Game Tips at 7:00 P.M. EST
Detroit Pistons: 19-33 (6-21 road)
Cleveland Cavaliers: 8-44 (5-17 home)
It's bad enough to lose 25 games in a row, but it's even worse when your competition is motivated to avoid ending your streak. A loss to these Cavaliers would be embarrassing, and so every night the Cavs are faced with a focused opponent. Before this season started, the talk suggested that teams would be gunning for LeBron's new team, to steal wins from the Big Free, but it's his old team that is facing determined competition night in, night out...
Tonight, the Pistons hope to push the Cavs loss record to 26-in-a-row when they visit Cleveland, the best chance they'll get to improve their poor road record this season. Cavs fans will likely bring out their old "Beat Detroit!" t-shirts for old times sake, ironically the only thing of consequence the Cavaliers accomplished with LeBron at the helm. Now that he's gone, the team is in a tailspin of historic magnitude, but it just doesn't feel right to point and laugh.
What is this team doing right? If you had told me last season that in 2010-11, Ramon Sessions would be the Cavs best player, I would have replied, "of course he is." Granted, I would have been wearing my Superman underwear, but I would have claimed the "S" stood for Sessions. Across four games in February, Ramon "Makeout" Sessions is putting up 20 points on 59% shooting, 10 assists, 4 rebounds and 7 free throw attempts per game. Having once made the case that Ramon Sessions would be a perfect fit in Detroit, it's bittersweet to see those numbers going up elsewhere...
Putting up big numbers on a bad team is what Sessions has always done when given the burn, but what is remarkable is his assist numbers on one of two of the worst shooting teams in the league. As a starter, he's certainly outplaying the point guard on the league's other worst shooting team, the guy he was moved to make room for (Brandon Jennings). As a fan of the kid, here's to hoping the Cavaliers have learned a lesson about how to properly use Sessions-- don't play him out of position and give him adequate burn. If you don't do either of those things, there's no sense in keeping him on your roster.
Now that we've gone over the obvious, sexy 300 lb. gorilla in the room, let's talk about the rest of the Cavs roster... Nah, fuck it.
How to Win This Game:
Stay Focused: This is not the type of game that any team can write off as an easy win. They've been playing better and better of late, especially under the resurgence of you know who. Having lost by an average 11 points per game this season, they've dropped that to 5 per game in February, including a 3-point loss to the Mavericks on Monday. Play this game to win it, but don't get nervous about a potential embarrassment.
Contain Sessions and Jamison: Here are your defensive focal points, Detroit. Cleveland doesn't have a lot of offensive firepower, and while the shot distribution is pretty balanced across the Cavs starting line, these are the two most productive pieces on offense. Contain Sessions on penetration and passing from the perimeter, and watch Jamison and Gibson who combine for 9 three-point attempts per game. Beyond these players, most of the Cavs scoring options are wildly inefficient (looking at you, JJ Hickson).
Move the Ball, Feed the Moose: The better the Pistons move the ball, the better the team plays. So do that. Look for the open man, the outlet pass, cuts to the basket and pick-and-roll opportunities. Speaking of which, let's feed the damned ball to Monroe in the post. Tayshaun Prince is leading this team in field goal attempts for the first time in his career, and I'd rather a few of those attempts go to Monroe. It's not like Prince is going to be a Piston next season. Monroe is. It's time that the world feared the Monroad Warrior. (more on this to come in its own independent post, Pistons fans... keep your eyes peeled next week)
Question of the Game:
It feels like we're perpetually 3-and-a-half or 4 games out of the playoffs. It's like this weird orbital apogee, a Lagrangian point for the nerds in da house, that we can't break in either direction. Can we see some movement here please? At this point, I really don't care which direction we go.