.737.51
(TMZ screenshot/Kevork S. Djansezian/Getty Images)The mother of NBA free agent Chris Bosh has been arrested for allegedly exploiting a disabled man. The New York Post reported the news Thursday, Dec. 21, and said police had raided the home Frieda Bosh’s famous son built with her on Friday, Dec. 8. Officers had suspected marijuana and narcotics were being sold from the dwelling through a drug ring.Through interviews, cops learned she and her tenant, Johnathan Brown, were taking advantage of a disabled man by only allowing him to live there if he gives them a considerable sum of his disability check so Brown can make rent. Police added the man was also forced to sell cocaine and heroin from the home.Both Bosh and Brown were arrested and charged Tuesday, Dec. 19 with exploitation of a disabled person.Related: Chris Bosh NewsLeBron James to Meet With Heat; Rockets Hot on Chris BoshMiami Heat’s Chris Bosh Robbed of Thousands on His BirthdayWill.i.am, Chris Bosh Want to Make Coding Education, Careers CoolFrieda Bosh has since posted bond. She denied she had anything to do with the drug ring and proclaimed her baller son has been trying to have her evicted, according to TMZ.“This is a home that my son and I built together like 12 years ago and he’s evicting me from my home as we speak,” she said Monday, Dec. 11. “Because he’s evicting me in the last three months, I’ve taken tenants.”
Things That Caught My EyeEli deserves way better than thisEli Manning is the quarterback of the New York Giants, has two Super Bowl victories under his belt and is still somehow poised to become the second banana quarterback on his team. It’s possible that New York will select a quarterback with their second pick in the draft. There have been 31 quarterbacks who threw 25,000 yards or more with a single team and made it to at least one Super Bowl; 23 of them are no longer active, and only seven of them had to sit and watch their team use a first round pick on a quarterback. This will lead to an instant fight for the starter spot; in the past decade 13 quarterbacks were drafted in the top five, and the longest wait those 13 players had to start was nine games. [FiveThirtyEight]Get me the Brad Pitt of Canada on the line, right nowUsing a dataset of about 175,000 contests, curling is now poised to see its own stats revolution. One example of how the numbers are changing the game is that it’s been long held that being down with one hammer in the last end is superior to being on the other side of that. This is a misconception — even though that situation means the curler controls their own destiny, they actually only win 40 percent of the time. [CBC]Ugly weather at the marathonDesiree Linden was the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985 with a time of 2:39:54. That’s the slowest time since 1978 and likely due to the absolutely abysmal weather conditions endured during the race. [FiveThirtyEight]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?Trout can be GOATMike Trout is 7.6 more wins above replacement away from catching Ty Cobb’s record as the greatest position player through age 26 in history. This is hard, but doable; Trout averaged 7.9 WAR per 146 team games over the past three seasons, so all he’s got to do is not slow down. [FiveThirtyEight]The Mets win on the moundThe New York Mets are good again, judging at least by their first few games. This may be because the team is pitching well again, and generally the Mets win or lose by their pitching alone. In 2015 and 2016, when they had a really outstanding pair of seasons, 52 percent of the team’s WAR value was derived from pitching, compared to the league average of 42 percent. [FiveThirtyEight]Sixers are good at winning despite their historical prowess for losingThe Philadelphia 76ers won 37 of their past 48 games, which is pretty ridiculous given where they were just a few years ago when as part of The Process they lost 253 games over a four year period. Indeed, they have a 21 percent chance of making the Finals. Trust the process, it would seem. [ESPN, FiveThirtyEight]Big Number(s)27 percentage pointsLooking at the bottom of extra innings, we can get a true sense of how umpires can be influenced by external factors like “wanting to go the hell home.” Teams in extra innings who are in a position to win get as much as a 27 percentage point increase in the rate of called balls in some regions of the strike zone, while teams in a position to lose can see a 33 percentage point increase in the rate of called strikes in certain parts of the area above the plate. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slack: Geoff Ruins A No No edition All newsletters neil:Curling may finally be having its Moneyball moment | CBC Sportscc @natesilvernatesilver:OH SHIT!!!!galen:so… we never went curling in Jerseynatesilver:THAT CAN BE FIXED AT ANY TIME, GALEN See more NBA predictions Predictions NBA Oh, and don’t forgetEnough locker room talk already We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe
