Part of this was solid defense by Dallas, but the Thunder just were off tonight. Nothing was hitting and its a testament to this team's overall balance that they were able to stay in this game by the end. They made it interesting by dominating the boards and drawing fouls. Even though they missed many more shots than Dallas (and offensive rebounds are harder to come by), they were able to win the battle of the boards. Westbrook and Durant also showed an incredible ability at drawing fouls. For the playoffs, they are averaging 19 combined free throws a game and they shot 25 tonight. They are also 85% free throw shooters and it was these points from the stripe that helped them keep it close.
I finally got to catch a Cleveland Gladiators game. They are having a very good season, winning games with defense and coaching. Yes, defense & coaching in the Arena Football League, it may surprise some people. In a league when everyone can score 55 points a game, its nice to be able to play good D. They were in control for most of the game. They let up on D in the 4th, but they could afford to seeing as how they had only let up 27 points in 3 quarters (incredible #s for AFL). They are efficient on both offense and defense and decisively win the turnover margin. The 3rd quarter is a key quarter for coaching (come back after halftime) and the Gladiators outscore opponents in the 3rd 102-76. The player I would say was the MVP would be Robert Redd who had 248 all purpose yards, caught 8/10 balls thrown to him, and had 4 Receiving TDs.
The Indians had another interesting game. It was a pitching battle for most of the game with both starters just making a mistake or two each. Homer Bailey pitched an excellent game. He just missed on one pitch which Travis Buck hit to win the game, his 1st homer as an Indian (another new way to win). While the Indians have clinched the series, there is still much to be worried about. Since the absence of Hafner and Sizemore, the offense hasn't truly stepped it up. The Indians on the season average 5 runs a game, but 4.8 since Sizemore got hurt (skewed by a 19-1 blip) and 2.25 runs since Hafner. Santana needs to start getting some hits soon and Choo needs to keep it up, especially since they face Boston, Tampa, and Texas.
The real story is the dominance of Josh Tomlin. He only gave up 3 hits in 7 innings. Statistics suggest he will have a fall back to earth soon. His BABIP is .178 (average is .300). While you can have a better than average BABIP (by being able to induce grounders or to force bad contact), statistics suggest his BABIP is unsustainable. He's very good at forcing bad contact and has great control, but operates on a miniscule margin of error. His stuff isn't great so one pitch slightly off can result in an easy extra base hit. He also has a ridiculous 86% of runners left on base (league average is 70%). Eventually, he will let more runners score.
While stats say Tomlin's hot streak is unsustainable, I am going to ride it out. He is an incredible pitcher with great control and nerves of steel. He may regress, but this isn't a pure fluke because the skills to do this are there. Even when he falls back to earth, he will be a good pitcher. And if he defies the statistics and continues this? He will be nothing like we have ever seen before.