20 threes and a 2-0 lead: Cavs-Pistons, Behind the Box Score

JR Smith Cavs Pistons
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Detroit Pistons 90
Cleveland Cavaliers 107
Box Score
Cavs lead series, 2-0

Game 2 of the Cavs-Pistons first-round playoff series was a bit different than Game 1. After knocking down half of their threes and putting a scare into the top-seeded Cavs in the series opener, the Pistons’ jumpers went begging on Wednesday night as the Cavs hit better than half of their threes. The Cavs went off for 20 triples, tying an NBA playoff record, as they pulled away in the second half to take a 2-0 series lead over the Detroit Pistons.

Detroit carried a lead into halftime, however. They knocked down shots early and bodied the Cavs as Stan Van Gundy said they would. At times the game was little more than a symphony of officials’ whistles. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love both got into foul trouble early, forcing Tyronn Lue to go to his bench. (At no point was he forced to play Timofey Mozgov; that was his choice.)

The Pistons’ lead came on the strength of their most reliable weapon: the Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond pick and roll. That duo had 27 points at the half, but finished the game with just 34. The Cavs continued to wager against Detroit’s shooters, blitzing Jackson on pick-and-rolls and surrounding Drummond with as many bodies as possible. The Pistons’ big man got loose plenty in the early going thanks in part to those Mozgov minutes, but the Cavs were able to slow him down conventionally (by sending more defenders toward him) and fiendishly (by sapping his confidence by sending him to the foul line, where he went 4-of-16).

Things got a little chippy out there. It reminded me a bit of last year’s Cavs-Celtics series, but without the injuries — knock on wood. It’s one of those deals where the Pistons know they aren’t as good, but they seem to think they’re tougher. Intimidating Kevin Love was a declared goal heading into this game. They gave LeBron a little extra business when possible. They crashed the boards hard. They’re playing well and giving the Cavs something to think about.

The fun part of that, in my eyes, is this: they’re riling LeBron up a little bit. If 19-year-old Stanley Johnson’s postgame comments are any indication, they’re going to keep on trying.

I think it’s fair to be skeptical of the rookie’s remarks, but hey, these are his first playoffs and he’s excited. No harm done — except when LeBron brought it back Detroit’s way. He exchanged pleasantries with his foes all game long, and he produced some holy-crap-level highlights along the way. In the third quarter, for instance, James hit a right wing three — and then chirped at Marcus Morris for leaving him so open.

In the second quarter, he made a hard cut into the lane, took a Matthew Dellavedova pass, and threw down a dunk on Reggie Bullock so disrespectful it got the Jim Ross WWE treatment.

And in the fourth, he capped things off with an absurd no-look left-handed bullet pass to Kevin Love in the corner. Love buried the three to put the Cavs up by 18. (Watch Marcus Morris flinch!)

The most important thing is that the Cavs are up 2-0, but the most fun thing was seeing Fun LeBron out there. It wasn’t his starriest stat line — a mere 27 points and 6 rebounds — but he was just on. He set good screens and made hard cuts. He celebrated after great plays and smacked his hands together after bad ones. He barked some directions to his teammates without showing them up. He played great ball.

The Cavs mostly did the same, especially in the second half. Home court hath been protected, and now the series moves to Auburn Hills. Don’t grab your broom just yet, but make a mental note of which closet it’s in. On to the numbers…

20 — The Cavs made 20 of their 38 three-point tries, becoming the fourth team in NBA history to hit that number in a playoff game. J.R. Smith led the way, knocking down 7-of-11. Kyrie Irving hit 4-of-7, including 3-for-3 in the first quarter. LeBron and Kevin Love combined for five more, and four bench players knocked one down. It was a buttload of threes, to be sure. Not all of them were great looks — there were some one-pass jumpers in there — but a bunch of them came in rhythm. It didn’t feel like they chucked up 38 threes for the sake of chucking up 38 threes. It probably ain’t sustainable, but it was a helluva lotta fun for one night.

16 & 10 — Kevin Love went for a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double. The Cavs remain undefeated in playoff games in which he plays.

13-of-25 — After hitting four threes, Kyrie Irving is now 13-of-25 (52 percent) from deep in his last three games.1

13 — Tristan Thompson played just 13 minutes after playing 30 in Game 1. He was forced to the bench after picking up two fouls within three minutes of tipoff, and didn’t return until the second half. The Cavs went back to some floor-spreading lineups with either Channing Frye or Kevin Love playing center and had a good bit of success with them, so TT wasn’t as essential as he often is.

9 — Timofey Mozgov played nine minutes, all in the first half. He didn’t score a point, grab a rebound, or block a shot. I love ol’ Timo, but he looks hapless out there, as he has for much of the season. Nine minutes is too many. Two minutes might be too many. This is a bummer.

+25 — Both Matthew Dellavedova and Richard Jefferson had sizzling plus-25 ratings off the bench. Delly legitimately controlled the game for stretches, finishing with 8 points and 9 assists in 22 minutes. Jefferson didn’t do as much — just 3 points and 2 rebounds — but he played 23 minutes and was part of solid wing defender effort from the Cavs.

