Jumper reliance might be Detroit's flaw
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- It took the Cavaliers a game and a half to finally find a glitch in the Pistons' engine.
It was too late to save Game 2 Tuesday and maybe too late to save the series, but it is an issue the Pistons will need to address because it was out for all to see. The Pistons won, 97-91, and took a 2-0 lead but not without getting handled in the second half by the Cavs and needing a few big plays in the final minutes to hang on.
Indeed the Pistons have a dynamic offense with numerous options, but they are also very reliant on the jump shot. When they take them in rhythm and off offensive sets, it can be devastating. When they come from laziness, it can be debilitating.
After shooting 51 percent in Game 1 and making 15-of-22 3-pointers, the Pistons shot 53 percent and made 6-of-11 treys in the first half of Game 2 to build their lead to 21 points. But in the second the Cavs' learning curve finally caught up and they made some defensive adjustments sure to be seen again.
Cavs coach Mike Brown, who swallowed his pride in the first half and twice implored his defenders to hack putrid foul shooter Ben Wallace to try to stop the bleeding, had the Cavs mostly playing zone down the stretch. They also often trapped the ball when it went into the post, slowing everything down. The Pistons' response was to take jumpers at the end of the shot clock.
Detroit shot just 31 percent in the second half and had just five assists. There were almost no post options and few penetrations. In fact, the Pistons scored just 16 points in the paint all game and eight of those came on offensive rebound putbacks.
The Pistons' defense in the clutch and Richard Hamilton's willingness to drive -- he made just one basket in the game but got to the line 18 times -- saved the day.
"We have to be a little more disciplined than that," said Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, who had 15 points. "We settled for too many jumpers."
Meanwhile LeBron James scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half and 14 in the fourth quarter.
James also had four assists in the fourth as he repeatedly caught the Pistons' defense in transition off defensive rebounds. It left the Cavs a ray or two of hope. "Hope is not the word, we have to make sure we're a confident ball team," Brown said. "We've got to win Game 3, it is simple as that."
Brian Windhorst covers the Cavaliers for the Akron Beacon-Journal.