Late in Game 4, the Cavs put LeBron James on Chauncey Billups. It was an odd matchup, and one I intended to discuss but forgot to mention. Fortunately, Brian from MGoBlog picked up the slack:
Freed of the presence of Larry Hughes' stifling defense, Billups dominated the first half against a gimpy Hughes, undersized Daniel Gibson, and, well, Damon Jones. But in the second half -- and this is something that went completely unremarked on by the announcers in an uncharacteristic oversight by a normally crack TNT crew (with the notable exception of horrible Doug Collins; see below) -- the Cavs switched Lebron James on Billups and Billups disappeared. What's worse, he didn't even probe a matchup against a six-eight small forward. The one time he did he got the defense to collapse and got a teammate an open look. The rest of the game, though, he avoided making even the slightest move towards the basket. The aggression of the first half drained.
The thing that makes Cleveland a dangerous team now and in the future is that ability. As James was confusing Billups into thinking "there is a 6'8" guy on me, there must be a mismatch somewhere on the floor," similarly 6'8" Sasha Pavlovic was on Prince, the posts were handling posts, and whoever the point guard was at the moment, probably Gibson, was running around with Rip Hamilton. When Hughes is healthy, the team Cleveland fields is freaking huge. They're a defensive nightmare, as both this series and last year's seven game adventure demonstrate ably
I couldn't agree more. For all the talk about the Pistons just needing to regain their focus and play harder, there is absolutely something to be said about Cleveland posing a huge -- and unique -- matchup problem. This wasn't an issue at all earlier in the playoffs: Chauncey Billups dominated the Smurf-ish Jameer Nelson in the first round, and neither Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon are taller than 6-3.
I doubt the Cavs will put LeBron on Chauncey for very long in Game 5 -- I'm guessing that was just Mike Brown throwing a curveball to disrupt the Pistons' rhythm -- but if it happens Chauncey needs to figure out how to take advantage.
Update: Although they don't address the "LeBron on Chauncey" matchup, the guys at The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes hit the nail on the head for some other keys to turning things around.