Scott Sumner  

Three contrarian opinions

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1. Chokers are the best people

It's a given that NBA players try as hard as they can in the playoffs. There's a lot at stake, and they all give it their best effort. But things are very different in the regular season. Some teams try really hard, while other teams are simply lazy, depriving their fans of what they deserve.

Because of this inconsistency of effort, in the playoffs one often sees teams with mediocre regular season records dominate other seemingly "better" teams. The teams that lose out despite outstanding regular season records are called "chokers"; although in reality the problem is that they are simply less talented. Even worse, the losing team is mocked despite being better human beings, as they have given their best effort throughout the entire regular season.

When I was young, character still mattered. People were expected to exhibit positive personal characteristics, such as honesty, hard work and dignity. Now we respect "winners". It's OK to enjoy the style of play of winning teams more than losing teams, but we should always respect chokers more than teams that overachieve in the playoffs. The overachievers don't have the personal qualities that are worthy of respect. Chokers are the best people.

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2. It makes no difference whether or not we achieve a nuclear agreement with N. Korea

The US and North Korea are currently engaged in nuclear weapons negotiations. These negotiations are not important. It is important that North Korea give up its nukes, and I very much hope that happens. But these negotiations have no bearing on the question of whether that outcome will occur.

The reason is very simple. North Korea has a long history of not living up to its nuclear weapons agreements. That alone would make any potential agreement of dubious value. But it's even worse. The US has a short history of not living up to its nuclear agreements. Indeed just two days ago the US announced that it would not adhere to the promises it made in an earlier nuclear agreement with Iran. A few months back we announced plans to violate our arms control agreements with Russia.

In the modern world, these sorts of agreements are not credible. Countries sign them, but then go on and do whatever they wish as if the agreement did not exist. I hope North Korea gives up its nukes, but negotiations are not likely to advance that objective.

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3. The US is asking for an even bigger "China shock"

There are lots of pundits that understand politics much better than I do. But most of them lack an understanding of basic economics. For example, how often have you heard this set of views?

a. The boom in Chinese exports created major dislocation in the US economy after China joined the WTO in 2002.

b. This China shock helps to explain the Trump administration's recent efforts to negotiate a better trading relationship with China.

That all sounds plausible at first glance, but only if you don't understand the basics of international trade theory. That's because the specific policy demands of the Trump administration would create an even bigger China shock, more imports from China. US officials are currently pressing China to further open its markets, and more specifically reduce barriers against US exports. When a country liberalizes its trade, becomes more open to imports, it also tends to export more. Thus if Trump's negotiating team is successful, China will export even more goods to the US, creating an even bigger "China shock".

That doesn't mean it's a bad idea, this article argues that China should agree to some of the US demands. But political reporters want to link this effort to populism, the China trade shock, the loss of jobs in the Rust Belt, etc., in a way that is completely unrelated to reality.

If you want a mental image of what the US is trying to do, picture more software from Silicon Valley and Hollywood films going to China, and more washing machines and auto parts coming back to the US. In other words, even more of the same.

Similarly while the administration rhetoric calls for a smaller trade deficits, the specific policies of the administration (massive fiscal deficits and a possible investment surge caused by corporate tax cuts) is likely to boost the size of the trade deficit, by drawing in foreign capital.

There is a silver lining here. Despite the trade impact of Trump's policies, they may actually end up helping Rust Belt workers, by boosting GDP growth. But that's because the plight of the Rust Belt was never primarily about trade, and thus a surge in the trade deficit is unlikely to hurt US workers.




COMMENTS (24 to date)
rtd writes:

“It's OK to enjoy the style of play of winning teams more than losing teams, but we should always respect chokers more than teams that overachieve in the playoffs. The overachievers don't have the personal qualities that are worthy of respect. Chokers are the best people.”
I can’t tell if the above is intended to be taken seriously. I believe that I know what you’re trying to say here (and I don’t think I agree), but please restate in another fashion so that I am certain.

Also, what do fans “deserve” other than a seat they’ve paid for?

Mark Z writes:

I don't think 2 is actually that contrarian; at least, I expect foreign policy analysts of all countries are well aware that an executive agreement (well, technically, the Iran deal is what's called a "political commitment", which is similar) is just a commitment of the administration that makes it, with no guarantee the next one won't scrap it, and so in the long term, isn't that significant.

