Well, that sucked. Decent first half and then... Devin Brown is starting the second half? Wah? Turns out LeBron James hurt the index finger on his left hand. Fantastic. The Cavs promptly went from trailing by 5 to trailing by roughly a billion (so if you wanted more proof that James in the MVP...). But hey, at least the starters got some rest.
The first half wasn't awful. The Cavs were obviously tired; it was their fourth game in five nights, they were coming off an emotional win against Boston (where the starters all logged big minutes) and they had to travel the night before. All the excuses were there for them to mail this one in, but to their credit, they stuck around. Cleveland was down by 10 with about 2 minutes to go in the half and they cut the lead to five at half, 48-43.
Sure, being tired isn't an excuse, but wow, could you tell. In the first half, Detroit shot 54%, they out rebounded Cleveland 22-14 and they had 16 assists (the Cavs had 12 for the game). The Cavs were simply getting beat; they let players go back door, they were at least three steps slow on defensive rotations and they had a lot of miscues on offense. But, like I said, despite all that, they were only down five at half.
Z in particular looked bad. He missed some gimme shots early on and he finished just 2-8 from the floor for 8 points to go along with 3 boards. As long as the Cavs don't have a viable back up big man, Z's minutes will remain an issue, especially on back to backs. Fortunately (I guess), once LeBron went down and the game became a laugher, Coach Mike stuck Z on the bench and Ilguaskas finished the evening with just 23 minutes.
You know what is a bad sign? LeBron led the team in scoring. Now, to be fair, most of the starters didn't play in the 4th period (and one could argue they didn't play in the 3rd either), but it isn't good that LeBron plays just 24 minutes and ends up with a team high 15 points. Sasha Pavlovic (who played decent in the first half) was the Cavs' runner up with 13 points.
In case you were wondering, the Pistons still complain after every play. Z is mugged on the last play of the first half and Rasheed Wallace sits there with a "are you kidding me" look on his face (this was after he hit a jumper and jawed at an official). Detroit also wasn't pleased that the refs weren't awarding them for their novel 'stand in front of LeBron and pray for a charge' defense.
Garbage time wasn't even fun. The Pistons just kept hitting (open) shots and the Cavalier scrubs didn't do much on either end. Shannon Brown got some long awaited court time and promptly shot the ball whenever he could. I'm sure Larry Hughes appreciated Shannon's 1-6 performance, but I'm not sure anyone else did.
I'm not really sure what to make of this game. Ya, the Cavs stunk without LeBron, but he did leave mid- game (so it wasn't like they were prepared, mentally or physically). They played kinda well without James last season (for short periods), so I don't think they'll be helpless. I'm not sure how much you can take away from this game, besides the fact that the Cavs' bench needs to step up so the starters aren't so whipped at the end of these tough stretches (note: this doesn't mean give Anderson Varejao $60 million).
On a personal note, I won't be around for the Toronto game on Friday and I won't be able to watch the Celtics game until Monday morning (so no recap to later Monday). I'll be in Arizona this weekend for the Browns game/drinking with college friends.