Monday, May 08, 2006

Pistons Likely Won't Shoot That Well Again, But They Won't Need To

If this Pistons-Cavaliers second round playoff series had an injury list-type categorization for Game 2 and beyond, here's what it would look like:

Doubtful: Pistons three pointers (hit 11 of first 12); LeBron James (scoreless in second half); Lindsey Hunter (hit four triples in one quarter); Pistons (scoring 43 pts. in one quarter); Cavs' Ronald Murray (shooting 0-7 from field)

Questionable: Tayshaun Prince (outscoring James); Rip Hamilton ("tweaking" his left ankle); Cavs' Eric Snow (mostly a non-factor); Ben Wallace (making a free throw)

Probable: Kelvin Cato (appearing in at least three games); Cavs' non-James starters (wilting as the series moves along); Damon Jones, Cavs (making at least one outlandish statement)

Out: Cavaliers (winning this series)

For the poor Cavs, going from playing the Washington Wizards (so named because they made their defense go "Poof!") to the Detroit Pistons must be like switching from a breezy tank top to one of those lead-encased jackets they make you wear when you get chest x-rays taken.

The moment I knew the Cavaliers were going to be in trouble in this series came before it began, actually. For when I saw LeBron James drive the baseline and get a layup in the closing moments of Game 5 against the Wizzes, I chuckled.

"When he plays the Pistons," I said -- to no one there, as Neil Diamond wrote -- "he won't be going up against pylons." Which is what the Wizards were on that game-winning shot. They let him breeze by and to the hoop as if they had just found out he was carrying the Bird Flu virus.
If James had tried that against the Pistons, he would either: A) Be decapitated (figuratively -- barely); B) Be maimed (figuratively -- barely); or C) Knocked on his ass (literally).

But the Wizards let him lay it in, as if they were the Washington Generals and James was Curly Neal. Or Geese Ausbie. Or Meadowlark Lemon. Anyhow, you get the idea.

So here the Cavs were, less than 48 hours after disposing of Washington, and after the Pistons got off to their requisite slow start, they flipped that switch that they all seem to have access to, and blew Cleveland back to Parma. Or at least as far as Toledo.

Game 2 will probably be different. That's usually the best chance for the visitors to steal one on the road. Sometimes, losing big in Game 1 can be a blessing. Puff out the chest of your opponents a little bit, you know. But these are the Pistons, and they're on a mission, and the Cavaliers' best chance to square the series will be to find someone other than #23 to score some freaking points. And not just someONE. A bunch of someones have to get involved. The "box-and-1" strategy the Cavs used against Washington -- only this one is offensive -- may have worked against the Wizards, but it doesn't have a sno-cone's chance in Hades of working against the Pistons.

Granted, the Pistons probably won't shoot as well in subsequent games as they did in Game 1 (by the way, did you notice your TV screen getting darker as the game wore on? That's because the Pistons were shooting the lights out), but neither will they allow much more from the Cavs.

Someone in the Palace crowd held a sign that said "LeBron WHO?"

Wrong. It should have said, "LeBron AND who?"

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