Monday, May 21, 2007

Detroit Pistons - Cleveland Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals Preview

The Detroit Pistons begin the Eastern Conference Finals tonight, their fifth straight appearance, and they will face a familiar foe, division rival LeBron James and the Cleavland Cavaliers whom the Pistons eliminated from the playoffs last season. And for whatever reason, I am not worried. Even though the Pistons struggled to close out the Bulls, and even though the Cavs are a much improved team from the one the Pistons defeated last season in the playoffs, I still can't get over the feeling that, say unlike Chicago, which has a team of young and upcoming stars, the Cavs are still Lebron and 11 other guys. And no matter how great LeBron is, he's still just one guy.
Of course, the Cavs are not just LeBron and a bunch of scrubs. Drew Gooden is a good player, so is Larry Hughes. And Zydrunas Ilgauskas can be a force in the middle. The Cavs won 50-games this season too so it's not as if making it to the NBA Finals would be a huge upset or entirely unexpected. They played really well in the New Jersey series, defeating a team of stars like Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson. Dethroning the Pistons is the next step on LeBron James checklist.

I just can't see it happening this year. There's still not enough talent around James, and the Pistons are a smart enough team to shut James down and say "If Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes can beat us, fine, go ahead and try, because LeBron won't." Sure, there were some lapses in focus in the Chicago series, but that's been the Pistons problem all season. When it matters, when the Pistons need to dig down and win, they do. I can't see it being any different in this series. Unless, of course, the Pistons go up 3-0. Then anything can happen.
Getty Images
I thought the Bulls were going to give us a series, and they did, but I thought there was a serious chance the Bulls could beat the Pistons. I don't think that about the Cavs. I hate picking the Pistons in five, because I don't want to underestimate the Cavs too much, but this won't go more then six. Detroit is simply a deeper, more experienced, more talented team then Cleveland, and this Cavs team is more like the 1989 or 1990 Chicago Bulls, not the 1991 team which finally broke through the Pistons. Take Detroit in six but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a shorter series then that.

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