Monday, May 21, 2007

Detroit Pistons Defeat Cleveland in Game One of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals

Well, as it turns out, there is a reason I write a blog and don't coach the Detroit Pistons. What am I talking about you ask? Let's take a look at what I said in my Pistons-Cavaliers Series Preview:

. 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."

So what did the Pistons do? Take my advice, of course. They shut down LeBron James, holding him to 10 points, his lowest playoff output ever. And the result? Well, a lot closer then it ever needed to be.

The Detroit Pistons won Game One against Cleveland, barely, 79-76. They trailed by seven at halftime. They trailed late in the fourth quarter. Donyell Marshall had a wide open three pointer with three seconds to go in the game which would have stolen the game from Detroit (can you "steal" a game where you were the better team?) Certainly not the night I expected from the Pistons.
AP Photo
What is most incredible about Game One, is despite how poorly the Pistons played,they were not dominated by LeBron James. In fact, the Pistons held James to just four points in the first half (and 10 for the game). For the majority of the night, James was a complete non-factor offensively. But, as it turns out, some of the players around James can actually play. It was almost as if the Pistons and the Cavs had switched personalities. The Cavs were the team getting contributions from a variety of players, while the Pistons were the one-man show, thanks to Rip Hamilton's hot first half. Chris Webber was in foul trouble, Chauncey Billups was out of sync the entire game (until, of course, it mattered, when "Mr. Big Shot" showed why he has that nickname). If not for Rip Hamilton, the Pistons would have lost by double digits.

As for LeBron, while he came alive a bit (scoring at least) in the second half, for the most part, the Pistons had him shut down. It was the other Cavs, like the impressive Anderson Varejao, who allowed the Cavs to hold the lead and keep the game close even when the Pistons went on a run after halftime. Zydrunas Ilgauskas also had a great game, hitting key shots late in the game to keep the pressure on the Pistons and keep the Cavs in the lead. You have to give the Cavs a lot of credit. Their franchise player was pretty much a non-factor, yet they were still the better team on the floor for most of Monday night despite James' struggles.
AP Photo
As for the rest of the Pistons, aside from Hamilton's big night, Tayshaun Prince had a strong first half, especially distributing the ball when his shot wasn't falling, and both Dale Davis (yes -- Dale Davis) and Jason Maxiell gave the Pistons some quality minutes off the bench. And it was Maxiell out at the end of the game in critical situations, as coach Flip Saunders showed a lot of confidence in Maxiell by keeping him out there in such critical situations.

Chauncey Billups just did not have his "A" game tonight, and he had more turnovers then field goals. I don't think we should be panicking over one bad game, but if Billups continues to struggle, the Pistons may be in more trouble then anyone would have thought before Game One. Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber didn't have great games either, but both got into double digits, and both hopefully will play better in Game Two. The Pistons as a whole are going to have to play better in Game Two, because LeBron James is not going to be held to 10 points every night, and his teammates proved tonight that they shouldn't be overlooked by anybody.

Although, you also get the feeling that this was the Cavs game to steal, and they failed, and that any chance to win the series, was lost when the Cavs lost their lead in the third quarter.

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