Not a good game, but also not a terrible game. The Cavs didn't play particularly well, but they didn't have one of their offensive melt down games. Don't get me wrong, they didn't look good, but at the same time, it wasn't one of those games where you want get rid of the entire roster and coaching staff (like say... oh I dunno... the Knicks games).
LeBron was held in check. 20 points (5-16 shooting), 6 assists and 5 boards. He got almost half of his points at the stripe (a healthy 9-11) but the two he missed were critical ones late (which is all people are going to remember). James was facing double and triple teams all night (the Pistons were actually doubling Z as well) and was forced to give the ball up.
Fortunately, his teammates stepped up. All the starters scored in double digits; Z had 15 (with some big jumpers down the stretch), Pavlovic had 14, Hughes had 12 and Gooden had 10. For the most part, guys stepped it up and made shots (even Snow hit a key basket or two).
However, just because they made shots, doesn't mean they executed the offense that well. To tell ya the truth, the biggest difference between these two teams is offensive execution. The Pistons got good shots down the stretch while Cavs didn't- it's really that simple. The Pistons fed the hot hand all night, it didn't matter who it was (in the 4th Detroit just dared the Cavs to stop Rasheed Wallace on the low block- they didn't). The Cavs took a 80-78 lead with 3 minutes left but Detroit finished the game with a 9-2 run. Execution execution execution.
This is the part of the recap where I bitch about the minute distribution. Actually, I'm not too upset today; having James log 43 minutes against Detroit is something you expect to see. Brown actually rode the other starters hard as well. Everyone got over 35 minutes, with Pavlovic pushing 40 and Gooden just over. If I have one complaint, it's over Gibson's minutes. 7 minutes overall, but none in the second half (and this is after he got a DNP-CD against Washington two nights ago). The Cavs could've used a pure shooter out there, just to make 'em pay for doubling James so often.
However, it's not like the bench stepped it up. 11 points, 4 assists and 3 boards- combined. It's not quite as bad as their 7 point, 7 board effort against the Heat, but it's not good. The Cavs just might need some kind of bench presence come playoff time. (The lack of bench production isn't so surprising when you think about it. Pavlovic has moved into the starting lineup so there isn't that 'scorer' on the bench. They got one shooter who can't shoot (Marshall), one shooter who never plays (Gibson) and two guys that can't shoot (Snow and Varejao). Are we really surprised that the bench isn't putting up numbers against good teams? Part of me still wishes that Brown had kept giving Shannon Brown minutes a few weeks ago. He might've been able to provide some scoring/offensive energy off the bench. But now it's way too late for that).
Why can't they play this way every night? I know they lost, but for once it doesn't feel like this team is completely hopeless. It was obvious that the Cavs wanted this game and wanted it badly. If they could give this type of effort against the Charlottes, New Yorks and Atlantas of the league (hell, the Miamis) they wouldn't be sitting at the 5 spot right now. The fact is, they didn't play all that great (James certainly didn't) and they had a 2 point lead with 3 minutes to go. All hope is not lost, but they still have a ways to go.
Four game win streak? The Cavs have just for more games left, New Jersey, Atlanta, @Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Three of the four games at home and all against sub-.500 teams. I'd like to see them win these last four and at the very least (cause the 2-seed ain't looking so good) go into the playoffs feeling good about themselves.