While it might not be as inevitable as, say, the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA title in 2018 (or 2017 or 2015), Tampa’s regular-season dominance suggests that it’s poised to continue this trend. The Bolts scored 103 more goals than they conceded during the regular season; the next best mark was set by the Calgary Flames, who posted a +62 goal differential. The gulf between best and second-best is immense, and it underscores Tampa’s historic regular-season greatness. And indeed, Tampa may be the NHL’s best team since the lockout. LeaguePlayoff Teams per YearFavorite’s Average Championship Probability * Based on a logit regression between per-game scoring differential and championships won for each league.Source: Sports-Reference.com The Stanley Cup playoffs begin today, with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lighting entering as heavy betting favorites. And for good reason: Their regular season resume is impeccable. They earned 128 points by winning 62 games, placing them in a tie with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most regular-season wins in league history.En route to all those wins, the Bolts led the NHL in goals scored, powerplay goals scored, shooting percentage and penalty kill percentage1They finished in basically a three-way tie at the top with the Arizona Coyotes and the Columbus Blue Jackets. and finished third in save percentage. Nikita Kucherov became the first player in more than a decade to register 120 or more points, and Steven Stamkos had the most productive season of his already immensely productive career.Tampa is a balanced juggernaut, and every other team should be very afraid of it.With all that said, it must be noted that regular-season dominance hardly guarantees postseason glory in the NHL. Of the 13 teams that have won the Presidents’ Trophy since the lockout of 2004-05, just two have gone on to lift the Stanley Cup. And of the 10 regular-season winners to earn 120 or more regular-season points in league history, just four have gone on to win professional hockey’s ultimate prize.2Each of those teams played in the 1970s and were called the Montreal Canadiens.Still, NHL favorites3So defined by per-game scoring differential. haven’t had it all that bad since the lockout, especially when compared with the other three major North American men’s leagues. Only NBA favorites have had better championship odds going into the playoffs over the past 13 years. National Basketball Association1636.1% Hockey-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System (SRS), which estimates the strength of every team in the NHL,4Technically speaking, SRS measures a team’s average goal differential after adjusting for strength of schedule. reiterates just how special this Bolts group is. From 2005-06 to 2017-18, just three teams finished the regular season with an SRS better than 1, and no team eclipsed 1.2. The most recent team to do so — the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks — won the Stanley Cup. Tampa finished the 2018-19 regular season with an SRS of 1.21. All signs are pointing to late-spring celebrations on the Gulf Coast.Tampa’s only real concern at the moment is the health of Victor Hedman, the reigning Norris Trophy winner for the top defenseman. The Swede missed Tampa’s final three games with an “upper-body injury.” Hedman has a history of concussions, and “upper-body injury” is often NHL front-office code for concussion. The slick-skating defenseman is Tampa’s fourth-highest scorer, its power-play quarterback and the leader of a rearguard partially responsible for that gaudy goal differential. The Bolts can probably survive a first-round tilt against a slightly better-than-average Blue Jackets team without Hedman, but things might not be as easy against subsequent teams.If there’s a cautionary tale for this iteration of the Bolts, it’s that Red Wings team from 1995-96: Detroit earned the second-most regular-season points in NHL history and boasted two of the league’s best offensive players (Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman) and the league’s reigning Norris Trophy winner (Paul Coffey) and yet failed to advance beyond the Western Conference finals. In the NHL, history is written between April and June, not October and April. Tampa is on top of the hockey world at the moment. But that world could change significantly in a matter of weeks. National Football League1218.7 Major League Baseball8/1021.4 National Hockey League1623.5 Hockey favorites don’t have it too badFor each of the four major North American men’s leagues, playoff field size and average pre-playoff title probability* for favorites, 2006-2018
Redshirt freshman Jincy Dunn skates up the ice while redshirt sophomore Kassidy Sauve watches from the net. Credit: Magee Sprague | For the LanternThe Ohio State women’s hockey team came back from a two-goal deficit for the first time all season after back-to-back goals in the third period tied the St. Cloud State Huskies 2-2 on Saturday at OSU Ice Rink. After five minutes of scoreless overtime, the Buckeyes won the shootout thanks to a goal from junior Dani Sadek and three saves from sophomore goalie Kassidy Sauve.OSU improved its record to 11-15-4 overall and 5-14-4-1 in the WCHA. “I was very proud of the girls,” OSU coach Nadine Muzerall said. “You know, we battled and the puck was literally not bouncing our way. We did everything we possibly could except for finish in the first two periods …They really rallied and did everything right, and then finally were rewarded for it.”St. Cloud State struck first with a point-blank goal from Julia Tylke off of an assist from Hannah Potrykus at 14:09 in the first period. The Huskies went up 2-0 after a power-play goal from Emma Turbyville off of a pass from Kayla Friesen at 10:41 in the second period.Despite dominating in shots with 23 to the Huskies’ 17 in the first and second periods, the Buckeyes were unable to find the net and went into the third down 2-0. At 9:11 in the third period, the scoring drought came to an end when freshman Rebecca Freiburger shot the puck into the