AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Flip Saunders insists his Minnesota Timberwolves were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs seven times in eight years because the other teams were simply better.
If the first-year Detroit coach can't help the Pistons stunt
Cleveland's momentum in their second-round series, it will be
difficult to explain the early exit the same way.
Other than LeBron James, the Pistons seem to have more talent
and experience at every position.
It just didn't look that way the past two games in Cleveland.
The Cavs beat Detroit 86-77 and 74-72 to even the series after
being routed in Game 1 and rallying to lose Game 2 by six points.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in suburban Detroit.
The series shifted in the third quarter of Game 3 when rookie
head coach Mike Brown changed the momentum with an adjustment.
The Cavs started to switch on pick-and-roll plays, leaving
bigger players defending guards and smaller players guarding post
players. The Pistons and their coaches haven't countered
aggressively, leading to a lackluster offense that set NBA playoff
lows with 33.3 percent shooting and 72 points Monday night.
Just as he said in an easy first-round series against Milwaukee,
Saunders says the Pistons are playing more against themselves than
"The Cavs are doing things, but we're still beating ourselves
in a lot of areas," Saunders said nonchalantly Tuesday.
Brown said the biggest adjustment didn't involve Xs and Os as
the Cavs suddenly evened a series that some thought was essentially
"Even though it's corny, we played hard for close to 48
minutes," Brown said.
After beating the Pistons in a second straight game, the Cavs
flew to St. Louis to attend the funeral of Justin Hughes, the
20-year-old brother of teammate Larry Hughes. The shooting guard
has missed the past two games to be with his family following the
death of his brother, who was born with a heart defect and had a
transplant in 1997.
The Cavaliers arrived together by bus at the New Sunnymount
Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. The team then traveled to
Detroit, arriving Tuesday afternoon.
Brown said Tuesday afternoon that there was no timetable for
Hughes' return, and bristled at the notion that the Cavs are better
off without him after he missed much of the season with a finger
"We are not a better team without Larry Hughes, let's get that
straight," Brown said. "But we played a lot of games without him,
and we figured out ways to win."
Cleveland guard Damon Jones is confident the Cavs will find a
way to focus on a game after the sad experience they went through
"We put basketball in perspective for one day," Jones said.
"We were there to help out one of our family members go through a
tough time. We're also professional enough to understand we have a
task at hand tomorrow."
Rasheed Wallace's guarantee that the Cavs were playing their
last home game backfired, but Detroit's boisterous forward hasn't
backed off his cocky rhetoric.
"We'll definitely clean them up here at home," said Wallace,
who expects to play after turning his ankle Monday night. "They're
playing good ball, but I still don't think they have enough to beat
us in the series."
Rasheed Wallace and key reserve Antonio McDyess were on the
bench late in Game 4, a decision Saunders defended and Wallace
didn't have a problem with a day later.
"I'm not doubting or going against what he's doing as the
coach, because he is the coach," Wallace said. "I'm still rolling
"It's 2-2. We're not down. And, I know we're going to win it."