The No. 8 seed Detroit Pistons started their 2016 playoff run with two games in Cleveland to take on the No. 1 seed Cavaliers. Despite high hopes and expectations, Detroit has dropped the first two contests of the series to go down 2-0. Below are recaps for both games of this series so far.
Boy, they came out hot.
This was the mindset of many as the Pistons started Game 1 of this series seemingly hitting every long-range shot they took. Detroit, tied for 22nd in the NBA for three-point percentage, started the first half shooting 10-for-16 from deep. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, shot a decent 40 percent from deep. However they relied much more on the playmaking ability of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Both players facilitated on offense and kept the somewhat stagnant Cavaliers going.
The Pistons took a 58-53 lead into halftime and had all the momentum. The bench, ranking dead last in the league in scoring, was carrying much of the load on offense, and young players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson, who finished with 21 and nine points respectively, had stepped up to the plate. With that being said, Cleveland came into the third quarter much more aggressive on defense, forcing Detroit to score inside. This plan worked for the Cavs, as the Pistons only made two shots from outside and had only two points in the paint. On offense, Irving led the way, scoring 10 points and accounting for 41 percent of the team’s usage rate.
Detroit jumped out to a seven point lead to start the fourth quarter, but the Cavs quickly recovered with big three-pointers from veteran journeyman Richard Jefferson and backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova. Cleveland had some swing at this point, but lost it as the Pistons continued to battle back and tie it up, adding to the 21 ties and 17 lead changes this game had. But with 5:40 left in the game, the Cavs finally took control. Power forward Kevin Love, who had a huge game scoring 28 points, hit back-to-back threes to give the Cavs a four point lead. To top it all off, Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson received a technical foul with 3:24 remaining for arguing a call. Detroit tried to climb back, but it ended up not coming to fruition as Cleveland was able to pull away, winning the first game of the series 106-101.
After losing a tight Game 1 to the Cavs, the Pistons came out in the second matchup of the series determined to steal one in Cleveland. Starting the game ahead 17-7, it looked like this was going to happen.
Then Kyrie Irving stepped up.
Irving scored eight straight points for the Cavs after their 10-point deficit, which gave him 13 of the team’s 15 points in the game. Going into this series Detroit needed to contain LeBron, while slowing the supporting cast around him. They certainly contained James, who only scored two points in the first period. Detroit held Kevin Love to two points, while Irving finished the first with 13. With that being said, the Pistons went into the second quarter up five.
The second quarter was LeBron’s breakout show as James had eight of his team’s first 11 points. Shooting guard J.R. Smith also had nine points, all on three-pointers. Detroit, while trying to hold a lead, started to feed center Andre Drummond, who had 10 points in the second alone. The Pistons seemed to do everything right in this quarter, as they only had two turnovers and shot 56 percent in the period. What hurt them was allowing James to get his game going, which fuels the remaining Cavalier players. After two, the Cavs were up two.
Quarter three was where it all went wrong. The Pistons began to turn the ball over, leading to fast break opportunities for Cleveland, which is where they thrive. These fast breaks helped Cleveland hit six of their franchise playoff record 20 three-pointers. The Cavs also went on a 11-0 run for two minutes in the middle of the third, which took any momentum Detroit had. With the defense not making stops, allowing 27 points, the offense was not much better as the Pistons only scored 15 points in the period. Not one player scored more than four points, and the team only made one from beyond the arc. All in all, the Pistons can point to the third as what lost them this game.
By the fourth quarter, the game was all but over. Cleveland kept at least a 14-point lead throughout the period, suffocating the Pistons. The deciding factor was not even the Cavaliers’ play, as the Pistons just did not play good basketball. They had no energy left, and any confidence was left in the first half. When the buzzer sounded, the score was 107-90, and Detroit was going home down 2-0 in the series.
Game 3 Prediction
Detroit, down on their luck after a disappointing Game 2, will come out to an amazing home crowd that has not seen playoff basketball in seven years. They should be able to feed off this and form the complete game they have not had yet. They went 26-15 at home in the regular season, and the playoffs usually favor a home team. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will continue his impressive play, while Detroit will finally stop the three-point barrage that is the Cavaliers’ offense. It will be tight throughout this one, but a decisive stop of James at the end will help Detroit get their first playoff win since 2008.
Prediction: Detroit 102, Cleveland 98