So about last night's 96-73 win over the Cavs: put it out of your head. For whatever reason -- whether it be the pressure of a supposed "statement game", the wear of playing at such a high level while winning 11 of their previous 12, or pure, tangible fear after Cavs reserve "Sideshow" Anderson Varejao received a Flagrant Foul #2 for his hard foul and subsequent shove of Rasheed Wallace -- the Cavs decided to pack this one in after 10 minutes of quarter #1. What was an 8 point lead after one quarter quickly became 20+, and it stayed that way for the remainder of the game as the Pistons tied the franchise record for wins with 63.
The Pistons had six in double figures for the game, spreading the wealth amongst everyone who entered the game. In fact, the only Pistons who didn't score were Kelvin Cato (who only played two minutes) and the human self-check, Lindsey Hunter, who punished the rim 5 times in his 21 minutes of floor time but did manage to collect 5 dimes in the process.
Antonio McDyess' comments about Varejao probably best sum up the game as a whole.
"Did you see (Varejao's) eyes," Antonio McDyess said. "He was scared to death. I think he thought Sheed was going to come after him."
Like Varejao, the Cavs looked tentative, and they looked that way long before King James left the game with a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter. But rightly so. Look, the Pistons are a far better team than the Cavaliers; I don't think you'll find many NBA fans who disagree with me on that one. And despite the super-human play of Lebron as of late, the Cavaliers have no shot of beating the Pistons in round two of the Eastern Conference playoffs next month. No chance at all.
I'm not trying to be inflammatory here -- Cavs fans should freely admit that they didn't expect to win the NBA title this season; this was only year 3 in the ascent of James. It just doesn't happen that fast for players forced to carry teams from the beginning. Larry, Magic, and Duncan were fortunate enough to land with good teams immediately; Jordan was not, and he had to wait a long time for his turn.
But Lebron's time will come, and probably sooner than Jordan. As Bob Wojonowski says in today's Detroit News, "In basketball, more than any other sport, one star makes a difference." I agree completely. Just as it became increasingly evident in the late-80s/early-90s that Jordan was "getting it" and would eventually win it all, so it will be with Lebron, whether Larry Hughes can play his Pippen or not.
But not this year. Not yet. The Pistons are to Lebron today what they were to Jordan then -- a team of very good players that will continue to "bring the bacon" (to steal a phrase from the Wizznutzz) every night, and force even their best individual opponents to not only take over the game, but raise the game of his supporting cast as well, not something easily done when you're attempting to lift Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall, or (snicker) Damon Jones.
Anyways, I know I've been the portrait of over-confidence as of late, but the East, with the possible exception of Jersey, just doesn't scare me too much these days (though I'd admittedly love to see the Cavs knock out the Wiz in the first round). Am I wrong to think this way?
Pistons 96, Cavs 73 box score [ESPN]
Take that Lebron [Detroit News]
Wojo: James is a star, but Billups proves he's a winner [Detroit News]