If one wants these types of agreements to be truly binding and lasting, it would be better to make them bona fide treaties, requiring senate confirmation. Arguably we don't make good enough use of actual treaties these days to resolve international disputes.

IVV writes:

How would increasing GDP growth help Rust Belt workers? What's the jobs they're going to go into?

Or is it assuming that they'll eventually move to where the job growth is?

Scott Sumner writes:

Mark, Good point. What happened to Congress declaring war, enacting treaties and approving tariffs?

IVV, Higher GDP growth means more production of autos, steel, boats, RVs, new houses, and other goods produced in the Midwest.

Philo writes:

Right on 3.: The good done by the corporate tax cuts may well outweigh the bad done by Trumpian protectionism, especially if the latter is mostly rhetoric and there is no actual "trade war."

Chris writes:

#1 isn't contrarian so much as it's overly broad. How many (or few) wins constitute a mediocre record, and therefore a lazy team (e.g., Are this year's Cavaliers a lazy team despite 50 wins)?

How much of a differential of wins between two teams is required for your theory to be operative (e.g., I would assume you don't consider this year's Blazers a lazy team despite being swept by a Pelicans team with one fewer win)?

How do you distinguish a lazy team from a team that took a while to gel and find its true colors (e.g., 2004 Pistons)?

I agree with your strong anti-anti-chokers perspective. Anytime one hears "choker," he should substitute, "team that overachieved in the regular season." However, absent more specifics, I think you're painting with far too broad of a brush with you moral judgments (lazy, absence of hard work, honesty, dignity).

Thomas Sewell writes:

#1 is also affected by unusual play styles.

A team which relies on more unusual strategies will overachieve in the regular season when teams have very little preparation time to spend on them, vs. the playoffs where opponents can focus a concerted effort on understanding how to play against them.

Interestingly, that's the flip side of why Phil Jackson's Bulls/Lakers teams seemed to always overachieve in the playoffs. His/Tex Winter's offensive system was designed to not be counter-able in a playoff environment due to the higher than "normal" number of options on each play. Of course, there was likely also some "saving it for the playoffs" for those teams as well.

For #2 "Indeed just two days ago the US announced that it would not adhere to the promises it made in an earlier nuclear agreement with Iran.", Mark already pointed out that the Obama State department once wrote a letter explicitly saying there wasn't anything signed, not even an executive agreement. It was basically a "we'll lift sanctions as long as the current President repeatedly decides you aren't going after Nukes" type of agreement.

I think a lot of people are going to be looking at whatever the DPRK agreement is and judging it based on how enforceable it seems, just like people judged previous agreements with North Kora and Iran agreement as not very enforceable at the time they were made.

#3 - I hope it all turns out to be much ado about nothing and there is continued (or more) freer trade as a result.

Scott Sumner writes:

Philo, In the long run, the increased deficit will do more harm than the corporate tax bill will do good.

Chris, You asked:

"Are this year's Cavaliers a lazy team despite 50 wins)?"

Yes. (Not necessarily LeBron, however.)

Thomas, Interesting point about Phil Jackson.

Chris writes:

Scott, thanks. Wish you'd elaborate a bit so I had a better sense of how you define your terms as I don't want to be uncharitable.

Given what little you've shared, and my own observations of how the Cavaliers's season unfolded, especially the 20 or so games before the Feb. 8 transactions, and what followed, I'm going to conclude either you're blaming some of the wrong non-LeBron players or you think non-LeBron players are interchangeable.

Robert writes:

Why is it “lazy” rather than “wise” to conserve your energy and health for the playoffs, when wins and losses directly determine your ability to win a championship? Especially when all teams and fans agree that championships are what matter (And the NBA does not give the championship to the team with the best regular season record). Would #1 also apply to the pre-season, when wins matter even less? How about MLB teams that infrequently pitch a 5th or 6th starter knowing their teams will likely lose?

Seems mostly like academic criticism from someone who doesn’t follow the sport enough to appreciate the incentives (or the economics of championships).

Scott writes:

Scott,

As an avid Cavs fan born and raised in Cleveland, the Cavs went through a massive transition mid-season, essentially swapping out nearly half of their team. They are likely just now finding their stride. I've also read playing with/for LeBron can be difficult even for the most agreeable of players.

