Cleveland Cavaliers (10-4) vs
Detroit Pistons (5-9)
The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
Wednesday, November 24, 2009
8:00 PM EST
Earlier this season the Cavaliers had 4 games in 5 nights, and then had 4 days off. They came out that next week and played solid games against Orlando, Miami, and Utah. Now, they are once again coming off 4 games in 5 nights, followed by 4 days off. Hopefully the rest will do them just as much good again. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers will still be without Shaq, who will be inactive tonight. The good news is that the Pistons will once again be without Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton, leaving them looking 90% unfamiliar from the string of great teams of seasons past. The one familiar face will be Ben Wallace, who is back Motown after being traded out of Cleveland. I always liked Ben and I truly believe he gave the Cavaliers everything he had left. It’s just too bad he couldn’t help bring a Championship to Cleveland. Now, despite the fact he was a Piston long before he ever wore the Wine and Gold, it will still be a little strange playing against him in a Detroit uniform tonight.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Mo Williams (17.3 ppg, 4.6 apg, 1.1 spg, 15.98 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (8.6 ppg, 1.9 apg, .528 3P%, 9.71 PER)
-F LeBron James (29.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 8.1 apg, 32.60 PER)
-F JJ Hickson (8.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 0.4 bpg, 15.10 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (7.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 10.78 PER)
Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Jamario Moon
Injuries: Shaquille O’Neal (out), Leon Powe (out)
-G Rodney Stuckey (16.5 ppg, 4.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 13.87 PER)
-G Ben Gordon (20.6 ppg, 3.3 apg, .369 3P%, 18.60 PER)
-F Jonas Jerebko (5.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.6 bpg, 7.26 PER)
-F Charlie Villanueva (15.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 18.95 PER)
-C Ben Wallace (3.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 15.44 PER)
Key Reserves: Will Bynum, Jason Maxiell, Kwame Brown, Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers, Chris Wilcox
Injuries: Richard Hamilton (out), Tayshaun Prince (out)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (99.1 ppg, 40.0 rpg, .471 FG%, 20.4 apg, 14.1 TOpg, Eff-105.7, Rank-9)
-Def (92.5 ppg, 40.6 rpg, .443 FG%, Eff-100.5, Rank-9)
-Off (92.5 ppg, 40.4 rpg, .450 FG%, 15.6 apg, 13.8 TOpg, Eff-101.8, Rank-21)
-Def (94.6 ppg, 40.6 rpg, .443 FG%, Eff-104.4, Rank-18)
- Fri, Mar 5 at Cleveland
- Tue, Mar 16 at Detroit
- Sun, Mar 21 at Cleveland
The last time the Cavaliers and Pistons played each other was Game 4 of the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs last year. The Cavaliers would close out the series with a quick and easy sweep of the Pistons, thus truly signaling an end to the Pistons impressive run as Eastern Conference powerhouse. Of the 5 starters for the Pistons in that game, only Stuckey is still in the starting lineup. In fact, with Hamilton and Prince both out of this game with injuries, Stuckey is also the only starter on that team who is active tonight. Even on the bench, the Pistons only have 2 guys who played in that playoff game (Bynum and Maxiell). So, in other words, this truly is a new Detroit Pistons team.
The Pistons are now being coached by a familiar name, John Kuester. After Kuester left the Cavaliers, there was a lot of concern in the community of Cavs fans over what would happen to the Cavs offense after losing their “offensive mastermind” in Kuester. Now, make no mistake, John Kuester is a solid coach and he did wonders for the Cavs offense. However, the Pistons are 26th in ppg, 19th in FG%, and 29th in assists per game. That last number may be the most damning of all. With 15.6 apg, the Pistons are tied with New Jersey for dead last in the NBA. All of this despite adding offensive players Gordon and Villanueva in the offseason. The Pistons are not moving the ball around much at all right now and in some ways, their offense resembles the Cleveland offense without LeBron James. It’s not pretty. It doesn’t help that they are without Hamilton and Prince, but still, the Kuester “genius” doesn’t seem to be rubbing off on the Pistons just yet.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have been slowly but surely getting themselves together on offense. After just an atrocious start to the season, the Cavaliers have been playing very solid basketball over their last 10 games, averaging 101.4 ppg and shooting 48.1% from the field. The Cavaliers are 7-1 with JJ Hickson in the starting lineup, averaging 103.38 points per game. On the season the Cavaliers are shooting .443 from three (2nd in the NBA) while holding opponents to .300 from that range (3rd in the NBA). In other words, even though the Cavaliers have had a lot of close games recently, including long stretches of complacency and a lack of focus on defense, they are still playing some excellent basketball and they seem to be getting better.
For this game, the biggest issue will be who defends LeBron in this game. Ben Wallace is not quick enough. Charlie Villanueva isn’t talented enough. Ben Gordon is too small. That leaves 6’10” Swedish import Jonas Jerebko. I would expect he and Villanueva to trade off turns defending LeBron, but I do not anticipate either being all the effective at it.
If JJ Hickson is able to get going early, it will be interesting to see if the Pistons put Wallace on him and let Villanueva stick to Ilgauskas outside. For sure Wallace lacks the quickness and athleticism to stay with Hickson, but Ben Wallace is a crafty and physical defender who can rely on his experience to find ways to rattle Hickson and keep him on edge.
In general, the Cavaliers best way of beating the Pistons is to be aggressive in attacking the rim. I realize this sounds generic, but the Pistons are a team who will foul a lot to protect the lane. Sure, they are 3rd in the NBA in points in the paint against, but they are also committing 24.1 fouls per game, 3rd most in the NBA. They also give up the 12th most 3pointers per game in the NBA, an indication of the extent to which they try to compress the lane. If the Cavaliers are aggressive with the drive, they will get Detroit to pack into the lane and will create a lot of wide open looks for Williams, Parker, Gibson, and Moon.
The other way to attack the Pistons is to get out on the run. The Pistons are giving up 13.5 fast break points per game (11th most). Ideally Mike Brown will recognize this and go with some quicker and more athletic lineups. Seeing Anderson Varejao grabbing rebounds and having LeBron, Hickson, Moon, and Williams breaking out is a way to make the Pistons uncomfortable. If you let them setup their half court defense, they’re a good team at forcing opponents to play “LeBron-ball” where one guys dribbles out the shot clock and fires up a contested jumper.
When the Pistons have the ball, you know Ben Gordon is going to get his points, as he is a scoring machine. Stuckey is a capable PG, and Villanueva has had some huge games against Cleveland in the past. With the way the Cavs have been playing lethargic defense as of late, the Pistons can sneak up on Cleveland and score some points. But without Hamilton and Prince, the Cavaliers have to believe they are in good shape if they come out fresh off the 4 day break and play their best defense.
Overall, the Cavaliers are 8-0 this year when scoring 100+ points, and their season average is at 99.1 ppg. I will continue to pound this stat down everyone’s throat this year. If the Cavaliers get their scoring over 100 points per game, this will be a team that will win a ton of games this season. With the way the Pistons have been playing offense, that seems to be true of tonight as well. If Cleveland can get over 100 points in this one, it’s hard to imagine the Pistons having a great chance of beating them.
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Friday, November 27, 2009
7:00 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Charlotte Bobcats