The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t put up the best of defensive performance in game 1 of their first round playoff series, but the close game is far from an indication that LeBron James and crew are going to struggle getting by their current opponents.
The Detroit Pistons shot incredibly well from everywhere in the first half, and cooled down later on. The Cavaliers struggled to get any sort of separation due to poor shooting and LeBron James looking like he’s refusing to attacking the paint. However, when it came to crunch time, James had a full tank and looked perfect on both ends of the floor, be it by finally going to the rim against players who can’t stop him or with his incredible passing, including one of the most beautiful plays we’ve seen all season long.
The Pistons? They moved the ball great all game long, shooting 50.7% from the field and 51.7% from beyond the arc. However, with the game slipping away from them, it seemed their only way of handling the incoming loss was by turning to Reggie Jackson, who managed to score some points in one on one, but the Cavaliers were hoping he’d carry on that way. It’s much easier to handle one player doing the same thing than an entire team trying to get open, moving with and without the ball.
James finished with 22 points and 11 assists, making way for Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to make themselves noticed. Irving went on a tear during the early stages of the second half while Love did better earlier in the game. Irving finished with 31 points and 6 assists, Love had 28 with 13 rebounds. The Cavaliers bench slightly disappointing, but it usually happened when Irving was left alone with them, while James had a +18 during his 41 minutes and Love finished with a +12.
Detroit did make it difficult for Cleveland for most of the game with more than just their surprising shooting accuracy. Andre Drummond is obviously a force, no matter what kind of trick Tyronn Lue was trying to pull. Marcus Morris scored 20 points, second on the team behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, finishing with 21, enjoying the pro-shooting style while it lasted.
But it came down to making plays, and the Cavaliers have more playmakers on both ends of the floor. James is still an elite defender when he feels like it while offensively, the Cavs have two players who can create shots for themselves and everyone else, while J.R. Smith falls into a weird category no one else belongs in. He had 9 points on 3-for-9 from the field, but was able to hold himself back and cause too much damage.
The Pistons, despite what Stan Van Gundy has been trying to imply, do not have more surprises up their sleeves. They might be able to execute a little bit better, and perhaps time some of their substitutions and lineup introductions differently. But overall, this might have been their best punch. While this game hinted at the fact that it might be a longer than earlier expected series, the Cavs getting over this hurdle just became a lot easier.