Detroit Pistons 90
Cleveland Cavaliers 107
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.
Stanley Johnson on LeBron: "I'm definitely in his head. That's for sure."
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) April 21, 2016
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.
- The two Pistons playoff games and the penultimate regular season game against Atlanta. [↩]