Live from Game 1: In the court of the wine-and-gold king

Cleveland — We come to you from Quicken Loans Arena, known locally as the Q. To enter the media door of the Q, you walk within 75 yards of the left-field foul pole at the Indians’ ballpark, which used to be known as the Jake (short for Jacobs Field) but is now, I’m guessing, the Prog (short for Progressive Field, which is the new official name).

If you’re looking for positive signs, that’s a pretty solid one. The only time an Atlanta-based professional team has won a title in one of the major North American sports, half the games were played at the Jake. The Braves lost two of the three, but without Pedro Borbon Jr. — remember him? — saving Game 4 of the 1995 World Series, our Atlanta-based professional teams might be 0-for-ever.

(About Borbon: The lefty reliever hadn’t worked in 19 days but was summoned by Bobby Cox when Mark Wohlers yielded a leadoff homer to Manny Ramirez and a subsequent double to Paul Sorrento leading off the ninth. Borbon struck out Jim Thome, struck out Sandy Alomar Jr. and retired Kenny Lofton on a game-ending liner. The Braves would win the Series three nights later.)

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the Q who’s thinking about Pedro Borbon Jr. The name on everyone’s mind is … well, take a guess. His full-page likeness graced both the front of today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer — not the sports page, but A-1 — and the PD’s eight-page playoff section. His name is Leron Lee.

Just kidding. He’s LeBron James. He’s the best player in the world. He was named league MVP for the first time on Monday, and if you checked a poll on ESPN.com that posed the question, “How many MVP trophies will LeBron win?”, the majority response was, “More than four.”

More from ESPN.com: Of its 10 basketball mavens, not one picked the Hawks to win this series. Not one picked it to last seven games. Only J.A. Adande and Tim Legler see it going six. (Full disclosure: In my own little poll on AJC.com the other day, I cast the first vote. I picked the Cavs in five.) In his exhaustive breakdown, David Thorpe of Scouts Inc. also sees Cavs-Hawks going to Game 6.

This city, as you’d expect, is pumped. We Atlantans moan over the state of our franchises, but Clevelanders have it way worse. For one thing, they have to live in Cleveland. For another, they haven’t seen a pro title since the Browns beat the Colts 27-0 to win the NFL title in 1964. (Gary Collins caught three touchdown passes.) This, everyone here seems to think (including the cab driver who carted esteemed colleague Sekou Smith and myself to our hotel) this is the year.

But first, Game 1. Maybe the nine days’ off will slow the Cavs. Maybe the MVP celebration will dull LeBron. Maybe the Hawks can steal this one. That’s why we’re here — to see if they can.

A gracious GM: Just saw Rick Sund in the hallway. He thanked me for coming and thanked the AJC for sending me. Gee, I remember the days when the Hawks hated the thought of me writing a word about them. I need to rip somebody soon just to prove I haven’t completely lost it.

The voice of the Hawks: Jon Steinberg, a Hawks’ publicist, reports that Steve Holman will be calling his 1,700th consecutive game. Given that he incited civic furor in Miami, I’d say Holman is just coming into his, er, prime.

Some basketball stuff: Mike Woodson said Al Horford will start, which is no great revelation since he started and played 32 minutes on a sprained left ankle in Game 7 on Sunday. (I spoke to Horfy, and he’s in fine spirits. Josh Smith, by way of contrast, seemed quieter than usual. Know what that means? Nothing.)

Woodson also said he plays to start Maurice Evans but is planning to play Marvin Williams around 20 minutes tonight. That’s a fairly big deal, given that the Hawks beat Miami without Marvin playing one second in Game 7.

The commish, again: David Stern, who was in Atlanta for Game 5 of the Hawks-Heat series, is here tonight. He’ll present the MVP trophy to LBJ.

We pause here for a word from our sponsors: Because I hate sitting around ritzy hotel rooms doing nothing, I’ll be doing a live chat Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m. The idea is to discuss this series, but if you want to ask me something about the UEFA Champions League I’d be happy to respond.

Non-self-promotion: Esteemed colleague Sekou Smith is about to go live on NBA TV. Given that he’s the best beat writer in the league, you all should run and watch.

China syndrome: David Stern just said NBA China gets more hits than NBA.com does in the States. Which is pretty amazing, if true. (Stern never tires of talking about his league’s global reach.)

