Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
10:19 PM ET, 5/9/06
Goliath has David on the ropes
Posted by Chris Mannix
The Pistons have turned LeBron James' first taste of the playoffs into a sour experience.
Sonny Liston put up more of a fight in his second bout with Ali. In 1998, the Padres gave the Yankees more trouble. The Angolans, too. At least in the 1992 Olympics they knew they were overmatched.
Too strong? Maybe, but Tuesday's LeBron James-led late flurry aside, the Pistons-Cavaliers series has turned into a battle of David versus Goliath except in this analogy David doesn't have a slingshot and he's fighting Goliath from a wheelchair. With a hook for a hand. And an eye patch.
No one expected Cleveland to survive a series with a battle tested team like Detroit but the Cavs have made the transition from "just win, baby" to "just happy to be here" almost seamlessly. While Detroit's offense has operated with machine-like efficiency through two games, Cleveland has seen its offensive sets constantly disrupted by Detroit's long-armed defenders and aggressive perimeter play. It's a hit Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has to take: You can't win a small-ball series with the Pistons, so why try? Perhaps the one advantage Cleveland had at the start of the series was Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Big Z holds a four-inch height advantage over anyone in the Pistons' rotation but for the second straight series has been treated like a cast member from the Real World: briefly considered and quickly forgotten. Cleveland has gone to Ilgauskas so infrequently this postseason that 72-year old Bill Russell, in attendance to present Ben Wallace with the Defensive Player of the Year Award, probably could have given Detroit a few meaningful minutes off the bench.
Defensively things haven't been much better. Hey, that number 36 -- you know, the other Wallace? He might be able to knock down a 3-pointer or two. Yes, Detroit has better personnel but leave anyone in the NBA wide open and their odds of making a shot increase exponentially. This Cavalier team just isn't built to defend versatile big men. Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall -- not one of them has the shown the quickness to successfully blitz the pick and roll and drop back into coverage. It's not like their teammates are much help: Cleveland's defensive rotations have been painfully slow.
Saturday night the series shifts back to Cleveland. The Quicken Loans Center will be rocking, we will all be witnesses, yada, yada, yada. But this series is over. Last week, I picked the Pistons to win this series in five games. I'm sticking with that prediction, but with one disclaimer: would anyone be surprised if Detroit wraps this up in four?
David and Goliath? hmmmm Blackbeard and the British Monarchy sounds more intriguing to me, shute Blackbeard got away with a few things that caught the mighty Brits off gaurd. Don't count these Cavs down n out yet Jim, LeBron and his shipmates may end up pulling off a fast one on the Monarchy sittin comfortably in their gold plated chairs.
Nice article. I think the Cavs should at least be able to pull off one win. It's just a matter of time before Detroit has an unlucky night, while the bounces seem to be particularly going Cleveland's way. Aside from that, though, I can't imagine Cleveland pulling any type of Phoenix Suns-like comeback from the hole they're in. They have LeBron, but that doesn't seem to be quite enough to match the well-oiled Pistons machine. Detroit is looking pretty darn smooth in every aspect of the game.
Look, I know the NBA likes to market its stars, but this is just plain silly. Last I checked, basketball was a five-on-five game. How many championships do you think Bird would've won without Parish and McHale? Or Jordan, without some quality supporting cast?
James won't win a thing (Scoop Jackson's piece notwithstanding), until he gets some help.
Cavaliers will be 1 team I'll be looking to, as long as LBJ is around, because he also makes the people around him better. But a 2nd round encounter with the Pistons who are way tough before the All-Star break is too much from King James and the Cavaliers.
But I'll be expecting a surprise from them. Yes, THEM, not HIM. Watch for the Cavaliers to rise in prominence in the years to come.
It doesn't matter how good Lebron is, he can't do it alone. The Cavs probably get one home game when the Pistons get bored(like the Milwaukee series). The Pistons seem to give away one game per playoff series in these early rounds the last couple years while they wait to get on with the main events. But that's it. Cleveland hasn't really been in any of the last three games against the Pistons(going back to the regular season) and I don't see any reason for that to change.
do you think mike brown reads these articles? or do u think that people TEL him 2 giv the ball 2 Z? the guy signed a nice big contract and since Lebron has turned into lebron jordan, theyv just droppd him like a bad habit...if they dont use Z:- a. they r gona get slaughtered by the pistons b. Z mite start lukin 4 sumwhere els 2 play ball
[quote] Posted: 2:08 AM by freddy detroit pistons in four games
after which the playoff tv ratings will all drop due to the absence of a certain few players, when the pistons take on the new jersey nets in the conference finals
(the west is already boring - spurs, mavs, suns, clippers dont have any stars)[/quote]
Ummm...are you an idiot?? Or an ABC programmer perchance??
