Sports Today: Cleveland up, Columbus and Cincinnati down

Credit: Joe Robbins

Credit: Joe Robbins

While the Reds continued to languish, the NHL and NBA playoffs rolled on this weekend. We’ll get to Cincinnati’s latest struggles eventually, but first:  

LeBron James scored 32 points while grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out seven assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers outlasted the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Indiana might be better overall than Cleveland, but I doubt the Pacers have the will to beat James four times.

I get tired of everything LeBron does being compared to Michael Jordan, but in this case the shoe fits, so to speak.

This was a Jordan-like performance as he scored early, spent the middle quarters getting others involved then went back to scoring down the stretch to finish off the win.

Meanwhile, the Pacers had some really bad stretches or they could have avoided all the drama. They just had no rhythm in the first half, which put them in a hole for the second time in three days on their home floor.

They climbed out of it again, but this time Indiana folded in the fourth.

The Pacers got on a roll in the third quarter, but a few missed shots seemed to lead them to panic in the fourth and they fell apart on the offensive end.

Meanwhile, Kyle Korver put the pressure on with a couple of big 3s for the Cavs, and LeBron brought it home, 104-100.

RELATED: Enjoy The LeBron James Show as many times as you can before it’s over and worry about the legacy later

Also worth remembering in a game this close: The Cavs got a 70-foot 3 at the end of the first quarter, and the Pacers gave away a possession when Lance Stephenson inexplicably started walking without dribbling.

The East still looks wide open after a week-plus of postseason play.

The two teams least likely to have the mental capacity to beat LeBron are Indiana and Toronto.

Do the Celtics have enough healthy talent? That’s also doubtful, but the Cavs are still highly vulnerable…

In the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets came home riding high after two overtime wins in Washington, but the past week was unkind to them as the Capitals won three in a row. 

I wouldn’t sweat it too much if I were a CBJ fan, though*.

This is probably all just part of the famously underachieving Caps’ plan to inflict maximum pain on their fan base.

Embarrassing start to the postseason? Check.

Dramatic reversal of fortune to raise hopes? Check.

Seems like a perfect time to blow a 3-2 series lead if you ask me.

The Blue Jackets get them on home ice at Nationwide Arena tonight. A win sets up a seventh game in Washington.

Those have been a nightmare for the Capitals, but they can avoid another if they take care of business…

*Of course, CBJ fans are certainly sweating it big time — the team is on the brink of elimination, after all — but that’s all part of the “fun” of playoff hockey! Welcome to the fraternity…

And what about the Cincinnati Reds? 

They are 0-3 since firing in-over-his-head manager Bryan Price.

They were swept in St. Louis under Jim Riggleman for pretty much all the same reasons they were 3-15 under Price.

Not that anyone was expecting a drastic difference since Eugenio Suarez is still out and Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall remain in season-long slumps, but the Reds simply can’t hit and the pitching and defense aren’t nearly good enough to make up for it.

Worse yet: Luis Castillo was underwhelming again. He gave up seven hits and four walks in five innings but limited the damage to only three runs. noted his velocity is down this year, but the young fireballer brushed that off.

"I'm not sure where his velocity was last year for most of the year," Riggleman said. "He might have been a tick higher than he is right now. But everything will be looked at. He looks dominating at times and gets the necessary groundball double play and all that, but for his talent, his repertoire of pitches, it should not be this big a struggle at this time."

“Key offseason acquisition” Kevin Quackenbush slammed the door on the Reds weekend by allowing six runs in the seventh inning Sunday. That’s his second terrible appearance. He’s been good otherwise.

Good news: Scott Schebler returned from a surprisingly troublesome arm injury.

Although he went 1 for 7 on Saturday and Sunday, Schebler could provide some much-needed pop for an offense that strikes out a lot but also doesn’t hit home runs.

Since Suarez was injured two weeks and a day ago, the Reds have scored more than four runs in a game once (their only win).

» COMMENTARY: Firing Price shows winning might actually matter to Reds

Want any hints about what was the breaking point for Price? How about Alex Blandino starting all three games in Suarez’s place at third since Riggleman took over.

He might just be keeping the spot warm until Nick Senzel gets hot in Triple-A, but the 2014 first-round pick went 4 for 11 with an RBI. He had at least one hit in all three games.

In the long run, it certainly makes more sense to see what he can do than to waste at-bats on veterans Cliff Pennington and Phil Gosselin.

They are still wasting starts with Brandon Finnegan, though, so go figure.

What’s perhaps more amazing is that as bad as the Reds have been, they only have two fewer wins than the Marlins and Royals and one less than the White Sox…

Lastly, the Fort Wayne TinCaps brought the Dayton Dragons back to Earth this weekend, snapping their nine-game winning streak and taking two of three games in Indiana.

The 9-5 Dragons are two games back in the Midwest League Eastern Division.

They play at Lansing tonight with Hunter Greene getting his third start.

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