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One shining moment

Cavs' Game 3 win offers map to team's future needs

Posted: Monday May 15, 2006 11:03AM; Updated: Monday May 15, 2006 6:18PM
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For the Cavs to become title contenders, they'll need Anderson Varejao to fully develop his low-post game -- fast.
For the Cavs to become title contenders, they'll need Anderson Varejao to fully develop his low-post game -- fast.
John Biever/SI
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Judging by the raucous scene Saturday night at the Q in Cleveland, you'd have thought the Cavaliers had dispatched the Pistons in their second-round series. Confetti fell while "Celebration," that venerable anthem of fourth-quarter comebacks and one-run victories, blared from giant loudspeakers and Cavs reserve guard Damon Jones, who scored all of three points in 24 minutes, beat his chest with a pugilist's self-regard.

It's hard to blame the Cavs and their fans for their elation. Taking one game from the Pistons is a victory for this team, and if it was going to happen, this was their best shot. Lose the first one at home and a Game 4 win would not only be less likely, but would seem but a postponement of the inevitable. Now, this city of Witnesses -- even the employee who checked me in at the Marriott was wearing one of the omnipresent shirts -- gets 48 sweet hours in which to discuss and debate whether or not they could actually win this thing.

The answer, of course, is no. Detroit is too cohesive and too experienced, and the Cavs, though gutsy, lack firepower, stoppers and the type of teamwide confidence necessary for such an underdog accomplishment. That the Cavs won a game was due as much to Detroit's lackluster performance as their own fine play.

On Saturday night, the Pistons uncharacteristically allowed layups and didn't fill the seams in their defense -- on one play, Rasheed Wallace merely waved at Flip Murray as he went in for a layup, the type of lay-down that would have spurred a benching on most high school teams.

In a way, it seemed that Detroit almost wanted to lose, just to make this series more interesting and manufacture some motivation. Now they can feel aggrieved (about the refs), insulted (by their own performance and the Cavs' celebrating) and engaged (by the possibility of an actual series). This does not mean they are worried.

After Game 3, Chauncey Billups sat at the media podium and, not impolitely, dismissed the Cavaliers' performance. Asked if Cleveland had done anything to force the Pistons into an uncharacteristic shooting performance -- 39 percent from the field -- he thought for a second before answering. "Not really," he said. "It was more us doing some things we probably shouldn't have." Down the hall in the locker room, Rasheed Wallace was busy issuing another one of his guarantees: "We're going to bust [them], it's a given," he told reporters. "We're still going to win this series. Monday [Game 4] is their last game here in this building for the season."