There is a certain delight that Cleveland sports fans take in beating their rivals from Michigan. Whether it’s Ohio State and Michigan doing battle or the Browns and the Lions cracking helmets, the proximity of the two states leads to a healthy sports hatred between fans.
That’s what’s going to make the fans of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit a bit more sluggish and irritable as the new week kicks off.
The Cavaliers took a 2-0 series lead up to Motown this weekend and they left Detroit with a series sweep after wins on Friday and Sunday nights. Cleveland smashed the young, 8th seeded Pistons Friday, 107-90, and then ended the series and Detroit’s season with a 100-98 win Sunday night against Stan Van Gundy’s young and hungry squad.
Despite the sweep, it wasn’t easy for Cleveland. The Pistons were in every game. Even in Friday’s 17-point loss they trailed by just two at the half. They had leads that the Cavaliers overcame in games 1 and 4 and they never quit despite the long odds they faced.
"It was a pretty competitive series for a sweep," Van Gundy said. "We said this would be a great experience for our guys. It has been, as really the last five or six weeks of the regular season fighting to get in.
"We've played a lot of pressure basketball games. I do think we have to get better."
Detroit will have this experience to guide them and, maybe as importantly, they’ll have about $16 million in salary cap space to get more talented.
As for Cleveland, their ball movement and floor spacing was excellent all series long, and you may be seeing the end result of what was at times a frustrating regular season. Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love didn’t look as comfortable together all year long as they did against Detroit. Irving said he knew it would likely be that way as he mssed the first quarter of the season and then had to re-sync with the other members of the Big Three.
"I knew that the preparation was for the postseason," Irving said. "I knew that during the regular season, there was going to be peaks and valleys, and I really just had to come to grips with it."
The Pistons weren’t the only ones to take a Cleveland punch on the chin this weekend. The Indians, behind very good starting pitching and some timely hitting, swept the Tigers in a weekend series at Comerica Park.
The three game sweep in Detroit was the Indians’ first since 2008, though it did come at the cost of starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who left in the 3rd inning after hurting his hamstring on a play at first base.
Trevor Bauer, who failed to crack the Tribe’s starting rotation coming out of spring training, came on and pitched 3+ innings of good baseball to earn the win.
"Carlos goes down and that's deflating," said Indians Manager Terry Francona. "But Trevor came in and really did a good job. It's easy for us to say, 'Stay ready because you're going to get an opportunity.' But to his credit he has really stayed ready."