Monday, May 21, 2007

Detroit 79, Cleveland 76

This is going to be a long series. I'm loving this; these teams know each other, they're familiar with everyone on the court and they dislike each other. Every possession mattered (when the winning team only scores 79 points, you better believe every possession counts) and every loose ball was fought for.

LeBron didn't score very much, but he was strong elsewhere. We're going to hear about this for a couple days, but I don't particularly mind. Yes, is 10 points too little? Of course. But if Donyell Marshall hits his wide open 3 with 5 seconds to, no one is talking about LeBron's lack of scoring (instead we'd be hearing about a Jason Kidd type performance and we'd be seeing replays of his rebounds, assists, steals and blocks). LeBron finished with a 10-11-9 stat line, which is at once both encouraging and discouraging- it's great that he's playing a complete game, but 10 points ain't gonna cut it. Somehow LeBron ended the game with zero free throw attempts. I'm not sure how that worked out, but if I'm Mike Brown I am livid. Was LeBron overly aggressive? No. But he was hacked most of the night and there was not a whistle to be heard. Hell, Rip Hamilton tried to intentionally foul LeBron on a break away, followed by Billups hacking the crap out of him and yet they called the ball off of LeBron. Seriously? I thought the NBA wanted star power and treated LeBron with kid gloves?

Free throws (and lack thereof) killed the Cavs. They were just 11-17 (64%) while the Pistons shot an impressive 12-17. Pavlovic missed the two he took, Hughes was 5-7 and Snow and Varejao were each 1-2. Pavlovic, Hughes and James all could've gotten more freebies, though this was a rough game and you probably could give Detroit an extra trip (or two) to the stripe.

The Cavs are going to have to switch up Hughes and Pavlovic on defense. I love Pavs and he works his ass off, but he can't stay with Hamilton all night. Hughes is quicker than Sasha and would be a better fit for guarding Rip. And I think Pavlovic can do just as well against Billups as Hughes did, mostly because the Cavs are really pressuring Chauncey and making him get rid of the ball (one-on-one Billups is too strong for Hughes. If it ever comes to that, Pavlovic could body him up much more effectively). Hamilton led all scorers with 24 points on 11-21 shooting.

Z led the Cavaliers in scoring and rebounds (22 and 13). It was great to see Z have a big game, as he struggled in the playoffs last year (though he played well against Detroit in the regular season). Ilgauskas should be able to have his way with Webber for most of the series; C-Webb does have the size or athletic ability to really challenge Z on the block. Hopefully the Cavs can exploit this matchup throughout the series.

About that last play.... A lot of people are going to have a problem with Marshall getting the last shot. I can understand the frustration and I sympathize to a degree... but I really didn't have a problem with it; Marshall got a good look from a spot he was comfortable with, it wasn't a bad shot. However, the replay shows that LeBron could've (and should've?) had a clear shot at the rim; Rasheed didn't rotate quick enough and James probably could've gotten off a decent looking layup. However, Marshall was wiiiiiiiiide open. That shot falls and the Cavs win that game (IF they hold on Detroit's possession) and everyone is talking about a LBJ triple double Game 1 upset.

My only beef with that last play is the fact that Z wasn't on the court. This makes absolutely no sense at all. You need two points, your big man has been hitting shots all game, he's the best offensive rebounder in the NBA (at least tip man) and you have him on the bench? I'm not saying Z would've made a difference, but I see no reason why a guy who crashes the boards and can hit open J's is on the bench when you need two points.

Eric Snow and Larry Hughes shouldn't be sharing court time. Hughes wasn't too bad (4-13 shooting) but unlike previous games, I thought he mostly took good shots. As for Snow, at least he tries. He tried to attack the hoop and the Pistons' D but he missed a few layups (they were tough ones, but still...) and got his shot blocked/didn't get a whistle. Teams leave Larry open all game and they blatantly double LeBron with Snow's man. Neither of these two are completely useless, but having them out there together is.

Whatever you're doing at halftime, stop it. The Cavs came out flat in the third period and Detroit rattled off a 7-0 run to take a one point lead. In the first half, the Cavs had always held a slim lead with the Pistons playing catchup. The Cavs had trouble in the third against the Nets and this trend is beginning to trouble me. They wasted a great first half by coming out unprepared to start the second half. Maybe Brown gives terrible speeches, I dunno. But it's time to try something different.

and finally...

Should we be encouraged or discouraged? Encouraged: the Cavs shot 37% from the floor, 64% from the stripe, 1-10 from 3 point range and LeBron scored just 10 points and didn't get to the a single time and yet the Cavs just lost by 3 in Detroit. Discouraged: Z had 22 points, Billups was shut down (7 TO's), Webber was in foul trouble (and was useless on defense), Detroit's bench was a non-factor, the Cavs grabbed 18 offensive boards (and out rebounded the Pistons 49-41) and yet they still lost. I dunno, both strains have good points and bad. Myself? I'm somewhat encouraged. LeBron didn't score, Hughes and Pavs didn't shoot well and the Cavs had a chance to steal a game with one shot a the end. Was it a great game? Lord no. But it wasn't a bad one either. If the Cavs give that kind of defensive pressure every game, they'll give themselves a very good chance of winning this series.