More relevant to #1, Dr. Henderson once posed the following statement to us in class: You should always try your best. I wish I had the nerve to make a note and not answer the question on the exam as a way of answering the question on the exam, as you shouldn't always try your best. 82 regular season games plus potentially 28 more in the playoffs requires a balancing act if you want to be there come middle of June. That being said, if you want to earn millions of dollars, you should do your best to "earn" those dollars.

Cheers,
Scott

bill writes:

Mark Z's comment provoked some speculation in me. I wonder if Iran actually preferred this result? They signed something that the next President could get out of. Something that 46 Congressman, IIRC, reminded them of in a separate letter. They did this while the rest of the world was united in sanctions against them. Now the rest of the world probably won't unite again behind a sanction regime so Iran can pursue nukes again but also have fewer sanctions?

Floccina writes:

I have long thought that being great at the end of the game might mean that you have held something in reserve.

Hazel Meade writes:

3.
Why would you want to persuade the Trump administration that fewer trade restrictions in China will lead to more imports? This is not likely to make him change his mind that imports are bad. It is likely to make him change his mind that his proposed trade barriers are just a tactic to negotiate for more open markets in China. It might be the case that getting Trump to understand the theory of comparative advantage would be closer to optimal, but getting him to back down on imposing trade restrictions on China in exchange for some concessions might be the best we can hope for.

TMC writes:

#1 I largely agree with you on this, but sometimes not playing your best is strategic. Lebron sets the pace for the Cavs but slowing the pace maybe a good way for him to stretch out the season. He has an incredible number of minutes played in his career and may need to pace himself to be fresh post season.

#2 Only have an analogy - Trump is no more bound by this policy than you would be by a previous professor's promise not to give quizzes on Fridays.

'but negotiations are not likely to advance that objective.' I'd say they are necessary, but not sufficient.

#3 I'm hoping Trump's hostility to free trade is more bargaining than an end game. It has seemed to work with China helping to bring NK to the table, but who knows.

David O'Rear writes:

I keep wondering why protectionists get so angry at China for having factories previously located in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere on their soil exporting to America. Those factories are still owned by those same Japanese, Korean, Hong Kong and Taiwanese companies. They export to the US, just as they did before relocating. But, the price is lower because of lower operating costs and taxes.

Those factories – we’re talking about something on the order of 60% of China’s exports to the US – were never located in the US. Therefore, their major impact on US manufacturing workers is to lower the cost of living.

Since the US has been de-industrializing since the third quarter of 1943 (based on manufacturing production workers as a share of total employment), these China-based producers certainly didn’t cause the 7th decade in a row of falling US manufacturing employment as a share of total employment.

Maybe it’s just populist politics. Or, ignorance.

Robert writes:

The NBA seems more and more like professional wrestling. There are different rules depending on the marketability of the personalities involved. Also, I would not be surprised if PEDs, specifically human growth harmones have been used in order to create historic accomplishments, such as Lance Armstrong. Too much incentive for both the player and the league. The best player is the size of an offensive lineman, plays more than anyone else, and never gets hurt, and his style of play is to push people out of the way. I understand that there are skills involved. In fact, just making it into the NBA is significantly harder than getting into any Ivy League program, if one were just to look at the number. Also, the hours are terrible. Get out of work at 11pm then travel all night to go to the next office.

As nuclear agreements, it seems that sanctions are becoming much more effective, which is basically a military blockage. It seems to me that the biggest lesson from the Iraq war was that the sanctions were more effective than anyone expected. If HSBC had been treated the same way Arthur Andersen was treated after Enron for laundering money for Iran, the nuclear deal with Iran. It seems the big difference is the targeting and confiscation of individual ships, which had a chilling effect on cheating the sanction in N.K. It also seems that the going back on the agreement with Libya was much worse than trying to re-negotiate with Iran, since the Iran deal lacked the legitimacy due to the way it was negotiated. The Iran deal had a lot more in common with prior NK deals.

One interesting thing I find about reactions to the current administration is the line that in theory, theory and practice are the same, and in practice, theory and practice are different. It seems that many economists just assume the invisible hand in negotiations without considering skill or talent. The administration would be justifiably fired if they implemented Smoot Hawley tariffs, which has a low probability of happening due to the incentive of not getting fired. It seems that currency controls are bad for the economy, and I was surprised reading a paper by Robert Mundell about the cases when currency control are advantageous.

Lastly, for point 1, chokers are the best people. It does feel like a Mitt Romney reference based on the current administration and what we are learning about the prior administration.

