Scouting Update: Pistons-Cavs, Game 2
In a 1-versus-8 series, the lower-seeded team usually plays with vigor. But the Pistons, who are so comfortable with being favorites, played Game 1 as if they were more talented. Of course, that edge belonged to the Cavs.
• The Pistons should send help defenders later than they did on LeBron's drives. Early help gave James too much time and space to make an easy assist or a Gretzky (the easy pass that leads to the assist). Waiting until he commits to the dribble and trying to slip a second guy onto him whom he doesn't see until he arrives is risky, but it could pay dividends.
• The Pistons attempted only seven free throws through the first three quarters (and none in the third) of Game 1. They rarely penetrated via the dribble or pass or made a shot with an angle to the rim. Putting the defender in jeopardy draws fouls. It seems impossible to project Detroit to win even one game if it relies only on perimeter jumpers or the occasional fadeaway shot by a big.
• The Pistons did a nice job trying to push the pace at times, but if they focus more on doing so, they might get better looks and be able to shoot more free throws. It's hard to create great shots all game long against Cleveland's base defense.
• Will Bynum was quick enough to get into the lane. He might play more.
• Detroit can live with missed shots off drives by Rodney Stuckey and Bynum -- or Richard Hamilton in transition or backing his man down -- if they draw help. That would allow for more offensive rebounding opportunities.
• Detroit's starters had just two offensive boards with less than four minutes to play and the Pistons down 15 points. Guys like Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess must rush to the rim on penetration instead of standing outside and waiting for the pass. One could stay outside as long as the other crashes. Getting a wing to slash in would be helpful, too, as Tayshaun Prince and Hamilton had no offensive boards in Game 1.
• Pistons coach Michael Curry has to preach that his team must play far more inspired basketball before he implements tweaks to his game plan. But he also cannot expect the Pistons to beat the Cavs by playing their regular game, because that would require near-perfect execution. That's not likely to happen this year, with this team, against this opponent.
• The Cavs have to be happy with the way they are defending in the half court. None of the Pistons represents a danger to create a man advantage, save an occasional Stuckey drive. The Cavs can play five-on-five defense most of the time, a dream for a defensive coach.
• Cleveland seemed surprised a few times when Detroit pushed the ball up the floor. Luckily for the Cavs, Detroit wasn't willing to take a quick shot even when it had a chance to drive forward and draw a foul. The Cavs should expect to see this again in Game 2, but with the Pistons forcing the action more.
• If Detroit crashes the offensive glass more often, look for LeBron and his teammates to be more aware of gaining fast-break opportunities. The Cavs had just 10 fast-break points in Game 1, but that total could double in Game 2.
• The Cavs have a choice as to how they want their offense to flow -- let LeBron initiate all the action or just some of the action. For much of the first game, he initiated most of it successfully. But Cavs coach Mike Brown has the luxury of thinking about the next two months and may decide to ask James to do a little less during much of the next home game.
Many times this year, the Cavs showed some complex sets to get everyone but James shots, using him as a decoy or a magnet to attract multiple defenders.
• The Cavs seemed to lose interest as the third quarter ended. A better opponent could have gotten itself back into the game. Teams win titles by staying focused on the grind, possession by possession.
• The Pistons shot well (46 percent) but made just two 3-pointers in 12 attempts. Wallace is a great candidate to just let loose.
• The Pistons can decide that whoever James doesn't mark should get the ball often, whether it's Prince or Hamilton. One of them must have a big game. In Game 1, they combined for 19 points, with Rip scoring 15.
• Even though Detroit played passively on defense, it's still impressive to see that Cleveland committed just four turnovers in Game 1. Can it play that flawlessly again?
• Mo Williams has the look of someone who is so excited to be there. Seeing him break out in Game 2 for 25-plus points would not be surprising. In fact, I expect it.
If Detroit were to play at its best and Cleveland were just average, these games would be close. But Detroit does not seem to have the emotional edge to play at a high level. These are two franchises on totally different paths.
Prediction: Cavs win Game 2
David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for Scouts Inc. and the executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., where he oversees the player development program for more than 40 NBA, European and D-League players. Those players include Kevin Martin, Rob Kurz, Luol Deng, Courtney Lee and Tyrus Thomas. To e-mail him, click here.
Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.
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