Overview: The Cavs simply overpowered the Pistons for a sweep, repeatedly getting to the line offensively and shutting down their starters on defense. The Cavs will now wait a week for their next-round matchup while the Pistons contemplate the end of an era.
The broadcast team mentioned it during the contest, but games like this really are a testament to how LeBron James really is. It really didn’t seem like he had it going, especially not from the perimeter, and he never really strung together a hot streak of jumpers. In fact, at one point he missed 9 of 10 shots from the field. But even when LeBron doesn’t have his game going the way he’d like it to, he does so many things other than scoring that he completely controls the game.
Look at the final line-36/13/8/1/2 on 56.25 TS%. His scoring and assists accounted for 54 points, or 54.5% of the Cavs’ total offense.
How did he control the tempo of this game? He got out into transition at every opportunity and caused the turnovers that got the team out on the break on that end of the floor. He crashed to the basket over and over and over and over again, getting himself to the line and knocking down those free throws. And, as always, his passing was on-target and kept everyone involved and the defense on its toes.
Now, a key thing to remember is that if LeBron played like this in the playoffs last year, he would have shot about 35% and the Cavs would have scored something like 38 points. The difference is the backcourt, who was just as deadly as LeBron, getting a combined 36 points and 9 assists to LeBron’s 38 and 8. When they’re opening up the court, making passes, moving the ball from side to side, and driving the lane, the defense can’t set up a wall. And if you don’t have a wall set up, there’s no way to stop LeBron from getting to the basket without fouling, especially when your two best defenders are playing at 30% due to injuries and effort.
Defensively, the Cavs were just bone-crushing. People not named Stuckey, Bynum, and McDyess went a combined 5-22 from the floor. Only Jason Maxiell had any interest in taking it to the basket strong and getting free thows. Rasheed and Tay are just not there. Hamilton isn’t good enough to do it himself, or close to it. Kwamir is not giving you much to hope for in terms of a backcourt of the future.
This game felt more like an execution than a coronation; there’s a strange lack of pleasure in taking this team that was once a juggernaut, that handed LeBron his first playoff loss and bore witness to his greatest triumph (so far.) Ben Wallace was wearing our colors. Chauncey is on fire a thousand miles away.
The once-raucious Detroit crowd was chanting “M-V-P” for LeBron instead of “DEE-TROIT BASKET-BALL,” the tale of how the Pistons leading the league in attendance but having to send e-mails to Cavalier season ticket holders to fill their seats for the playoffs, a stark reminder of how Detroit’s infastructure has crumbled around it while Allen Iverson and his $13 million dollars can’t be bothered to be in the building. Those facts, tossed off in the third quarter, stirred up more emotions than anything happening on the court.
This is a skeleton of a team playing, and a Cavalier team that was in no mood to give them any sort of life, mercilessly executing, rotating, and going to the basket instead of losing any kind of focus. The indelible image of the series for me will be LeBron’s dunk after putting the spin move on Will Bynum, with Rasheed standing not two feet away and just watching-Detroit getting beat because of its lack of talent on the first defender and its apathy on the second defender.
What should have been a rubber match for these two teams after 13 of the hardest-fought playoff games in recent memory was, thanks to one team being on the good side of a salary dump and the other team being on the wrong side of one.
And so this rivalry, the only real one of the LeBron era, ends with a wimper, and it’s onward we go to the Hawks or the Heat. For all the talk about us being too goofy, this was the team that took care of its business in the first round.