Joe writes:

#1: The money(Teams, Fans, Advertising Buyers, Consumers...) has decided they like winners more than teams with character. So, it makes sense to conserve energy and save unique strategies/tactics for when winning really matters. While it may not be my personal preference, I respect that money talks...

joe

Seab writes:

The goal is to win championships in professional sports.

I see no problem wtih very good teams underachieving during the regular season. The goal is to make the playoffs. Their fans care more about championships than a win in november.

Lower effort during the season prevents injuries/fatigue. Both very good things to limit if you have a n extra 20-30 games at the end of the year.

Godfree Roberts writes:

"North Korea has a long history of not living up to its nuclear weapons agreements"??.

“After destroying North Korea’s 78 cities and thousands of her villages, and killing countless numbers of her civilians, [General] LeMay remarked, “Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population.” It is now believed that the population north of the imposed 38th Parallel lost nearly a third its population of 8 – 9 million people during the 37-month long “hot” war, 1950 – 1953, perhaps an unprecedented percentage of mortality suffered by one nation due to the belligerance of another.” (quoted in Richard Rhodes, “The General and World War III,” The New Yorker, June 19, 1995, p. 53.)

Let us start with the fact that the Agreed Framework was not an official form of diplomatic treaty and it would be more appropriate to name it a Framework Arrangement (this is also suggested by the word Framework in it), since the word “agreement” by default would create the false impression that it was not a gentleman’s agreement but a ratified treaty.
Then, although the framework was perceived only as an obligation on the part of the DPRK to freeze its nuclear program, in fact Article 2 of the document stated that “the two sides will move towards full normalization of political and economic relations.” According to Article 3, the US had to “provide the DPRK with formal safeguards against the threat of US use of nuclear weapons.” As can be seen, we do not see any guarantees or promise of diplomatic relations.

As far as freezing is concerned, North Korea froze its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel oil supplies and the promise to build two light-water reactors which could not serve as a source of weapons-grade plutonium. The commissioning of the first such reactor was scheduled for 2003, and prior to that, the Americans were to supply the DPRK with 500,000 tons of fuel annually for conventional power plants. To fulfill this task, an international (American-Japanese-South Korean) Organization for the Development of North Korean Energy (KEDO) was specifically created in March 1995.

The very idea of the Agreed Framework seemed to be the best option for resolving the nuclear crisis: North Korea retained the right to peaceful nuclear energy and received the political guarantees necessary for it to integrate into the international community. However, the devil was in the details.
First, the Agreed Framework was never ratified by the US Senate, which was dominated by conservatives. If the DPRK considered the Framework to have been ratified, the United States could renege on the performance of its obligations under legal pretexts, since from a formal point of view, the Arrangement was perceived as a protocol of intentions or a gentlemen’s agreement.
Secondly, the wording of the English text of the Framework could be interpreted in two ways. A phrase like “We shall take all possible measures to …”, “We shall move to …”, “We shall provide guarantees.” did not contain any specific commitments, and because from a formal point of view it was reminiscent of the joke: “We shall search, but we don’t promise to find”. So, the construction of reactors would have been done not by the US, but by a consortium, and Washington would not be directly responsible for the success or failure. This in particular allowed representatives of the conservative right to dismiss accusations that the US had committed any violation of the agreement.

Thirdly, KEDO was organized on the basis of the principle “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Initially, the main responsibility and expenses were supposed to be rested on the shoulders of the RK, while the US and Japan from the very beginning did not intend to invest particularly in this rather expensive enterprise. However, the subsequent financial crisis of 1997 significantly undermined the possibility of South Korea participating, and this was not compensated for by other parties. At the same time, we note that the text of the Framework did not contain a mechanism for settling disputes, the event of the slow construction of reactors, or if they were not built at all. It was assumed that the DPRK would regularly receive fuel during this entire period.

Fourthly, the difficulties experienced by North Korea, in connection with the death of Kim Il Sung and the beginning of “the difficult journey”, led the United States and the Republic of Korea to have certain illusions regarding the impending collapse of the North Korean regime, which made it appear irrational to invest in a “lost cause”. As a result, a year before the reactors were planned to be brought on line, the foundations on the construction were barely completed.