That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard...Duncan, Nowitzki, Nash, Brand...NOT STARS?? What the hell is wrong with you?? The only two STAR players missing now are Kobe and Carmelo and the latter is more a product of hype than a 'great' player. He can score, but not as well as Gilbert Arenas, and he doesn't defend, pass, rebound or anything else.
Stop letting the networks and shoe companies tell you who's a star, and start enjoying the game of basketball...or go watch the McDonald's High School Slam Dunk competition.
Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Eva Longoria. What are you talking about that there is no stars in the West left. The Western Conference semi-finals are much more entertaining in both series, and if the Mavs and Suns win (my guess, the interior defense of the Spurs is not formidable anymore, and with Duncan getting into foul trouble trying to stop Harris and Howard, the Spurs offense will have trouble because the decent perimeter defenders the Mavs have) then the Western Conference finals will be way more exciting than Detroit and whoever comes out of the six or seven other game series. Freddy that is one of the worst and most uninformed comments I have read in a while.
Go ahead and burry the Cavs. They did loose 2 games, but that 2nd half is more like it. Lastly what did they do loose to games on the road?? They got 2 more at home. And that Yada yada yada about we are all witness, you ll be the same guy who praises what you saw when he evens the series.
this should be another eye opener for NBA which tries to promote its superstars than a team like pistons .
Any one in pistons team can say .. wait a minute , I can be a super start and score 30 + points every game . but they don't do because they want to win . I have observed atleast 15 games when pistons won with so ease and no mention of them in nba.com or si.com . Sad that even press seams to like superstars . daaa
As a Piston fan, I'm worried. Not about the Cav's, they'll get one (the Pistons always play lazy for at least 1 game), but because they exposed the Pistons willingness to become lazy on offense. They are more than willing to stand out at the 3 pt line instead of actually working for a basket and that will cost them dearly against a good team (Spurs).
Pistons in 4 ... maybe 5. But as a Cleveland fan, I can't complain. I mean, three years ago this team won just seventeen games. SEVENTEEN. Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall may not be Pippen and Grant, but they're not Ira Newble and Jeff McInnis either. The supporting cast around LeBron IS improving every year.
The Cavs (and LeBron) now know what it's like to win and to lose when the games REALLY count--in the playoffs. The not-so-distant future is (finally) bright in Cleveland.
First I will start off by saying I am from Cleveland, but I will attempt to be unbiased. It is pretty apparrent that you have really not payed attention to this series (i really do not blame you) or the Washington one. Z has been gone to. He is experiencing a HORRIBLE postseason. 15-footers he usually knocks down are not falling. His defensive is horrible... not that he ever had any, but its worse then I have ever seen. The reason the Cavs have been losing these games is because they are playing scared plain and simple. You can see it in each game so far. Lebron sees a sag when he starts to drive and then pulls up. Want to beat detroit? get to the rim... not an easy task i understand, but at least try for crying out loud. And don't tell me its not there... it is they are actually giving it to them at times. Settling for 12+ footer jump shots will not get you anywhere against this rebounding machine.
This is just like MJ with the bad boys in the late 80's...everyone in the NBA knows they better win theirs now before the KID grows up!! With a couple of defenders we will see championship after championship in Cleveland.
The reason why Z has gone missing in the playoffs is because teams know how to attack him,in the washington and now in the pistons series, the guy Z is guarding comes up top and run a screen and rool, Z is a liability in the defense now because he lacks any help or recovry speed. His offense is their but he is a big liability on the defensive end. Anybody notice in Game 2, the 4th quarter run was with Varageo in the game and not Z.
i have to agree with anonymous...the problem with the cavs isnt lebron or how well the pistons defend. The problem lies in the fact that outside of James, there is no real proven scorer who has the ability to take over. The cavs team defense is atrocious, at times it seems as if they rotate in slow motion. Until lebron gets a reasonable supporting cast there is no way he can carry his team past the first or at best the second round. While i think lebron will end up with a few rings those rings are going to include some rebuilding of the cavs franchise.