5 — Jordan McRae scored five points in one garbage time minute. He would be a Hall of Famer if he only played the Pistons.

  1. The two Pistons playoff games and the penultimate regular season game against Atlanta. []

  • boomhauertjs

    I really hope LeBron does his best imitation of that ’07 game in the Palace to just demoralize the Pistons and their fans.
    Also, #NeverMozgov

  • Natedawg86

    Cavs looking good. Pistons looking like a #3 team not a #8. Mosgov sucks.

    Funny story from last night’s game:

    My six year old stayed up to watch the game with me and asked me if there was anything that I thought could make the basketball game better. I said I thought it was pretty good and asked him what he thought. He said that they could get better refs, and then went on to say that the refs were probably nerds earlier in life and were mad at the jocks, so that is why they were calling all the fouls on them. Too funny, he was right though.

    Refs were pretty bad last night, but I can handle bad refs if they are consistent. The problem is that even if the refs have consistency during the game, there is a good chance they will not be consistent throughout the series/playoffs. It is almost like the players need to feel out the refs throughout the game to figure out how they are going to call the game.

  • chrisdottcomm

    “At no point was he forced to play Timofey Mozgov; that was his choice”

    I know we’ve said it since the All Star Break but this, *THIS* has to be the last time we see Timo off the bench before Channing, right?


  • JM85

    When they play like they did in the second half it is just beautiful.

  • Harv

    Painful to watch Mozgov right now. Forget scoring or rebounds – he can only secure a ball that hits him gently in two hands between his naval and shoulders. It’s baffling – from being a force last year to a frankenstein mix of J.J. Hickson hands and Ryan Hollins general pusillanimity. And this seems to be enabled by continued minutes. I’d sit him down and let his agent drive the point home: this is it, grow a pair or lose tens of millions. By next round he can actually harm the team.

    And man, is SVG feisty. That reaction to Lue’s having LeBron now stay on the floor to close quarters? Love it. The man will not even pretend to kowtow, and that’s why his teams play tough until they get sick of him.

  • MrCleaveland

    I was just about to put my own spin on Mozzie, but you’ve already said it well. What the heck happened to that guy? He’s the new giraffe on roller skates, and he makes Kosar look like Gregory Hines.

  • JNeids

    Everyone (on Twitter, and now Will) thinks Lebron was chirping or making faces after that 3 because MM left him so wide open. Another possibility: if you watch MM’s arm, he lowers it close to Lebron’s head/face, possibly even grazing him, long after Lebron has released. Lebron might have taken exception to that.

    …or he might have just wondered why he was so wide open.

  • MrCleaveland

    Yeah, there seemed to be a lot of ticky-tacky calls, at least in the first half. What’s the point? It’s not like the refs had to retake control of the game because the two teams were going all thug on each other.

  • BenRM

    What the heck happened to Timo? He was legit last year.

  • Natedawg86
  • Natedawg86

    He sucks on D too. BAD. Doesn’t play physical, whines way to much. Figure out your role Russian

  • BenRM

    Such an awesome promotion…such disappointing Timo.
    In Soviet Russia, basketball plays you.

  • RGB

    Kaun can’t be any worse.
    Can he?

  • woofersus

    He never had good hands, but he was much quicker to his spots last season, which made him better at both defense and rebounding, as well as getting putbacks on offense and catching the occasional lob. He’s not even 30 yet, so the only possible explanation is that his wheels aren’t right. I think he’s got knee problems that started last summer and the scope didn’t fix it and they kept thinking it would get better during the season and it hasn’t.

  • Natedawg86

    His acceleration looks like his feet are in blocks of ice

  • Harv

    Disagree about his hands being just as bad, though they were never great. He grabbed plenty contested rebounds last year, and cannot secure one now if anyone puts a pinky on it. He’s a turnover machine on any bounce pass toward him and that wasn’t the case last year either. His extreme fumbling isn’t his knees anymore than it was Swisher’s knees in 2015 when he was dropping perfect throws into his mitt at first with his legs set.

  • Harv

    yeah he can. The little of him I’ve seen he looks like he was just reanimated after two millennia and needs a good oiling. And that was in garbage time against scrubs from Philly or some other forsaken org. I like to think Moz would quickly find his groove there.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    His knee surgery didn’t do what it was supposed to and his recovery wasn’t handled correctly and has been going through off the court personal issues or so I heard from a few outlets the last couple of weeks. On top of that he lost Blatt.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    NBA officiating game 2 completely different from game 1. Instead of having different crews of officials for each game they should have a crew work a series from start to finish. Instead it looks like Stan Van Whiny was rewarded for all of his whining after game 1.

  • BenRM

    That’s a good point about Blatt. I wonder if their relationship made him feel more comfortable on the court.

  • chrisdottcomm

    Very much worse.

  • woofersus

    I think he was in better position for those rebounds last year. I don’t recall ever not cringing when a bounce pass was headed his way. His TOV% is in line with career averages while most of his other stats have declined, although it looks like some of them are just regression back toward his prior averages. Who knows, maybe this is just who he is, and last year was mostly an anomaly.

  • Harv

    Your last line is what many of us were wondering last season: how could those other teams mistake a good big for a journeyman? Maybe they didn’t.