Posted: Monday May 15, 2006 2:46PM; Updated: Monday May 15, 2006 4:03PM
Long considered one of the league's premier defenders, Tayshaun Prince has flexed his scoring muscles against the Cavaliers.
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When we last commiserated, the second round was a day old, America's borders were unguarded and I was still toying with the advertising curve of the 18-to-25 demographic. A week later, it turns out, there are no marigolds in the promised land. At least we have our Champs and Chumps.
Detroit Pistons-Cleveland Cavaliers
Champ: Tayshaun Prince Nobody can claim that Prince is stopping LeBron James, or that he's matching the All-Star from Akron's output, and yet the Pistons and their fans have to be beyond chuffed at the way Prince played in the first three games of the conference semifinals. Prince averaged 18 points a game for Detroit while adding 3.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game. Solid numbers, and a significant improvement on his regular-season stats, all while "holding" LBJ to 24.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and seven assists a game.
Chump: Cleveland's backcourt Ronald "Flip" Murray really shouldn't be playing 31 minutes a game against the Pistons. Though the Cavs were excited to trade for Murray in February and gave up next to nothing (somewhere, Mike Wilks weeps) for him, they still hoped he'd be another cog in a deep backcourt already featuring Eric Snow and Damon Jones. In the first three games against Detroit, Murray was atrocious, missing 20 of 24 shots on his way to six points per game, with 4.7 rebounds and about two assists. But his pitiful production looked positively stellar in comparison with the combined totals of Jones and Snow. In 44.4 minutes a game, the duo had combined to give the Cavs 8.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Again, that's in nearly 45 minutes a game. How this team competed against Detroit with a backcourt like that is ... ah, wait, LeBron James. I forgot for a second.
Looking Ahead Detroit offered its now-usual Game 3 silliness, but Cleveland still needed a superhuman effort from LeBron to pull out a win -- including that fourth quarter, three-point dagger that came straight from the Will Perdue Foundation for Horrible, Horrible Footwork. Without much stat-padding, Ben Wallace has had a year to remember, so he could be due for one of those six-block, 17-rebound efforts, and Chauncey Billups can't be a passive participant for too long. Though LeBron and his talented batch of forwards (DrewGooden, Anderson Varejao, Donyell Marshall) will keep things interesting, they'll never get too close. Detroit should win in five.