Also for those who would argue that this season James finaly has a good supporting cast i beg to differ. Take a look at Eric Snow, aside from some heroics in OT against the wizards eric snow hasnt taken yet alone made a shot this entire postseason, teams are able to sag off him, and hell leave im totally open without fear of him doing anything other than looking for another guy. I know 12 year olds with better range. Ilgauskas has been an All-Star in the past but the problem with this big guy is that hes too docile in the paint, ive yet to see him demand the ball or make any kind of strong move, all he does is shoot hooks and fade away. As a 7 footer he needs to be in there banging the pistons and dunking over the wallaces. Additionally on defense he plays like a 6 foot tall guard whos afraid of getting hit. He hardly ever goes after a blocked shot, preferring to keep his arms straight up and letting people draw fouls. Donyell Marshall and Larry Hughes are not doing much better. Although marshall has begun to come around and has upped his scoring hughes performance has been nothing short of loathesome. His shooting percentage and constant foul trouble make me believe that i should suit up and join the cavs for their playoff push. Finally Flip Murray, a "proven" scorer in college, who stepped in admirably for the sonics last season has shown himself to be nothing more than a ball hog, with limited range and poor defense. When he stops shooting every time he gets the ball and starts finding open guys or focusing more on shutdown defense then maybe i can consider him a legitimate NBA player.
Moral of the story: lebron will NOT be able to carry this team past the pistons or ANY team deep into the playoffs until he gets some help and the current cavs are exactly what he doesnt need.
It is the networks' fault if the ratings drop after this round because there is no "star" power to pull in viewers. They are the ones who ceaslessly promote the person instead of the team. They created this monster. Last I heard, basketball is a team sport, yet they refuse to treat it like one.
BTW - Detroit in 4! Only way Cleveland wins one is if Detroit gets bored and doesn't play to their ability.
The Pistons will win, but they are not that good. They get the benefit of the doubt on every single quesitonable call. They even get calls that aren't fouls, like Hamilton's three-point play at the end of game 2. There was not foul on that. All a Piston player has to do is grunt and the whistle blows. Defensively, the referees act as if Detroit cannot commit a foul. They reach, grab, hold and swipe at the ball and hack players just as much as every other team, yet no whistle is blown then. Also, is anyone else sick of hearing that damn announcer say DDDEEETTRROOOIIITT BBBAAAASSSKKKEEETTTBBBAAALLLL. It is pretty annoying and lame.
I think the run the Cavs put on late was better motivation for Detroit heading into game three than the Cavs.
Look at what happened against the Bucks--Pistons were thinking sweep instead of game three. Detroit will go into Cleveland focused and play a great game. It will be close, but I am taking Pistons in four!
The King is only as strong as his people. In Mo-Town Joe Dumars is king with a supporting cast for the history books.
I'm more interested in watching teams that are 'teams' rather than those with one or two 'star' players. Kobe couldn't help the Lakers win and I think Mr. James is finding the same problem against the Pistons. Three cheers for the team sport over the overpaid supersport!
Players don't win champianships, teams do. If people don't like it, basketball isn't for them. With salery caps, great players eat up the all money. That is why the Pistons are a great team. There are no superstars eating up all the cap space.
Cavs, go ahead and give LBJ a max contract, he'll never give you a ring without help.
I agree with everything that has been said. The only reason why the Cavs caught up was because the Pistons got bored. The series will be won in 5. The Cavs feel pumped now because they got so close in last night's game. They are a good YOUNG team. However, the final analysis is "Yesterday, superstars won the game. Today, teamwork wins the game. And, we are all witnesses!"
As a native Detroiter who worked for, and witnessed first hand the Piston championship runs in the late 80's I can tell you this Team is right there with then in terms of tenacity....They're doing the same thing Pistons Championship teams of years past...only difference is they have learned to conserve energy when leading big..BYE LaBRON in 4...WITNESS THAT!!
Pistons will sweep. The CAVS bench isnt producing a thing in this series. As for Lebron, he is a great player... but with two or three defenders on him... He cant do much. He got it goin in the fourth.. except... the Pistons were up by 20.
I would love to see Cleveland push the series to a seven game. Whoo! I want to see and hear what the experts say then. Do I think Cleveland can knock off Detroit? No. Detroit has to be coached not to think they can just turn it on and off - because if given a chance in a close game, LeBron might just make them sweat and I will love it.
Get LeBron some real support! Get him a center who will COEXIST with James. Get him some guards that actually support his cause, and are actually half-decent at okaying a role and doing their jobs.
LeBron is good, but even he can't singlehandedly carry an entire team. The Lakers had some success in round 1 when the other players stepped up and came through Kobe. The Cavs need to take heed of that lesson.
Has anyone noticed that Z can't make a shot inside or out? He used to hit 15 footers pretty regularly, but not anymore. None of his stuff is working. That is why they aren't sending him the ball. His height doesn't mean anything because he doesn't know how to use it. He is a liability at this point. It is unbelievable that he is one of the best centers in the NBA.
go pistons. the cavaliers might adjust gradually. but they only have Lebron. if prince is shutting him down like this, hamilton and billups will have no trouble at all. That is assuming that prince has trouble with James at all. Pistons in 4.
