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Game Preview: Detroit at Cleveland, Game Two

Essentials

Date: April 21, 2009

Time: 8:00 p.m.

Television: TNT and Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Records

Detroit: 39-43

Cleveland: 66-16

Series: Cleveland leads, 1-0

Probable starters

Detroit:

PG SG SF PF C

Rodney
Stuckey
Richard
Hamilton
Tayshaun
Prince
Antonio
McDyess
Rasheed
Wallace

Cleveland:

PG SG SF PF C

Mo
Wiliams
Delonte
West
LeBron
James
Anderson
Varejao
Zydrunas
Ilgauskas

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Detroit +11.5

Over/under: 178

Score: Cleveland wins 95-83

Statistical projection

Detroit offensive rating: 107.4 (21st)

Detroit defensive rating: 108.0 (16th)

Detroit pace: 86.7 (29th)

Cleveland offensive rating: 112.4 (4th)

Cleveland defensive rating: 102.4 (3rd)

Cleveland pace: 88.7 (25th)

Score: Cleveland wins 97-92

Outlook

For the Pistons to win game two, they must start by defending LeBron James better. The soon-to-be-named MVP had 38 points on 20 shots, eight rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers in 41 minutes in game one.

Detroit has no shortage of plans.

Michael Curry via pistons.com:

“I think it’s about our aggressiveness. Before this I told them four turnovers said that we weren’t aggressive enough. And so we’ve got to make [Cleveland] turn the ball over more,” Curry said at Sunday’s practice. “We also have to get their shooting percentage down.”

Curry via the Free Press:

“Whatever we are trying to take away, we have to be more aggressive taking it away,” Curry said of James. “When we trap him, we got to aggressively trap him. When we contain him and try to make him shoot contested jumpers, we got to do that.”

Tayshaun Prince via the Detroit News:

“It’s going to take a team effort to slow him down,” Prince said. “We have to take the ball out of his hands and limit his shots in the paint.”

Richard Hamilton via the Detroit News:

“You can’t have LeBron relax on defense,” Richard Hamilton said. “That’s what he’s trying to do right now. He’s trying to play safety (akin to a football safety), being around the rim and helping teammates. We have to make him play defense and wear him out on that end. He means so much on the offensive end for them. We have to find ways for him to play defense.”

And Rasheed Wallace via the Detroit News:

“Knuckling up, bottom line,” Rasheed Wallace said. “There are no tricks we’re going to add. Just straighten on up.”

It seems the Pistons plan is to play more aggressively, force more turnovers, lower Cleveland’s shooting percentage, contest shots, play as a team, execute better offensively and get tougher. Right.

Look, I’m not going to criticize these guys too much because, what are they supposed to say? Nobody can stop LeBron, and few teams have the defense to slow him. Detroit isn’t one of them.

I suspect the Pistons will consistently double him, a tactic they rarely use. If they don’t, he’ll probably repeat his last performance.

LeBron’s supporting cast drew criticism after Saturday. If they played a complete game without James the same way they did in the seven minutes he was on the bench, they would have lost by 27.

But this is a capable group, and LeBron is an excellent passer. If Detroit double teams, he will pick the Pistons apart and the rest of the Cavaliers will soar.

It’s a lose-lose situation, and I think Detroit knows it. From Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

For whatever reason, avoiding the Cavaliers wasn’t a motivating factor for this team. Talking to the veterans, it was if they had long since resigned themselves to the bottom of the bracket and an early exit.

It was fitting that a coach — probably Michael Curry — wrote “Do we believe?” on the message board inside the Pistons locker room before Game 1. It’s a fair question. And, in truth, the answer would be no. They haven’t believed in a long time. But that’s probably for the best, because now there’s no doubt about charting a new course.

Come back at 8 p.m. to participate in a live blog of today’s game.

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