Nevertheless, the DPRK still remained in the crosshairs of nuclear weapon. In June 1998, at the base in North Carolina, the US troops developed plans for the nuclear bombing of the North, including the dropping of nuclear explosion simulators. In October of the same year, one of the two-star American generals publicly admitted the existence of a plan to attack the North and the establishment of a South Korean regime of occupation. This plan was to be activated not only in response to an attack from the North, but also in the event of the “unconditional signs” of a possible attack. However, when the “White Paper” published by the Pentagon in 1998 indicated that victory over the DPRK would require 640 thousand American armed service men from all branches of the armed forces, the hawkish cries fell silent.
A surge of interest in the North’s nuclear program was associated with an interesting incident. At the end of August 1998, the press was flooded with a wave of “satellite intelligence data” suggesting that North Korea was building an unprecedented underground nuclear complex in the town of Kumchang-ni, protected from the attacks of American precision weapons. For a long time both sides had been stirring up passions, but in the spring of 1999, in exchange for a large batch of humanitarian assistance, the North unexpectedly allowed Americans access to this site, which (as the North had frequently claimed) turned out to be an empty cave. Actually, it was at this time that media owned by opponents of the North began to develop a thesis that the nuclear program, if not a bluff, was basically a way of demanding food aid.
On the back of the Pyongyang summit in 2000, the North Korean-American relations also began to improve. Of particular note was the visit to Washington by the second in command in the DPRK hierarchy, Jo Myong-rok, in October 2000, and soon after, between October 22-25, 2000, the US State Secretary Madeleine Albright first visited North Korea.
Negotiations with Kim Jong Il lasted more than five hours, and the result seemed to satisfy both sides. The Americans considered that they had succeeded in taming the Korean regime to a certain extent by achieving the freezing of its missile program, while Kim Jong Il was able to impress Americans as a man with whom they could conduct normal negotiations. They even talked about a DPRK-American Summit and when offering the idea, Albright emphasized that a visit to Pyongyang by the US President could radically change the situation, just as it did when Nixon visited China. However, the visit by the American president to the DPRK did not take place. It was not due to the president’s unwillingness, but changes to the foreign policy situation that required his presence in the Middle East. In addition, etiquette and respect for traditional American allies would require that after visiting Pyongyang the president would also visit Seoul and Tokyo, thus prolonging the entire programme.
The author would like to dwell on the events of the 2000s, since there is one particular factor which is of importance for an understanding of the current situation. Thus the results of Albright’s visit and the signing of the 1994 Agreed Framework suggest that when the US leadership has the political will and desire to solve problems connected to the Korean peninsula, it can resolve them.
Before the US presidential elections in 2000, the North Koreans even reduced the intensity of anti-American rhetoric, but when the Republicans came to power, the hope for dialogue was lost. The neo-conservatives who had come to power were concerned that the process of settlement between the two Koreas might go too quickly and they would lose control of it. Against this background, the supply of heavy fuel oil from the United States to the DPRK became irregular, and the construction of the reactors was effectively frozen. By this time it had become clear that if the reactors were to be built, it would not be in 2003 as originally planned.
In autumn 2001, in the presence of several Asian leaders, Bush referred to Kim Jong Il as a “pygmy.” A few days later, he publicly declared that “Kim Jong-il made him sick,” and “the sinking of the North Korean regime would be one of the priority areas of his policy.” In his annual address to the Congress on January 29, 2002, George Bush said openly: “…Our (…) goal is to hinder regimes which support terrorism, threaten America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes are much quieter after September 11. However, we know their true face. North Korea is a regime armed with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while its people are starving“
This political direction also led to a revision of fuel oil supplies. They were made dependent not on the country complying with the decisions of the Agreed Framework, but on improvements in the human rights situation in the DPRK. The response to the North Korean question when translated from diplomatic language meant “our policy has changed, and we are not responsible for any of the decisions taken when the Democrats were in power.
We should note that all this time the Americans did not accuse the DPRK of violating the Agreed Framework; all such invective was to emerge later, in the context of the second phase of the nuclear crisis. Prior to this time, it is sufficient to compare the text of the agreement with the real facts, in order to understand that it was NOT North Korea which failed to comply with the majority of the points of the Agreed Framework.
Konstantin Asmolov, Ph.D. (Hist.), Leading researcher at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

David R Henderson writes:

@Scott (not Sumner),
More relevant to #1, Dr. Henderson once posed the following statement to us in class: You should always try your best. I wish I had the nerve to make a note and not answer the question on the exam as a way of answering the question on the exam, as you shouldn't always try your best.
Here's what I said: Once you understand the principle of comparing marginal cost to marginal benefit, you realize that the statement "Anything worth doing is worth doing well" is false.

