The crowd at the Palace was electric, seeing playoff basketball for the first time in seven years. Unfortunately, the Pistons couldn't match that energy, falling to the Cavaliers 101-91 and into a 3-0 hole in their first-round series.
Detroit showed plenty of grit on the offensive end, but the Pistons got killed on the boards and couldn't slow down the Cavs' big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
The Pistons gave up the fewest offensive boards in the NBA this season, but tonight, just as in games 1 and 2, Cleveland killed Detroit with offensive rebounds. Cleveland had 12 offensive boards, and got a handful of buckets after Detroit played stellar defense and forced a miss. Those kind of second-chance points are just backbreakers. The Cavs outrebounded the Pistons 46-32 overall.
Detroit had one final run left in them in the fourth quarter, trying to salvage the series, but one player who missed most of that run was Andre Drummond who sat the second half of the fourth because the Cavs went to hack-a-Dre.
The Pistons were led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on both ends of the floor. While Irving got his points, KCP made him work all night and rarely got lost on defense. KCP had four steals. Offensively, Caldwell-Pope finished with 18 points.
Reggie Jackson struggled from the floor, but orchestrated the offense expertly. He patiently navigated double teams and found open teammates, finishing with 12 assists and one turnover.
With the loss, Detroit faces a nearly unwinnable deficit in a nearly unwinnable series. But this was never about shocking the world and beating a No. 1 seed. It was about learning what was required to be a contender. To learn what playoff basketball was all about.
The Pistons are learning that. Stan Van Gundy is learning what he needs to add to this team to take it to the next level. Andre Drummond is learning that he'll never finish games unless he can up that free-throw percentage. And maybe someday I'll learn what the hell happened to Tobias Harris in this series.
You can look at this series as Detroit dropping two winnable games, or you can look at it as an undermanned Pistons team fighting to the end but just not having enough to overcome Cleveland's huge talent advantage.
I'm just glad I'm watching The Palace rock during the playoffs again.