top-right corner of the net off of an assist from junior Jessica Dunne to cut the St. Cloud lead in half, 2-1.Freiburger skates with confidence and has become a powerful offensive presence with six goals and eight points in her rookie season with the Buckeyes. “We got a game puck and I gave it to her [Freiburger] after the game because she had that piss and vinegar we’ve been missing to be quite frank,” Muzerall said. “It was nice to have a freshman take that role to elevate the game.”A few minutes later, at 12:03 in the third, OSU’s Live Halvorson and St. Cloud’s Tylke each received a penalty for roughing and sent the teams to four on four. 27 seconds into four-on-four play, Dunne had a slap-shot goal off of an assist from sophomore Maddy Field to tie up the game, 2-2. The score remained tied at the end of regulation and the two teams went into sudden-death overtime. The teams went scoreless through the five minutes of overtime in spite of the Buckeyes taking a risk and pulling the goalie in the final six seconds.“When you have possession of the puck as long as we did, I wasn’t second guessing it,” Muzerall said. “I knew that the girls felt very confident in it, and I asked them after the game and they said, ‘We were all in.’”After overtime, the game was left to be decided by the shootout. Sadek scored on the first attempt for the Buckeyes, and Sauve blocked all three St. Cloud shots with ease to win the shootout. “It was huge,” Sadek said. “I mean, I wish we could have come out with three (points) but it’s better than none …We’ll definitely take this momentum into next weekend, and then the weekend after that when we play North Dakota.”
Ohio State has moved student seating for men’s basketball games to create a more hostile environment for opponents. The team hopes the new setup will rival the atmosphere of the most difficult arenas for opponents in the Big Ten. “Michigan State is very tough, and their student section is always very involved in the game,” senior center Dallas Lauderdale said. And “Purdue is always loud.” Fellow senior Jon Diebler agreed that Michigan State was the toughest arena in the Big Ten but added another school to the list. “Wisconsin is pretty tough to play at,” he said. “They love their sports and they just get extremely loud at games.” OSU has a larger arena and student body than all three of those schools, but the size of the other student sections dwarf that of the Buckeyes. The university allotted 1,400 tickets for students this season. Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State each distribute more than 2,000 tickets to students. Purdue leads the way with 5,000. Despite the disparity in numbers, the seating locations are similar across the schools. “We have a student area which goes from the corner by the visiting bench around behind the basket,” said George Ade, Purdue athletic ticket manager. The 3,000 student seats in that area take up the first 18 rows. The Boilermakers adopted that system six years ago after students expressed a desire to be consolidated near the court, Ade said. Students at Michigan State sit all the way around the court in approximately the first 10 rows, said Casey Nagy, a student ticket-office employee at MSU. Players agree that the location of students makes a difference. Michigan State “students surround that inner part of the court, and it gets pretty crazy there,” Diebler said. “I think it can get them more involved in the game.” Despite advantages of moving OSU students, the numbers might not add up in equal proportion to other Big Ten schools. Students, traditionally the loudest fans, make up more than 20 percent of seating at Michigan State’s Breslin Center and more than 35 percent of seating at Purdue’s Mackey Arena. OSU students will take up slightly more than 7 percent of seats at the Schottenstein Center this season. Comparatively low percentages aside, players hope the change in seating makes it difficult to play the Buckeyes at home. “Having the students behind the benches will make it a little more difficult on opposing teams,” Diebler said.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (left) attempts to beat the defender during a preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers Oct. 21 at the Schottenstein Center. Cleveland won, 104-93.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorWith the acquisition of former All-Star center Andrew Bynum, the return of coach Mike Brown and the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, Cleveland Cavaliers fans had a lot to give them hope.What had looked like a serious playoff contending team is now up for debate.The Cavs are off to a slow start this season, playing to a 4-7 record. They just ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Washington Wizards, 103-96, in overtime Saturday. With so many things going wrong, it is hard to see what is going right.Cleveland’s star player, guard Kyrie Irving, has struggled thus far this season. He is shooting 39.5 percent from the floor, a meager 35.1 percent behind the 3-point arc, while averaging just more than 21 points per game. To some people, these numbers might seem decent but in Cleveland fan’s eyes, Irving is held to a higher standard.Fans now question if the front office was wise in taking forward Anthony Bennett with the top pick in the draft. Bennett does not start, averages 11.7 minutes a game, just more than one point a game and is shooting 14.3 percent from the floor. Not to mention, Bennett missed his first 15 field goal attempts of the season. The possibility of Bennett being