277 comments Add your comment

Brandon

May 5th, 2009
7:26 pm

Time To Rise and Shock The World…Lets Go Hawks!!!

Cuz

May 5th, 2009
7:29 pm

Mark, which are better odds? The Hawks winning this series or World Peace?

Macaroni Tony

May 5th, 2009
7:34 pm

let’s go hawks

leandro

May 5th, 2009
7:37 pm

from ARGENTINA!!!!! lets go hawks!!! joe this is your time to shine!!!!

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
7:42 pm

The Cavs are 11 1/2 point favorites in Game 1. They’re 23-to-1 to win the series.

Mine That Bird was, I believe, 50-1 to win the Ky. Derby.

Cuz

May 5th, 2009
7:49 pm

Mine That Bird, Spirit The Hawk, Mark I think you are on to something. I am calling Vegas and betting my children’s college fund.

JC

May 5th, 2009
7:50 pm

From Honduras!!! Lets go Hawks. Give them The Business.

TheAntiMe

May 5th, 2009
7:53 pm

Wouldn’t it be so freaking cool if, somehow, some way, our basketball Birds can put King MVP and his crew on their royal duffs? Hey, it could happen, in spite of what TNT’s Charles Barkley has to say.

Ken

May 5th, 2009
7:58 pm

“This city, as you’d expect, is pumped. We Atlantans moan over the state of our franchises, but Clevelanders have it way worse. For one thing, they have to live in Cleveland.”

Whatever hater. You know nothing about about living in the greater Cleveland area. To the surprise of many, people choose to live here.

Jesse

May 5th, 2009
8:00 pm

It’s time to shut up and play. If they can play they way they are supposed to this will be a great series…… If not, it’ll be over quick.

TheAntiMe

May 5th, 2009
8:03 pm

Here they go with that LeBron crap. Make me puke!!!

Jeff

May 5th, 2009
8:04 pm

Hawks MUST come out as Enforcers and show the Cavs that we mean Business. When we foul…foul hard. Put LeBron down on his backside when he drives to the bucket. Show the Cavs that there will be NO easy buckets in the paint for LeBron or anyone else for that matter.

D-Whine Disposed

May 5th, 2009
8:08 pm

I still say this Cavs team is nowhere near as good, as a team, as last years Celtics. I think this one gets interesting for sure, and a Hawks series win would not shock me at all.

Go Hawks!!!!!!!

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:09 pm

LeBron just got his MVP trophy. He told the crowd — which is wired — “I know you’ve been sitting in your houses the last nine days waiting to see who we’re going to play, and I’m ready to get on the court myself.”

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:13 pm

A sign above the Q’s floor says: “Welcome to Loudville.”

It is pretty loud. But would you have expected total silence?

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:14 pm

LBJ just did his fling resin-in-the-air thing. Crowd goes nuts.

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:16 pm

LBJ dunks on the first trip.

Cuz

May 5th, 2009
8:18 pm

That Cleveland is really going overboard with the King James thing. Mark I bet if you check, the Gideons put a “King James” version of the bible in your nightstand. Will this overload ever stop?

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:19 pm

Hawks 11-4. Bibby with a trey, then a steal, then a feed to Josh.

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:21 pm

The NBA hyping its big names. That’s new, isn’t it? Hawks by four.

La Jolla Dawg

May 5th, 2009
8:21 pm

The TNT announcers seem genuinely bummed that Atlanta is up right now. Go Hawks!!!

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:22 pm

LeBron makes one of two FTs. Hawks by three.

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:25 pm

Josh jams left-handed off a break. LBJ fumbles away a dunk, dribbles out beyond the arc and hits a trey. Hawks by two, 5:54 remaining in the first. LBJ on the line when play resumes.

The Hawks look fine to me. But Joe passed up a shot in the lane — he has only hoisted one, and that was forced — that turned into a three-second violation.

D.Carter

May 5th, 2009
8:26 pm

BIBBY NEEDS TO WAIT ON THE SCREEN….. AND GET MO EVANS OFF THE FLOOR… HAS HE EVER HEARD OF A PUMP FAKE

TheAntiMe

May 5th, 2009
8:30 pm

David Stern and his boys would be very bummed if Cleveland goes down to the Hawks. What does anyone want to bet that LeBron shoots 88 zillion foul shots tonight?

