Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cleveland 94, Detroit 82

Takin' care of business. The Cavs are up 2-0. They're where they should be. They dominated this game much like they did Game 1. They had every answer for Detroit's D, they stopped the players they needed to stop and (for the most part) they outworked Detroit on both ends of the floor. Three Cleveland starters had 20+ points and everyone but West played under 40 minutes. Detroit made a late run with its reserves (they actually cut a 29 point lead down to 84-77 with 3:50 to go) but I'm not overly concerned because A) it wasn't really against the Cavs' second unit (West, Gibson, Wally, Darnell Jackson and Joe Smith- really, this group is going to have trouble scoring?) and B) they didn't actually blow the game (like Orlando). I don't mind the Cavs getting an early lesson about going to sleep on teams.

LeBron James is a beast. James finished with 29 points (on 14 shots!), 13 boards and 6 assists, Once again, he played a complete offensive game. He bulled his way to the rim, he'd post up inside, he'd knock down open jumpers and (of course) he found his open teammates. Brown tried to sneak him a quarter of rest, but when he was forced to put James back in, all LeBron did was throw Mo Williams a 45 foot outlet pass for a layup. Favorite moment: in the second quarter, LeBron was tackled while heading to the rim and two Pistons ended up on the ground while LeBron shrugged them off and kept walking. Seems fitting somehow.

We have some feistiness going on. Amir Johnson was the main Piston in the aforementioned tackle/foul story. Johnson literally grabbed James by the head and shoulders and tried to throw him to the ground (he also pushed LeBron in the back of the head). After the play, Johnson exchanged words with resident goofball Anderson Varejao and ended up shoving a smirking Andy and picking up an technical for his troubles. Then both Kwame Brown and Darnell Jackson picked up Ts as the second quarter buzzer sounded. Z picked up a tech late in the second for arguing a loose ball foul.

I'd say we should expect Rasheed Wallace to pick up his fair share of techs, but that implies he gives a shit. Maybe he knows Detroit is gonna lose. Maybe he's hurt. Or maybe he's just old. But whatever it is, Wallace doesn't move the way he used to and he certainly doesn't give the effort on the defensive end that Detroit needs to have chance at all. And I'm not talking about poor defensive effort when they're down by 20 points; early in the first period (Cavs led 6-2), James got Prince pinned near the hoop and scored on an easy jump hook. Wallace was right there next to Prince and simply watched LeBron jump over him. He should be challenging that shot or at least a doubling. But nope.

Mo Williams had a nice game. Mo set some playoff career highs with his 21 point, 7 assist evening. Williams knocked down 8-13 overall and 2-5 from beyond the arc. His ability to run the offense and score the ball is so vital to this team (newsflash!). He notched 5 points and an assist to star the second period (w/James on the bench). Mo probably could've kept the Piston's late run at bay but he picked up his 4th foul 30 seconds into the final period, so Brown figured he could keep just one starter (West) on the floor with a 29 point lead.

I don't understand the Pistons. On one hand, they simply aren't going to beat the Cavs in a best of seven series. These guys totally could've taken either Boston or Orlando, but they know they have no chance against the Cavaliers. But on the other hand, they do pose some match up problems for Cleveland. Tayshaun Prince can take just about anyone down low, but has scored 6 total points in two games. Why he isn't abusing Wally (or at least making LeBron work and stay home on D) is beyond me. And if I'm Detroit, I'm playing Will Bynum (13 points) and Rodney Stuckey (14 points) together. At least then you'll always have one of them matched up on Mo Williams (he can't guard either). However, I'm not sure how good a team you are if Stuckey and Bynum are scoring all your points (I mean, they did combine to shoot 10-28 in Game 2).

The bench is leaving a little something to be desired. Joe Smith has been the only bench player worth a damn thus far, putting up 5 points (0-2 FG) and 6 boards (3 offensive) in Game 2 (after scoring 13 in the series opener). Besides Smith, there wasn't much. Daniel Gibson wasted most of his 18 minutes of court time, going 1-7 from the floor (1-4 downtown) to go along with a stellar 1 rebound and 0 assists. Meanwhile, Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak logged 8 minutes and did... well, just about what you'd expect (0-1 FG, 2 points, 6 boards combined). The Cavs are going to need to get more from their bench at some point this postseason (just maybe not this series). I like the fact that Gibson kept shooting (and not trying to juke his guy or some other BS) but the kid has to start knocking down shots.

and finally...

A series doesn't start til someone loses a home game. So the question is, will Detroit show up at home? Seriously, are the Pistons gonna make it a series? I really have no clue. I would've thought some of this Piston-pride would've showed up in Game 2, but they got themselves down by 29 (only scored 50 points through three quarters). It looks like they all know that big changes are a-comin' so I wonder: will they land one last punch before exiting or have they already packed their bags?

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