Will Cavs Steal Spotlight From or Take Bullet For Indians?
Jonathan Knight | On 24, Apr 2015
Now that the Cavaliers are back in the playoffs for the first time in five years, the majority of Cleveland’s sports focus will be on LeBron James & Company over the next few weeks (and/or months).
Of course, the Indians are used to being ignored. But the Cavs taking over center stage may not be a bad thing for the Tribe right now. Considering how anemic the Indians have looked thus far, it might actually be beneficial to have Cleveland turn its attention elsewhere while the Indians try to get their act together.
It’s happened before. In the Cavs’ 18 previous trips to the playoffs, the Indians have posted losing records during that overlapping stretch 10 times.
It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes the Cavs wind up stealing the spotlight from some noteworthy Tribe accomplishments, and sometimes they take a bullet for the Tribe, allowing it to sidestep justified scrutiny and criticism.
Here are the most noteworthy examples of both categories:
YEARS WHEN THE CAVS STOLE THE INDIANS’ SPOTLIGHT
It was the Cavs’ first postseason appearance in seven years, and it included a rousing first-round Game Three victory over the mighty Boston Celtics. Amid the World B. Free-centered chaos, the Indians bounced back from a 1-6 start to win five of their next eight, including a thrilling walk-off victory over the defending world-champion Detroit Tigers. It may not sound like much, but a 102-loss team needs all the positive attention it can get.
While the 57-win Cavs were extinguished by Michael Jordan and “The Shot,” the Indians embarked upon their hottest stretch of what would be a monotonous 73-89 season. As the Cavs struggled to contain Jordan, the Tribe won eight of 10 and climbed to within a game of first place. Ironically, on the same afternoon the Cavs were eliminated, the Indians swept Minnesota in a doubleheader, winning the first game on a walk-off homer by Dave Clark.
For the second straight year, the Cavs went the distance in a first-round series before falling, while the Indians quietly climbed up the American League East standings. A Tribe team that would lose 85 games for the season won six of nine – including a three-game sweep of the Twins.
True, the Indians were overshadowed here, but by the end, they seemed to be feeding off each other. After a mediocre 7-7 start, the Indians caught fire as soon as the Cavs began their run to the NBA Finals, climbing from fourth place to first. Eric Wedge’s Tribe wound up going 32-19 during the Cavs’ lengthy postseason journey, beginning a six-game winning streak on the day of the Cavs’ first playoff game – a string that would stretch to 10 wins in 11 games. And the two worlds collided Memorial Day weekend with a buffet of victories over Detroit: the Cavs beat the Pistons twice in Cleveland to tie the Eastern Conference Finals, while the Indians swept the Tigers in a three-game series in Detroit.
YEARS WHEN THE CAVS TOOK THE INDIANS’ BULLET
After one of the Tribe’s hottest starts ever, the minute the playoffs began for the Cavs, the Indians hit the skids. While Michael Jordan averaged 45 points per game in Chicago’s five-game victory, the Indians – who had won 16 of 20 – suddenly lost eight of nine and tumbled from first to fourth place.
At the time, it was the Cavs’ longest foray into the postseason, and served as a huge Band-Aid to cover up the five-week blemish that broke out on the Indians’ proverbial face. The Tribe lost 11 of 12 and 20 of 28 during the Cavs’ run to the conference finals, rebounding to win four straight just as the Cavs ran out of gas in a six-game loss to the Bulls.
You could argue that during the late 1990s, even if the Cavs were in the playoffs, they were still second fiddle to the Tribe. Still, the Cavs’ return to the postseason after a year absence helped turn some attention away from a wobbly stretch during an autopilot season for the Indians. They lost five of seven in the week it took the Indiana Pacers to dust the Cavs in four games.
After missing the playoffs on the final day of the season the year before, expectations were high for the Indians in 2006, and they kept the flames stoked with a 10-7 start. But when LeBron James began his first playoff run, the Indians began stumbling and never really recovered, losing 15 of 27 and dropping six games in the AL Central standings en route to a disappointing 78-84 season.