The Optimist

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Hoha, homeboys and girls! C’est moi – the Optimist – checking in from the Magnificent Mile.

Thanks for joining me as we gird up good and proper for this afternoon’s pivotal Game 4 matchup at the United Center.

Because the best-of-seven showdown stands at 2-1, this afternoon’s game is “pivotal” – one of three intensity levels a playoff series can reach after Game 2: Pivotal, Critical or Must-Win.

For example, Game 3 was pivotal for the Cavaliers, but critical for the Bulls (bordering on must-win).

With Chicago winning on Thursday, Game 4 is still pivotal for Cleveland (bordering on critical). It’s definitely still critical for the Bulls. If Chicago should tie the series on Sunday afternoon (not bloody likely), that would render Game 5 critical for both teams because it would make Game 6 a must-win for one of them.

Are you still with me?

The Wine and Gold fell victim to Chicago’s pick-and-roll offense on Thursday night, allowing Chicago’s backcourt to slice and dice precisely – carving up Cavaliers defenders of all shapes and sizes. Cleveland got another superhuman performance from Numeral 23, but it wasn’t enough as the Cavaliers dropped their first First Round game in two years.

No one said this job against the Bulls was going to be easy, my feral little friends. But the Cavaliers have a dirty job to do and, by week’s end, I expect Joakim Noah and his Bulls brought to justice.

Yes, he and his little buddies, Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, had solid outings in Game 3. But the Playoffs are an organic, living, malleable beast. Things change from game-to-game, from day-to-day.

Some of you diligent readers might be wondering: Where’s my “Fear the Beard!” photo?! Gimme my Kimbo Slice or my Charlton Heston!”

Well here’s the deal: Today we are rolling out a new feature for those of our furry friends who chose to support the Cavaliers by going a different path. These are “Profiles in Courage.”

Our inaugural profile is a character that is well-known in this column – Director of Graphic Design, Mark “Podes” Podolak.

Unlike many of us, Podes has chosen the (sanctioned) Playoff Mustache™. On one hand, he’s secretly always wanted to. On the other, his wife insists that he’ll be lucky – very lucky – to sleep on the couch. Most likely, he’ll have to sleep in the car in the garage.

Cultivating a Playoff Mustache takes, as our friends south of the border would say, bolas de acero. But that’s exactly what Podes has. Those and a firm belief that the Cavaliers will be World Champs when it’s over.

Is he being ridiculous?    Sure.   Ridiculous like a fox.

So before you fans start peppering my Mailbox, trippin’ over Thursday – please step back, count to 10-Mississippi, and checketh thyself before thou wrecekth thyself.

Remain calm, all is well.

In fact, because Game 4 is pivotal … because Chicagoans chanted “CLEVELAND SUCKS!” on Thursday … and because I can see a slight glimmer of doubt in some of your eyes – I’ve decided to break out the heavy artillery.

That’s right, Windy City-folk, I’m calling for a Guaranteed Victory in your house in Game 4. Guaranteed!

We Cavaliers are going into a hostile United Center, brandishing our still-nappy Playoff Beards™ (or Mustaches™), and our Guaranteed Win. It’s going to be 48 minutes of gut-check, bare-knuckle, smash-mouth basketball.

Come hell or high-water, the Cavaliers will do whatever it takes to leave Chicago with a Game 4 win. And may God have mercy on our souls!

The reigning MVP takes the floor on Sunday afternoon at a 4.4, which, as you can see by the Meter below, is well above “dyspeptic” – somewhere in the neighborhood of “seething.”

That’s not good for the Bulls – who got two-and-a-half quarters of a break in Game 3 and still allowed 39. On Sunday, it’s time for a good old-fashioned eruption from the Chosen One.

Does that mean his supporting cast won’t contribute? Of course not! The Diesel borders on a double-double with 14 points and eight boards. J.J. Hickson gets his biggest playoff run as a Cavalier – adding 11 points and three blocks.

Even Derrick Rose, Chicago’s budding superstar, has a prolific afternoon – notching 33 points and eight assists.

But on Sunday, nothing can stop the force majeure we locals call “TheBron.”

The Cavaliers don’t truly catch their breath until he nets his 51st point – reminding Bulls fans of those Sundays when Michael would torment opponents like Cleveland. (Only the other way around.)

When it’s all said and done, the Cavaliers take the commanding 3-1 lead in pivotal Game 4 – 112-101 – with the current and future MVP finishing with 52 points, 11 assists, 8 boards, three blocks and a pair of steals in what goes down as one of the Herculean performances in his already-brilliant career.

That’s how Joe Namath and I see this one shaking out – otherwise I wouldn’t have guaranteed it. (I respect you people too much.)

Peace be with you, Cavalier fans.

Once again, there are 14 victories between Sunday morning and the night that TheBron makes out with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. You meatheads can do your part by remembering
to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Shine on,
The Opimist