The Cleveland Cavaliers had to fight, scratch, and claw to secure Game 1 against the Detroit Pistons; Game 2 on the other hand, well that was a completely different story. Game 2 started off just as Game 1 concluded, both teams were competitive, the game was chippy, and the Pistons were holding their own against the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.
At one point the Pistons took a 10-point lead, and it was clear that this team was not intimidated by LeBron James and his supporting cast of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. But intimidation (or lack thereof) means very little when you're simply outplayed on both sides of the ball.
The Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, flexed their muscles against the disheveled Pistons, and comfortably won the game by 17 points, 107-90.
Early in the game, the Pistons punished the Cavaliers small-ball lineup. Andre Drummond had no problem handling the Cavaliers' bigs, as he overpowered Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love, and was too active for the likes of Timofey Mozgov. Drummond finished with a team high 20 points, and while he didn't have his most impressive game on the boards (only seven rebounds), he was a factor down low, and caused havoc on both the defensive and offensive side of the glass.
Tobias Harris was also effective against the Cavs smaller line up, especially when guarded by JR Smith. He finished with 13 points, but shot a dismal 3-11 from the field. The majority of Harris' points came from the line where he finished 7-8. I say that Harris was effective, because the Pistons' bigs (including Harris) were able to fiercely attack the Cavs when they deployed their small-ball rotation, and quickly rack up fouls when they had a mismatch.
It must be noted that Hack-a-Dre was once again successfully deployed, as Drummond only managed to knock down 4-16 from the free-throw stripe. This will continue to be a problem for the Pistons, because even if Aron Baynes is having an efficient game (which he did not), he simply does not provide the rim protection or rebounding ability (necessitating a double team) that Andre brings to the table. Unfortunately for Pistons fans, there does not seem to be a remedy in sight, unless Drummond somehow finds a more reliable stroke from the charity stripe.
The Pistons bench has been an issue all season, so we shouldn't expect that to miraculously change when playing against Cleveland. Detroit's second unit only managed to score 19 points. I don't think there needs for more analysis on that. Please score more.
One positive note to take away from this game, was the play of Stanley Johnson. He was once again tasked with guarding the best player in the Eastern Conference, and he did not back down. At one point, you could tell that LBJ was annoyed with the rook, when LeBron delievered a shoulder-shove as he headed to the Cavaliers bench during a time-out. How did Stanley respond? By bodying up LeBron on D, then hitting a three for good measure. Stanley finished with nine points, shooting 4-7 from the field. And while I did appreciate the tenacity from the Stanimal, it simply was not enough to stop LeBron from doing LeBron-like things.
The Big Three, and the Three Ball
Yes, Stanley did all he could on LeBron James, but that only seemed to elevate the play of the four-time MVP. LeBron James was a runaway freight train, as he hit the three comfortably, had a massive jam (get out of the way Reggie Bullock!), and got the ball movement rolling for the Cavs. He was clowning out there for the better part of the second half and I had hoped that Stanley Johnson would find a way to posterize him, to wipe that smirk off his face, but the Basketball Gods did not grant my wish. LBJ finished with 27 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Those other two guys also had a productive game. Kyrie hit 4-7 from deep, and finished with a respectable 22 points. Kevin Love chipped in three 3 pointers himself, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Even more important than any individual effort from the Cavaliers, their entire team stroked out from deep. They finished with 20 three pointers, yes I said TWENTY three pointers, led by J.R. Smith who knocked down seven. That mark tied an all-time NBA record in the playoffs. Needless to say, if they continue to hit the long ball at that rate, this will be a very quick series.
The Pistons now find themselves down two games to zip, as they head back to Detroit, and look forward to Friday's Game 3. What do you think the Pistons need to fix in order to win? Let us know in the comments!