Looking at the schedule last week, I was pretty excited about Sunday -- I was planning on a good, close game with the Cavs followed by an entertaining Super Bowl. Thanks to the Cavs, Bears (and some disappointing commercials), I was 0-for-2. The Cavs showed a little fight in the first half (let's face it: all NBA teams do), but in the second the Pistons easily took control and never looked back.
Continuing the trend of late, it was a balanced attack all the way around for the Pistons: six guys scored in double digits and no one scored more than 18. I would have liked to see the bench play a little bit more (read: give me more Jason Maxiell!), but all in all this was an extremely solid game.
This isn't yet the team that gave Detroit fits in the playoffs last year. LeBron James is still the best player on the court, but he just seems less ... dynamic, I guess. What jumped out the most was how much LBJ and the Cavs settled for shots. And when you settle, the refs aren't nearly as generous with the whistle -- James finished with just three free-throw attempts, and the Cavs as a whole had just nine. Detroit, on the other hand, has 24 free throws (with 17 makes). It's not often you see an NBA team fail to break double-digits in free throws -- LBJ averaged more than 10 a game last year.
Chris McCosky describes the Pistons' strategy of keeping LBJ out of the paint and away from the charity stripe:
The Pistons continue their uncanny ability to contain and frustrate LeBron James. He came into the game averaging 23.2 points in his career against the Pistons, fourth lowest against all opponents. On Sunday, with Tayshaun Prince doing most of the heavy work, James managed 21 points, hitting 9 of 22 shots.
"Our game plan has worked the last two times here," Prince said. "We try to deny him the ball a little bit. He makes so many plays for himself and his teammates, we try to trap him and get the ball out of his hands. Their other guys have to make plays and that has worked for us."
Prince would either funnel James into a trio of post defenders, or force him to take a long, contested jump shot. James was visibly frustrated, most of it directed at the officials.
It wasn't just James who was feeling frustrated -- a member of his entourage, his driver, sitting courtside was ejected for apparently crossing the line while heckling the refs.
There's nothing worse than being unoriginal. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's love for Detroit has no bounds. There's no way of knowing whether he actually asked his P.A. announcer to mimic Mason or whether the guy just looked around, saw the rest of the franchise slowly transforming into Detroit and picked up the cue, but in the third quarter it was blantly obvious where he was getting his inspiration. From Chris McCosky in the Detroit News:
It was late in the game Sunday and the ball went out of bounds under the Pistons' basket.
Cavaliers public address announcer Olivier Sedra yelled, "D-E-E-TROIT TURN-OVER."
Three things were wrong with that. One, it wasn't a turnover. Two, the Cavaliers were trailing by 10 points and were about to be beaten soundly on their home floor. Three, it was a blatant rip-off of Pistons announcer John Mason.
"Man, I told him to get your own material," Chauncey Billups said. "That was terrible."
Pistons trainer Mike Abdenour, Billups and Rasheed Wallace all walked over to have their say to Sedra.
"All he said was, 'I am just doing my job,' " said Wallace, imitating Sedra's deep voice. "I told him to stop stealing somebody else's material. I told him he was making his fame off other people's lines. That's garbage."
Update: Cleveland's loss has YAYsports! feeling a little green...