Graham said...

I thought it was a demoralizing loss, but I'm not on the team so it doesn't matter. They had so many chances to win this game but Detroit came through when it counted.

The differences as I see it is simple: Pistons hit big shots down the stretch with Billups and Wallace drilling 3's, and the Cavs couldn't hit big shots with Z and Wallace missing big. The Cavs can't shoot and its bound to catch up with them.

Couple other things:

-Brown doesn't make the proper adjustment during halftime, and the other coach usually does which is why we look like a JV team in the 3rd quarter.

-Kinda weird how we say Larry didn't shoot that bad when he goes 4-13. That's terrible but we're all used to it.

-That was a bad decision by LeBron because he easily would've tied it. Had Marshall made it, it would've been a great decision. But the fact is he didn't and LeBron passed up a beautiful opportunity. I'm not knocking him, but good and bad decisions are decided by the outcome. I also would rather have Gibson (or Jones) in the game than Marshall. Marshall had one big game but a million lousy ones.

I just hope the Cavs are as optimistic as you are Ben, because I feel terrible about this one.

The Other Ben said...

While I hate the fact LeBron passes up a gimme, I agree with Ben's logic in the last paragraph. This shit still pisses me off: "It shows how much we've grown," Marshall said. "Last year in Game 1, we got beat by 20 or so in the same arena. Today, it came down to the last shot."
Quotes like this are absolutely ridiculous. Last year is over. This is no longer a damn growing period. They had a GREAT chance to win this game yet Browns halftime anti-coaching and players not showing up - everyone besides Z, are to blame. This game was a typical example of how the cavs lost this game a lot more than detroit won it. Does anyone seriously think detroit will play that terrible again? Highly unlikely unless of course Brown somehow shuts down Billups again. Im thinking Flip might figure out how to get him involved. Also whats up with these lineups. Detroit opens a run in the 3rd and you have Boobie and Snow out at the same time. This is bad as the aforementioned Snow + Hughes combo. What is that supposed to accomlish?! Holding a great team under 80 doesnt mean a thing if you cant score 80 yourself. Ugh. I have discussed this team ad nausem and their lack of focus and emotion is trying. Im not posting again until this series is over. (meaning Ill be completely ho hum if they lose or amazed/happy/confused/manical/delirious if they win)

Erik said...

What worries me is that this is going to become a recurring theme. The Cavs are probably going to be in every game in this series at some point in the fourth quarter. But, as Graham points out, the Pistons will hit big shots while the Cavs will probably miss their share of big shots/free throws.

It's unavoidable: Two or three other Cavs are going to have to have big series because Detroit is going to focus the brunt of their suffocating defense on LeBron. I'll go so far as to say LeBron won't have a single 30-point game in this series. If he does, it will be in the 31-32 range.

The Pistons have thrown down the gauntlet. They simply will not let LeBron beat them by scoring, but they'll let him pass all day. The burden is on the other four guys to make shots, something the Pistons are betting won't happen.

Last night, it worked for Detroit. If the Cavs are to have any chance in this series, they have to make that strategy backfire.

Ben said...

They have to address this 3rd quarter problem. I don't know what he's doing or how they're preparing the guys, but something needs to be tweaked. It wasn't as bad as it's been, but Detroit came out with a 7-0 run and got their confidence/swagger back.

Did the Cavs fight back and not give up? Yes and that's a good sign. But they can't have these lapses anymore.

I really don't have a problem with the last play (besides having Z on the bench).

As for Larry, I don't particularly care how he shoots (percentage-wise), I just want him to take good shots. I'm not going to be expecting 7-12 type games, I just want him to attempt mid-range jumpers in the flow of the offense (at least when Snow is left wide open he gets as close to the rim as possible).

I guess the reason I'm optimistic is that the Cavs didn't have a monster game from LeBron and they still had a wide open shot to win it, in Detroit. Larry, Pavs and LeBron all shot poorly and they led for most of the game.

Does it suck that they lost? Sure. But a loss doesn't really hurt until Game 3.

Ben said...

Z has played pretty well against the Pistons all year, averaging 14 and 8. He should be able to exploit Webber (and Wallace to a degree) all series long (Ben Wallace was the guy who gave Z a lot of trouble). He should also get a steady stream of open jumpers due to their constant doubling of LBJ.

Billups has played poorly against the Cavs all season. Brown and co are more worried about Billups going off and getting the crowd and his teammates involved than they are about Rip Hamilton. Hamilton is pretty one dimensional (though he's gotten better passing off of curls) where Billups makes the whole thing go. Billups is shooting 33% and averaging 4.5 TOs against the Cavaliers this. Brown's defense is the reason for this.

All I know is that a couple breaks here or there (LBJ gets some FTAs or the refs count Larry's FT they blew off or if some of those lucky bounces/loose balls didn't end up in Chauncey's hands behind the arc...) and the Cavs pull this out.

I really want to see a 5 of Gibson, Pavlovic, James, Varejao (or Gooden) and Zydrunas out there. We probably won't see it until next year, but that lineup could give teams fits due to their 3pt shooting, athleticism and offensive rebounding. Having guys who hit open shots and crash the boards is one way to make teams pay for sending the house at LeBron.