Your eyes do not deceive you. The Detroit Pistons have played 82 games in the 2015-16 NBA season and you are reading a game preview. But this is not just any game preview, this is a PLAYOFF GAME PREVIEW. The Pistons are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. They will be going for their first playoff win since the 2007-08 season.
Today's game pits the Pistons against the team that last ended their playoff run in 2008. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the No. 1 seed in the East, the only team most people view as having a legitimate title shot coming out of the conference and with the weight of the world (and LeBron James finally bringing a championship to Cleveland) on its shoulders. In other words, the Pistons are already playing with house money.
When: Sunday, April 17th, 2016 at 3:00 PM EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, OH
According to most media, the Pistons should be dismantled by the Cavaliers. All reports are that Cleveland is for sure going to make it out of the first round. LeBron James is 10-for-10 in the first round, a 40-7 record, and only lost as many as two games in any of his first round matchups. That is a tall task for the playoff-inexperienced Pistons.
However, the Cavaliers know not to take the Pistons lightly. Discounting the season finale where both teams sat their starters for rest, the Pistons won the season series 2-1. One of those games was without Kyrie Irving. But the other was with a fully healthy Cavaliers squad and the first start for Tobias Harris with the Pistons. In the season series, the Pistons outscored the Cavaliers by seven points.
But we are not in the regular season anymore. That means James is about to flip the switch. If the Pistons have the same switch, it may take them some time to find it.
Last Time We Met
Season Finale, April 13th, 2016 in Cleveland - Pistons 112, Cavaliers 110
While many may say that this game meant nothing, it could actually be the catalyst for a very good series. Bench units, especially the Pistons' bench unit, got to see extended playing time in order to get into a rhythm before the playoff started. With the addition of Jodie Meeks, playing in only his third game of the season, the Pistons were able to prevail. Seven Pistons scored in double figures and Meeks went for 20 on 6-for-15 shooting (4-for-9 from deep). Unfortunately, the Pistons rookies finished a combined 8-for-33, 1-for-6 from distance. However, a Cavaliers rookie, Jordan McRae decided to pull out his inner LeBron and went 14-for-29 for 36 points. How much these bench players play in the series could be a tide turner.
Players to Watch
Pistons: Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond finished the season as the league's leading rebounder. While the Cavaliers have capable rebounders in Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love, they are no match for Drummond. Even still, Drummond averaged a rebound less per game against the Cavaliers than he did on the season. At the same time, he averaged 20 points per game. Can Drummond rebound better against the Cavaliers and will the Cavaliers try to get him out of sync with Hack-a-Dre?
Cavaliers: LeBron James
Does this really need any explanation? Does anyone remember the time he went for 25 points in a row to beat the Pistons in the playoffs? Or that the last time the Pistons were in the playoffs, they were swept by LeBron and the Cavaliers? James is something else when the playoffs hit, we just have to hope that some combination of Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris and Reggie Bullock will be able to slow him ... even just a little bit.
Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Harris, Drummond
Cavaliers: Irving, J.R. Smith, James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson
Note: The Injury Report on ESPN does have some players listed for both teams, but it likely has to do with both teams sitting their starters from the last game. At the same time, it does say both Irving and Love are out, and with their history, that's believable.
If the Pistons steal game one, how much do you think that will give them confidence to win the series?