In a normal NBA season you’d only see the goings on of LeBron James any time you tuned in. However, his Cleveland Cavaliers have taken a back seat to the dominant, record-setting ways of the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
The Detroit Pistons saw an uptick in their offense after the All-Star Break but a corresponding uptick in defensive rating kept their net rating similarly situated. Their shooting has gotten better in the meantime and the roster flexibility on the wings has allowed them to play with lineups more than in the early part of the season.
They’re heading into a well hidden Eastern Conference buzzsaw though. The Cavaliers have the fourth best net rating and have ravaged the conference on their way to the number one seed. Their pace has increased since Blatt was coach and it has had an expected increase in points and a higher points against. Still, a top 10 team in both offensive and defensive rating is nothing to take for granted.
Keys to the Series
- Let LeBron be LeBron. He’s had a “down year” and people want to write him off as an aging star heading down the long road to retirement with the young guns set to take over the league. James still averaged 25.3 points, 6.8 assists, and 7.4 rebounds per game. His poor shooting from deep has fluctuated month to month from as low as 16.7% to as high as 35.1% – excluding the first and last short months.
- Use your depth. The Pistons have had a depth issue all year, playing their starters large minutes through large parts of the season. The trade deadline helped a little bit, but the Cavaliers can keep their starters fresh without setting themselves up to lose. It might come at the cost of a game, but Cleveland should be able to deal with the consequences.
- Pick & Roll. The Pistons run a lot of pick and roll. Reggie Jackson is first in the league in possessions as the pick and roll ball handler but the team only scores .88 ppp in those situations. Though he isn’t the roll man nearly as often as Jackson is the ball handler, Drummond scores a solid 1.12 ppp.
- Take chances. The Cavaliers don’t force a lot of turnovers. Opponents only average 13.3 per game and the Cavaliers only average 6.7 steals and 3.9 blocks per game, good for third and fourth respectively. The fewer turnovers forced means that Detroit can afford to take a few more chances.
Acquiring Harris at the deadline was good for the Pistons, both in the short and long terms. Is there a 47.7/37.5/91.1% club? No, probably not. It’s an impressive mark for Harris nonetheless. If he can make LeBron, or whoever guards him, work on defense then Harris’s shortcomings on defense against a likely larger opponent might work in the end.
Detroit isn’t a bad squad, but they’re not nearly deep enough to compete with LeBron and the Cavs. The Warriors and Spurs are historic, but Cleveland is still really good.
Cavaliers in 5