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:32 pm

Cavs up now. Anderson Varejao tipped in a Mo Williams fast-break miss. Then LBJ stole the ball and Josh tried to foul him, running over ref Bill Kennedy at midcourt in the process.

D.Carter

May 5th, 2009
8:32 pm

jOE NEEDS TO CATCH THE DAMN BALL

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:33 pm

LeBron has 12 of the Cavs’ 19. He’s going to be pretty good one of these days.

D.Carter

May 5th, 2009
8:33 pm

JOE STOOD THERE AND WATCHED VERAJO GET THE TIP

Jeff

May 5th, 2009
8:34 pm

We seem to be playing very timidly on defense in the open court. As if we’re afraid of getting beat off the dribble….consequently the Cavs are hitting their open jump shots.

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:35 pm

Cavs 23-19, Josh on the line for two when play resumes. LBJ just grabbed a loose offensive rebound and hit a 14-footer. He has 14.

Marvin was the first Hawk off the pine. Zaza’s also in. Marvin has already made a turnover.

D.Carter

May 5th, 2009
8:36 pm

LOVE THE BALL SCREEN AND ROLLS ITS CREATING PROBLEMS…. WE MUST HUSTLE FOR LOOSE BALLS

Cuz

May 5th, 2009
8:38 pm

Joe with the steal

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:39 pm

Funny thing they do at the Q: When an opponent is on the line and they’re wanting fans to boo, they flash the Steelers logo on the message board.

D.Carter

May 5th, 2009
8:42 pm

SET HIM A SCREEN THE GUY IS SMALLER AND QUICKER… I WOULD RATHER SEE FLIP TAKE THAT LAST SHOT

TheAntiMe

May 5th, 2009
8:43 pm

What’s up? The Cavs didn’t double Joe on that last possession of the 1st.

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:44 pm

Cavs 25, Hawks 21 after the first quarter. LBJ has 16 and is 5-of-6 from both the line and the field. He also has five rebounds. But no assists!

Josh has taken eight shots, including three jumpers (all three misses). But he’s attacking, which is what he should do. Johnson has four points, three assists.

Not a bad competitive quarter by any standards. A lot better than the blowout stuff we saw against Miami.

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:45 pm

Nice observation, Anti. And if Joe isn’t attracting double-teams, the Hawks aren’t as effective. But the Cavaliers pride themselves on their defense.

Cuz

May 5th, 2009
8:46 pm

Yeah Bradley, there is no South Beach in Cleveland with babes. Just a North Beach with some old women and walkers.

kj

May 5th, 2009
8:47 pm

we are not going to get the foul calls. we gotta get ahead and take command of this game

Cuz

May 5th, 2009
8:47 pm

Easier to keep your mind on the game.

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:47 pm

Marvin’s out of sorts, as you’d expect. He just missed two shots and was called for a charge. Cavs up six points.

brewdawg

May 5th, 2009
8:47 pm

Evening folks. The Hawks are threatening to keep it close here, but the Cavs have gone up 6, and that can turn into 16 in one minute. Still, I’ve been impressed with the start. NOT impressed with the foul calls so far, but that’s another advantage of playing at home.

kj

May 5th, 2009
8:48 pm

if we can keep it close this quarter we have a good shot. normally we are more effective in the second half of games. Can’t let them get away with it. too many missed shots to start the quarter.

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:49 pm

Cavs beginning to separate now. Ben Wallace just dunked off a Mo Williams pass, and now Delonte West makes two FTs after Zaza fouls. Hawks down 10.

D.Carter

May 5th, 2009
8:49 pm

POOR HELPSIDE DEFENSE BY AL HORFORD

kj

May 5th, 2009
8:50 pm

the key is going to be if we can maintain our composure. the cavs are on a little bit of a run right now but if we can withstand it and counterpunch we will be ok

Cuz

May 5th, 2009
8:50 pm

lemme guess, steelers logo on the big screen

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
8:50 pm

Ben Wallace just fouled Marvin — might’ve been clean — and Marvin landed on his bad wrist. He misses one of two FTs. Cavs by nine.

kj

May 5th, 2009
8:51 pm

maarvin went down. he will be out another 4 games now