It's do or die time for the Detroit Pistons, as they enter the Palace of Auburn Hills in desperate need of a win. It's been seven long years since Pistons fans have had an opportunity to see their team battle in the postseason on their home court, so the environment will be electric. I can't wait.
They are tasked with winning a theoretical elimination game seeing that exactly zero NBA teams have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit and I don't think the Cleveland Cavaliers will be the first team to fall. The Pistons have never overcome a 2-0 deficit, but 3-0 is unthinkable.
The Pistons picked up right where they left off in Game 2, playing the Cavaliers tight early and for the first seven points of the third quarter. But it was all for naught, when LeBron James went beast-mode, and the Cavs put up 20 three-pointers, tying an NBA playoff record. The Cavaliers look to take a stranglehold on the series, so here's to the Pistons nabbing a crucial win knowing that you just have to hold serve for now.
Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills- Auburn Hills, MI
When: Friday, April 22, 7:00PM ET
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, ESPN
If the Pistons are going to stand a chance, they'll need to address their shaky pick & roll and transition defense. Detroit cannot afford to get lost every single time there is a high ball screen, giving three-point shooters the green light to hoist away. They'll certainly have to find a way to slow down LeBron James, especially since he smells the blood in the water. LeBron-led teams are an impressive 10-0 in the first round, so he'll make sure his Cavaliers are all in shutdown mode as they enter the rocking Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Cavaliers have made 32 three pointers in the series (leading all teams through the first two games), and at times have looked Spur-like with their ball movement, although there were times you could see them make one (or two) too many passes. The Pistons heart and effort has been obvious, but they've also looked flustered at times, leading to poor play, with the Cavs taking advantage going on quick and eventually insurmountable runs.
Management is the name of the game. Manage to slow down the Cavs' Big Three. Manage to handle their offensive spurts. And most importantly, manage the emotions that come when the game is tight, a call doesn't go your way, or when LeBron hits a crucial basket and celebrates down the court. If the Pistons resort to retaliation, instead of opting to concentrate on the task at hand, the Cavaliers will have that distinct advantage that comes with decades of combined playoff experience while playing a group of guys who are predominantly 26 years and younger.
Do I have to say it? I think we all know what we'll be looking for in this contest. The Stanimal vs. LBJ. Stanley Johnson might regret his comments about that "cheap-ass shot" he received as James headed towards the bench, and how he thinks (and he may be right) that he's in LeBron's head, seeing that LeBron clearly has been constantly jabbering at the 19-year-old rookie. But I personally think Stanley believes he's up to the challenge of guarding the Eastern Conference's number one player, and no matter what, this will be a learning lesson that will hopefully help the young forward as he progresses through his career.
Johnson has played good basketball through the first two games of the series. He's averaged 9 points/game on 64% shooting. But his offensive game won't be enough to secure a Pistons win; he'll have to back up his words with an impressive defensive effort in Game 3. LeBron will look to make a statement against Johnson, and I hope Johnson will try to do the same, while playing his role and contributing on both sides of the ball.
Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Harris, Drummond
Cavaliers: Irving, Smith, James, Love, Thompson
This one's going to be cut and dry. If the Pistons are going to win Game 3, what will be the most important factor?