2:30 PM ET on ABC
Cleveland: 36-9 (14-9 road)
Margin: +10.3 ppg (+6.1 last 25%)
Last 10: 7-3
Pistons: 25-20 (13-10 home)
Margin: even (-2.7 last 25%)
Last 10: 3-7
<Insert cliche about this being an "undercard" game>. <Insert hackneyed reference that downplays the fact that the Superbowl will be played this evening.>
The LeBrons no more, Cleveland has emerged as a team that will seriously contend for a championship. In fact, I would argue that, when healthy, this is the best team in the league. Consider that the team has played like a 55 win team without Big Z or Delonte West, and it's tough to disagree.
The addition of Mo Williams was supposed to help free up LeBron to be more efficient and effective. He didn't need help, it turns out. Moreso, Delonte West has benefitted from the addition of a backcourt scoring threat. West is out, but Sasha Pavlovic proves my point by shooting the lights out as a starter.
Sportswriters have commented on LeBron's new sensurgency on defense, but coach Mike Brown has always gotten good defense out of this team. Ben Wallace's improved play is a larger factor in Cleveland's status as an elite defensive squad.
Unfortunately for us, Big Z is back, and is playing as well as ever. Many have made the case that Mo Williams should be an all-star, but Ilgauskas is the second best player on this team. With him, the Cavs are also an elite rebounding squad
It's Superbowl Sunday. It's the Cavs. It's Big Ben. What's not dramatic?
Keys for Detroit:
Keep LeBron on the perimeter: He might be the best player in the league, but he has his kryptonite. James is a lousy three-point shooter, and he'll still put them up in bunches if he doesn't feel like he is contributing. Not that Tay needs this advice... He's as good as anyone at defending LeBron.
Play the passing lanes: AI's ears are burning, but there is a reason he had four steals the last time these two teams met. Other than LeBron (and, to a lesser extent, Pavlovic), this is a perimeter team that doesn't like to put the ball on the floor. Disrupting the half-court requires cutting off the passing lanes.
Beat the zone: Expect the Cavs to pack it in against us, forcing our littles to contend with their bigs in the paint, and taking the pressure off Mo Williams. The 15-18 footer will be there all night.
Question of the game:
We played respectably enough last Sunday to move beyond the jinx. Can we take it to the next level, and win some games?