The Detroit Pistons gave the Cleveland Cavaliers everything they could handle. Although Detroit lost 106-101, the Pistons showed that they belong in the playoffs, and Stan Van Gundy showed the world that he is still one of the best coaches in the NBA.
There is a lot to chew on after Game 1, as both Detroit and Cleveland will need to make adjustments headed into Game 2. Cleveland surely didn't want to get into such an offensive shootout in the opening round, while Detroit needs to resolve how to stop Cleveland's Big Three and shore up some rebounding issues.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from game one of the playoffs for the Detroit Pistons:
1. Kevin Love at center is a huge problem for the Pistons
We'll have more on this soon, but Kevin Love at center for the Cavs is a matchup nightmare for the Pistons. Detroit doesn't have the personnel to go super small against Love, and Andre Drummond always struggles to guard perimeter big men. It also negates Drummond's huge rebounding strength, and Dre doesn't have the post-game to punish Love down low.
2. Stanley Johnson can slow down LeBron
It was 13 years ago that the little-used rookie Tayshaun Prince was brought off the bench as the Pistons faced elimination at the hands of the Orlando Magic and superstar Tracy McGrady. Prince proved he was a superstar defensive stopper by locking up McGrady and Detroit managed to win three straight games. This year's version of Prince might be rookie Stanley Johnson.
Johnson subbed in for a struggling Tobias Harris and not only didn't back down from the challenge, but played a physical brand of basketball that Detroit needs to slow down James. Johnson finished with nine points and eight rebounds in just 16 minutes of action while hitting all three of his 3-pointers. Van Gundy might have to think about leaning on Johnson more if Harris' struggles continue.
3. Detroit's three-point shooting is for real
The path for a Pistons victory will always involve solid three-point shooting. Against Cleveland, Detroit was 15-of-29. Although that performance isn't sustainable they, can be a 40-plus percent three-point shooting team. It's not like Detroit took a ton of crazy heaves from three; the Pistons used the pick-and-roll to suck in the defense and kick the ball out to open shooters. Marcus Morris and Reggie Bullock are extremely dangerous from the perimeter, and on nights when Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are hitting from deep, the Pistons are as dangerous as anyone in the NBA.
4. Detroit's rebounding struggles are more than bad luck
The Pistons need to control the defensive boards against a team as good as Cleveland, but it's easier said than done. There was a lot of bad luck that played into Detroit giving up 12 offensive boards and a plus-14 margin in second-chance points, but it's more than bad luck. Drummond was forced onto the perimeter and Detroit defenders didn't fight hard enough for a series of long boards.
5. Tobias Harris had perhaps his worst game as a member of the Pistons
Tobias Harris has been the most consistent member of the Pistons since his arrival at the trade deadline. His consistency and versatility allowed Detroit to hit another gear on offense. Against the Cavs, however, he was terrible on both ends of the floor. Harris was 4-of-11 with three turnovers and the game turned in the fourth quarter when KCP came in for Johnson and SVG kept Harris on the floor. The offensive flow stopped as nobody seemed sure what to do.
Harris wasn't a threat to shoot or drive, and because Cleveland was selling out hard on the Jackson-Drummond pick and roll, it meant Detroit had nowhere to turn to generate offense. Van Gundy needs to either figure out what to do to get Harris going or be more willing to turn to Johnson instead to slow down James and make Cleveland's offense slightly less dynamic.