I dont think you guys watched the same game i did yesterday. The pistons got all of the lucky breaks yesterday. Everytime the Cavs gained some momentum something stupid happened. That foul call on LeBron against big ben when he jumped to the rim? Come on. The big ben flip from in front of the rim? Will that ever happen again? That phantom re-setting of the shot clock, then big ben getting rejected then flipping in a fadeaway? Please. The Pistons got lucky yesterday.
And to say that the Pistons offense is running smoothly is not correct. They had one great game. Yesterday they shot like 41 percent. That is hardly an efficient offense.
The real question now becomes if the Cavs can continue to supply the same defensive pressure they applied in the second half last night? If they can, they will win both games in cleveland.
The animal must have been watching a WNBA game. The Pistons were far from lucky, they were not even trying when the Cavs "came back". Comments about the Cavs "strong" second half will only anger the mighty Pistons. They will win by at least 30 on Sat. Night!
Having lived in Ohio for a few years I can honestly say the Cavs never should have made it past the 1st round. They had some help to get to round 2, but nothing is going to help them against Detroit. The Refs can't help you in a game if you are being dominated by the other team.
Washington would have been a better series for Detroit in round 2.
What up doe! That's just a timeless Detroit greeting. I'm currently in Iraq and no one that I meet wants Detroit to win. They only seem to think about the superstars of the game. Detroit is definetly the best team in the NBA and will win the championship along with sweeping the Cavs to beat the Nets in 6, and the Mavericks in 5.
4 Games, 5 Games... Whatever! This series was over at 1 Game. Enough about Z just simply missing his shots. It's about the Pistons defense. They contest every shot, intimidate, and force you out of your patterns. LB is talented but he currently DOES NOT make his teammates better players. This is what he must learn from this series. Witness his teammates crumble by the wayside. In the end. The Pistons are a much smarter team. As Rasheed said, "No one person is better than the team."
Every on talking about LJ. LJ this, LJ that. Tayshawn prince has been working that boy! From every angle Tay has produced more. More offense, More Defense, Ad most importantly more Teamwork. Ther's alot of Cavs fans out there with unrealistic expectations. If the one guy on the Piston's who was not sent to the All-Star game is shuting your king down, how can hope even stay alive?!?
If I'm a witness, that makes the Cavs the victims.
The biggest thing preventing me from saying "Pistons in 4" is the fact that these Pistons have never won in 4. They seem to like to give the opposition a glimmer of hope before they take them out, otherwise the game/series is boring. If I'm not mistaken, this team has never gone up 3-0 on an opponent in the playoffs, so even as a diehard fan, I'd be surprised to see them win the next one.
Quote: "The biggest thing preventing me from saying "Pistons in 4" is the fact that these Pistons have never won in 4."
Are you seriously retarded? The Pistons this year is MUCH better than the Pistons from the previous two years. It is a fact. Their offense has sparked and keeping the solid defense. Seriously, I don't think there is any team out there right now can compete with the Pistons, and I mean it. If the Pistons ended up playing the Spurs. The Pistons would dominate the glass like they did during the regular season and sweep the Spurs. If they play the Mavs, Nowizki has to come out to guard 'Sheed from the 3. Billups would just bully Jason Terry. The 2005-06 NBA Champion is set. Detroit Pistons.
putting the spurs-mavs game in the primetime slot was a no-brainer. if i were the tv exec i would have done the same. judging from the comments above, the pistons-cavs series is a mismatch with little doubt who should win. the spurs-mavs series however is 1-1 and everyone's saying it'll probably go 7 games. you gotta think that any moment/play of that game could possibly have some lingering influence on the outcome of series, whereas whatever happens in game 3 pistons-cavs, the pistons are still very much in the drivers seat in most peoples minds.
First of all to the one who posted that they don't like the DEETRRROIIITTT BASSSKKEETTTBALLLLL comment at the games I had to show some love for it, being a Pistons fan and all. Anyways, if you don't like the saying, a team needs to shut up the Pistons, which isn't going to happen, so quit your whining. Pistons in 4 baby.
Mr. Mannix: You are noticably quiet now that the Cavs are up 3 games to 2. You said the series was over after Game two. You're the supposed EXPERT. Are you willing to admit to America that you were grossly underestimate Lebron and the Cavs and you apologize for being wrong? ~William~
SO now look at all the 'prophets' above and consider that the Cavaliers and LeBron James have been maturing at an alarming rate. Tonight, the Cavs close out the Pistons and the 'prophets' will be shamed.
Perhaps THEN somebody will give the ma little cred, but probably not, since most are jealous of LeBron and have been condiditioned to believe that there will never be anybody as great as MJ.