sent to the NBA’s Development League exists.It is early in the season, but Mike Brown should be on the hot seat. Brown was successful when he had LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, but has yet to prove he can make a team that has few big names. He struggled with the Los Angeles Lakers and was fired after a 1-4 start in his second season. Who is to say this isn’t a repeat of his coaching disaster last year? Without James, Brown has to find a way to get Cleveland back to the playoffs, or he will be another one-and-done coach.Adding on to the struggles of the ailing Cavs, team chemistry is at an all time low as confrontation has erupted in players-only meetings. Irving has also been confrontational on the sidelines, arguing that Brown should not have taken him out of the game against the Chicago Bulls Nov. 11. The arguments arise out of the Cavs lack of defense in the second half, as they have blown second half leads numerous times this season.There are some positives fans can see through the gloomy fog. Power forward Tristan Thompson has started to break out and heavily contribute to the team. He is averaging 13 points a game and nearly 10 rebounds. Point guard Jarrett Jack brings an exciting burst of energy when he comes off the bench, averaging 9.8 points per game.Although only playing seven games, Bynum has done well to contribute on the defensive side of the ball. For the Cavs to have any hope, Bynum is going to need to start putting up numbers on both sides of the ball. But with Bynum’s health and talks of retirement, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start looking for another big man to play center.The Cavs’ struggles are relevant to their conference though. Just four teams in the Eastern Conference currently hold winning records (Indiana, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta). The season is still young, but a Cavalier playoff push needs to start now, every game counts.
Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedWest Indies stun India in low-scoring thrillerJuly 2, 2017In “Sports”Dhoni not part of T20I squad to face West Indies and AustraliaOctober 26, 2018In “latest news”Will India test their bench strength?July 1, 2017In “Sports” Rishabh Pant attempts a switch hit (Getty Images)If you’re Rishabh Pant, every step you take, every stumping you miss, every run you score, every catch you take and every move you make has the potential to be scrutinised, even more so now with India in their final stretch of World Cup preparation.Pant was handed an opportunity in the fourth ODI after MS Dhoni was rested for the final two games. He showed his boundary-clearing ability during his 24-ball 36 – no worries as far as the batting goes – but Pant, the keeper, struggled to collect the ball cleanly.His two missed stumpings – when Ashton Turner was on 38 and 41 – elicited chants of “Dhoni! Dhoni! Dhoni!” from the Mohali crowd. A cheeky attempt to underarm flick the ball onto the stumps resulted in an overthrow.Earlier, he had missed a more difficult stumping chance via a deflection off Peter Handscomb’s pads when left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav drew the batsman out of the crease. Handscomb was on 105 at that point. He added 12 more to his tally before being dismissed, but Turner made India pay dearly, blasting 84 off 43 balls to tip the chase of 359 Australia’s way.Clearly, it wasn’t his night. Turner announced himself in style, in just his second ODI, to win the match and give Australia World Cup selection headaches. What about Pant, who is also trying to make that flight to the UK?It can be intimidating for a 21-year old, but Pant is now into his third year of international cricket. Having become an IPL star and a Test regular, he must be familiar with such pressure, but there’s no doubt the spotlight will be on his wicketkeeping. However, both Shikhar Dhawan and bowling coach Bharat Arun defended Pant’s wicketkeeping ability.Not too long ago, Dinesh Karthik was India’s finisher and he even said that this version of him relished high-pressure situations. In the past two years in ODIs, Karthik has been unbeaten in seven out of ten matches India have won while chasing. Only Joe Root (nine), Virat Kohli (eight) and Dhoni (eight) have been better in this period.While Karthik has had a fairly extended run since the Champions Trophy – he had played 17 ODI innings – Pant has got only three innings in this period. Yet, he has been deemed good enough to earn a Category A central contract, the the second-most lucrative retainer. The team management is impressed with his six-hitting ability and is prepared to be patient despite his limitations as a wicketkeeper and outfielder.The reason why they’re heavily invested in him is for the six-hitting prowess he brings to the middle order, a factor that could be crucial if Hardik Pandya isn’t available. But now, he’ll return to his home ground with the series on his line. Among the existing options, Vijay Shankar doesn’t bring such raw power: he is more a technically correct batsman who provides a few tight overs with the ball. Can Pant capitalise?Virat Kohli insists the IPL will have no impact on World Cup selection, effectively meaning Wednesday presents Pant one last chance before the World Cup. Karthik has already shown the management what he’s capable of, and by the time Pant was fumbling behind the stumps in Mohali, Karthik was having fun at his good friend and Tamil Nadu team-mate Abhinav Mukund’s wedding. Who’ll have fun at the World Cup: Karthik or Pant? (ESPNCricinfo)