Scouting Update: Pistons-Cavs, Game 3
Playing the league's best home team requires an awful lot of things to go right if an upset is to be pulled. But the first order of business is to have each man -- coaches and players -- believe that the upset can happen. It seemed evident that at least one or two Pistons players did not have that belief, and consequently, the Pistons never had a chance in Game 2, except late in the fourth after their reserves totally outplayed whoever was on the floor for Cleveland. If ever a team needed its own fans to help it get competitive, it's this Detroit team. Only their energy can provide life for some lifeless Pistons.
•The Pistons were determined to make it tougher on LeBron James by sending a second defender to him on the catch, and running someone else toward him on threatening drives. But the lack of intensity brought by the defenders doomed any chance that strategy might have had.
• There is no other way to write this: Rasheed Wallace gave almost no effort at all. He stood and watched almost every shot his teammates took, and finished with no offensive rebounds. He now has one in 63 combined minutes. Jason Maxiell had three in Game 2 and has four overall in 28 total minutes. Coach Michael Curry has to think about not playing Wallace at all.
• Wallace was just as bad on defense, mostly standing around and rarely doing anything that resembled a spirited defender. He was lazy showing on ball screens or any other type of screen.
• The Cavs want LeBron to sprint ahead and look for early post-ups, and he can overpower anyone down there with him, so a second defender must also race back and contend with him.
• Detroit showed a lot of zone, and did force many perimeter shots. Cleveland made enough of them, but may not shoot as well in Detroit, so look for more zone coverage.
• Stuckey is having a very poor shooting series, just 12-of-36 so far, but he's getting lots of great shots and is having more success at that than any other starter. He needs to just trust his game and go play -- he could be a huge difference-maker.
• One big benefit of the Pistons' reserves playing so well is that perhaps the starters will better believe that they can win. The idea is to stay close when the starters are in and hope for a scoring margin to be gained by the second group. The starters will be better trying to hold on to a lead than earning one.
• It's fair to expect a much more focused second unit in Game 3.
• The Pistons had success running Hamilton off ball screens and getting him into isolations. The Cavs need to stay intense for the entire Detroit possession, not just the first action.
• If Wallace comes out without purpose, expect to see the Cavs involve him in lots of actions.
• Stuckey did a good job of using the ball screen, dragging the hedger out, then attacking when he recovered. The Cavs will tighten this up, and tell their big to stay on Stuckey until the other guard has recovered.
• Cleveland sent quick doubles to the paint on post-ups, but if Detroit starts kicking things out, then getting a ball reversal for a made 3-pointer, the Cavs might go back to the base defense and see if the post-ups end up in paint buckets.
• Detroit ran an excellent set when it went small, stacking its bigs on the left block and its guards on the right. Hamilton curled off a Stuckey screen, and the Cleveland defender on Stuckey was just too small to offer meaningful curl protection for Rip's shot. Detroit would be wise to run this again, and if so, Cleveland's help has to come from the man defending the passer, dropping down into curl coverage.
• Cleveland pushed all night, and ended up earning 15 fast-break points. Doing so in Detroit will be even more important, assuming the Pistons' half-court defense will go up a notch.
• LeBron started the game as a distributor, though he still scored incredibly efficiently. If his teammates start out poorly, seeing him assume control of most of the shots seems a given.
• The Pistons first showed up when the score was 40-25 -- that was the first time I noticed real energy from them. They outscored Cleveland 67-54 from that point on. Will that momentum carry over?
• Rasheed Wallace -- will he show up at home and be a cornerstone for a huge win?
• As a team, the Cavs have not played a great and complete game.
• LeBron might play 46 minutes, as this game seems pivotal to getting Cleveland off to the track that it prefers. He could set scoring, rebounding or assist highs for himself, commanding this important game.
PredictionDetroit has played as expected so far, mostly lifeless but not without talent. It's impacted Tayshaun Prince, who seems frustrated by what is going on while having to deal with LeBron. If Prince, Wallace or Stuckey contributes huge numbers, Detroit has a chance. But even if one or more of them does, the Cavs can counter it with more.
Prediction: Cleveland wins Game 3
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.