Scott Sumner writes:

Everyone, I understand the argument about conserving energy for the playoffs, but that's not really what's at work in the examples I have in mind. Coaches should manage minutes, but if you are out on the floor you owe it to your fans to play hard. Some players are lazy.

As for the claim that only championships matter, that's so absurd it's hardly worth commenting on.

But I'll comment anyway. If only championships mattered, there would be no reason to even have a regular season.

Mark Z writes:

One could argue fans care more about seeing their team win championships more than seeing them do well in the season (especially if you live in a city as championship-deprived as Cleveland). If playing harder does indeed increase the likelihood of injuries that would hurt your chance of winning in the playoffs, then the optimal level of effort for a good team is less than 100%. You want to play well enough to make to the playoffs, but beyond that point, there'd be a probable tradeoff between how many more season games you win and how many playoff games you win.

This would suggest that, if teams allocate their finite effort to maximize their 'return,' the gap between seasonal effort and playoff effort should increase the better the team is. Bad and mediocre teams have to put all their effort into the season in order to even make it to the playoffs.

All of this of course assumes players and fans alike weight playoff games significantly more than season games.

anon/portly writes:

"Some teams try really hard, while other teams are simply lazy, depriving their fans of what they deserve.

"Because of this inconsistency of effort, in the playoffs one often sees teams with mediocre regular season records dominate other seemingly "better" teams."

Hmmmm....

First of all, how do you define, measure and/or discern this phenomena? How do we identify "team laziness?" Is a disparity or seeming disparity between regular-season and playoff performance proof enough?

Other commentators, as you're probably aware, have different interpretations of the same evidence, such as "matchups" or "experience" or "weaknesses more easily exploited in a 7-game series" or "Lebron James." But set that aside....

Consider the last 6 years, or 87 playoff series. Where "WD" is "win differential" and "PD" is "points differential," here is every playoff series where the WD and PD were both -2 or less for the winning team:


2018 2nd round CLE -9 WD -6.7 PD over TOR 4-0.
2016 4th round CLE -16 WD -4.9 PD over GS 4-3.
2016 2nd round OKC -12 WD -3.2 PD over SA 4-2.
2016 1st round POR -9 WD -3.1 PD over LAC 4-2.
2015 1st round WAS -3 WD -2.1 PD over TOR 4-0.
2014 1st round BRO -4 WD -4.2 PD over TOR 4-3.
2013 2nd round MEM -4 WD -4.9 PD over OKC 4-1.
2013 1st round GS -10 WD -4.1 PD over DEN 4-2.

This year's Cleveland series against Toronto is not something that I would describe as happening "often," at least not recently.

Note that Toronto has been the victim in 3 of these, and Duane Casey's mentor, George Karl, pops up in a 4th. If we go back far enough George becomes not just an example but essentially the topic.

Anyway, I've wasted all this time getting to my real point, which is that if you think Cleveland has been especially "lazy" in some sense this year, maybe you should think again. Over the last 4 years here is Cleveland's regular-season and Eastern Conference playoff W/L records, with point differentials in parentheses:

2017-2018 50-32 (+0.6) 8-3 (+1.5)
2016-2017 51-31 (+2.9) 12-1 (+13.6)
2015-2016 57-25 (+5.5) 12-2 (+12.5)
2014-2015 53-29 (+4.1) 12-2 (+8.8)

That's right, Cleveland has been skating through the regular season and then turning it on in the postseason - at least until this year, when the going has suddenly gotten harder. Not only was Indiana the first EC team to take them to 7 games, game 7 was no blowout, and Cleveland was outscored by 40 points during the series.

I wouldn't describe this year's Cleveland team as "lazy," I'd describe them as "now without Kyrie Irving." With LeBron leading the NBA in minutes played, they still couldn't hang on to the #3 seed, to my mind a mini-disaster since it meant facing Indiana/Toronto/Philadelphia instead of Miami/Boston/(T OR P). (I was wrong about Philadelphia beating Boston, obviously).

Anyway, should we should be all that surprised if Boston beats Cleveland? (I can see arguments both ways).


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