Prince, Pistons should find way to shut down LeBron
Posted: Saturday May 6, 2006 6:52PM; Updated: Monday May 8, 2006 11:08AM
What the Cavs need to do
Pistons vs. Cavs
Season Series: Det. won 3-1
Sun., 5/7, 3:30 ET
Tue., 5/9, 7 ET
Sat., 5/13, 8 ET
Mon., 5/15 7 ET
Wed., 5/17, TBD
Fri., 5/19, TBD
Sun., 5/21, 3:30 ET
Tayshaun Prince and the Pistons held LeBron James to just 25.0 points and 5.3 assists in their four regular-season games.
D. Lippitt/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Get some help for LeBron James. The Cavs forward was sensational against the Wizards in the first round, posting a triple double in his first-ever playoff game and hitting the game-winning shots in Games 3 and 5. But James figures to have a much more difficult time with Tayshaun Prince and the Pistons' swarming team defense (see below). Larry Hughes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Eric Snow, Drew Gooden, Flip Murray and Donyell Marshall are going to have to knock down a high percentage of shots for Cleveland to have a chance. Also, the Cavs are going to need to push the tempo and try to get as many fast-break opportunities as they can since they aren't likely to have much success setting up against Detroit's half-court defense. Hughes could be pivotal here. Look for the ballhawking guard to join with LeBron and Snow in going for steals when the Pistons put the ball on the floor. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Detroit does a great job taking care of the ball and led the NBA with the fewest turnovers. The Cavs do appear to have an edge in rebounding and depth in this series. With big bodies like Gooden, Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao to hit the glass, Cleveland ranked second in the NBA in total rebound percentage during the season (Detroit ranked 17th). If Cleveland can control the backboards and its bench can outscore Detroit's reserve corps, it might be able to stay in games until LeBron can work his magic.
What the Pistons need to do
Slow down LeBron. That's the key for any team that faces the Cavs. With their team defense and vast experience, the Pistons should be able to do the trick. Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Prince give Detroit three long-armed defenders who know how to cover the floor and work with each other to take away LeBron's drives to the basket. Otherwise, the Pistons have little to fear defensively. Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton should have few problems defending Snow and Hughes, respectively, while the Wallaces have the size and strength to keep Ilgauskas from doing much damage in the low post. Rasheed's biggest challenge will be keeping his cool. He was fined $5,000 in one game for cracking Ilgauskas across the head, earned a technical for jawing with Ilgauskas in another game and was on the receiving end of a hard foul from Varejao in the team's final meeting. Offensively, the Pistons should have no trouble finding seams against a Cleveland defense that left a lot of openings against the Wizards in the last series. Rasheed Wallace and Billups, in particular, should be able to do a lot of damage off pick-and-rolls. The Pistons held the Cavs to 78, 72 and 73 points in their final three contests. There is no reason to think they won't continue to slow Cleveland. As long as Detroit takes care of the ball and runs its offense, it should score enough to overcome anything LeBron can muster.
LeBron James vs. Tayshaun Prince
In his first ever playoff appearance, James certainly lived up to the hype. Other than one bad game in which he had 10 turnovers, the Cavs forward basically had his way against Washington. He not only scored all over the floor, but he showed great patience in handling the constant double-teams. However, the Pistons are a much better defensive team than are the Wizards. The 6-foot-9 Prince is one of the game's best one-on-one defenders, and he gets plenty of help from his long-armed teammates. During the season series they held LeBron to just 25.0 points and 5.3 assists in the four games (though James left the finale early with a sprained ankle). At the other end, Prince is rangy and versatile enough to make LeBron work on defense. All in all, this will be about as tough as it gets for James. It won't help that he's coming off back-to-back OT games while Prince and his teammates were getting plenty of rest.
The Cavs are in the second round for the first time since 1993. They were ousted in the first round four times after that ('94, '95, '96 and '98) before beating the Wizards. Meanwhile, Detroit is seeking its fourth straight trip to the conference finals.
The Pistons are healthy, rested and probably looking forward to the challenge of slowing down James. The Cavs are just happy to be in the second round. Pistons in five.