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Category → Professional Game Coverage

Chauncey Billups eager to aid in Pistons’ revival

ORLANDO | Slowly but surely, Chauncey Billups made his way through pregame warm-ups.

It’s a routine he’s probably done night after night for over a decade. Walk out, get some free throws up, transition into a set of turnaround jumpers from the mid-post and, of course, wrap things up with a round of shots from downtown.

He didn’t even play against the Magic that night, and he only played in three preseason games.

But even at 37, Billups doesn’t just walk off the court in anonymity. He stops to take a photo with a couple in the stands, two clad in No. 1′s jersey. He makes his way to the other side of the court, stopping for more photos with more fans before signing autographs for every fan draped over the edge of the tunnel.

This is a guy who’s on his last legs; a shell of the Mr. Big Shot that most Pistons fans remember. There’s just an aura about him, and those fans have always gravitated toward it.

Returning to Detroit doesn’t seem like a token victory lap for him. He doesn’t have a ton left in the tank, but you can tell that seeing the franchise return to relevancy is kind of an end-of-career pet project.

Chances are he’ll be a cog in starting a Pistons’ revival — how big of one is another question — but maybe, with success, the fan buzz he’s garnered will gravitate back to the team, too.

“It’s fun,” Billups said after the Pistons’ 87-86 loss in Orlando. “We have generated a little bit of excitement — Piston basketball again — and I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’m a lifetime Piston, I feel, so I’m just happy to be a part of us kind of getting back to respectability.”

Maybe seeing familiar faces like Billups or assistant coach Rasheed Wallace helps to block out a forgettable stretch of failure.

For a franchise that hasn’t been respectable since Billups and Wallace were running pick-and-pops against the Celtics in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, it’s not a shock that a couple of diminished or retired fan favorites have rekindled some of the fire.

Those two aren’t what will make this team go, though. That starts with figuring out how to put together this team of odd-fitting pieces. The team’s top point guard, Brandon Jennings, is out with a broken jaw and the top backcourt reserve, Rodney Stuckey, out with a broken hand.

Neither played much, if at all, in the preseason. So, that whole, “Let’s figure out what guards are going to make this unbalanced roster roll” experiment is going have to happen early in the regular season now.

“There’s nothing really you can do in the preseason about it. You’ve got a lot of key guys out; people haven’t really seen what our team is really going to look like yet,” Billups said. “They will when Brandon (Jennings) gets back, and (Rodney) Stuckey gets back and I’m playing all the time. It changes a little bit. You’ve got playmakers out there to go with these big guys, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it is, as well.”

At times in Orlando, the team looked good. Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith all had moments where things clicked. But, there were also times where — without those starting-caliber guards — the product looked like an absolute mess of tall, confused men with no room to operate on the floor.

It’s impossible to say what will fix the ills of this team because, like Billups said, no one has seen the full product.

Maybe it’s the guy that most of the Pistons’ fans have given up on, Stuckey. Billups was traded with the idea of Stuckey being the next in line, ready to step up. Well, that didn’t quite happen, but even after a disappointing stretch from Stuckey, the vet is excited to work with his former protégé.

“I’ve had some conversations with him, and that’s another one of the reasons why I’m happy to be back is I get to get him back under my wing again,” Billups said. “He’s back focused. Man, I really hate that he got hurt because he’s back focused, and he was playing great. Just him being able to attack and get people in foul trouble and just be able to go out there and score is going to be big for this team.”

Professional Game Coverage: Cleveland 79, Detroit 68

ESPN

"Joe Smith’s double-double comes with lyrics," by Chris Broussard

Smith’s impact was lost on no one, and afterward, coach Mike Brown gathered his team in the locker room and gave props to his 33-year-old reserve.

"I said in front of the team, ‘Way to go, old man,’" Brown said. "And the players jumped on me right away and reminded me that he’s not an old man, he’s ‘Joe Beast.’"

We’re not joking about this "Joe Beast" stuff. In a league full of wannabe emcees, Smith is the real thing. In December, he released a mixtape titled "The Beginning," and his hip-hop ode to the Cavs, "One Goal," has become the club’s playoff anthem this spring. The song blared through The Q’s sound system as the players warmed up before the first two games of this series.

"Z the president, ‘Bron James the king, and Anderson Varejao, they call him the wild thing …"

Detroit won’t hear the Beast spit any more this season — unless they purchase his CD — because obviously this thing is over, not likely to return to Cleveland for a Game 5. The Cavs hold a 3-0 lead heading into Sunday’s Game 4, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a collection of brooms in the luggage compartment of the Cavaliers’ bus.

Detroit News

"Cavs emphatically ending Pistons era," by Bob Wojnowski

This isn’t about heart and pride and effort anymore. The Pistons played hard for stretches, they’re just not nearly good enough. Once this team fully realized how valuable Chauncey Billups was after the trade, and how uncoachable Allen Iverson was, it was over.

"Pistons have no answer for Cavs," by Chris McCosky

"This is killing me, I can’t even lie," Hamilton said. "Knowing how great we were, and then being down 0-3 and being the eighth seed and watching them celebrate shot after shot, it’s hard. It’s a terrible situation."

"Cavs reserve Joe Smith killing his former team," by Tim Twentyman

Joe Smith is officially becoming a Pistons killer.

And in the process, the former Piston is proving he’s no ordinary Joe when it comes to these 2009 playoffs.

Smith has scored 13 or more points in a playoff game just seven times in his career, but six of those games have come against the Pistons.

"Fourth quarter haunts Pistons again," by Ted Kulfan and Tim Twentyman

The Pistons held the backcourt of Delonte West and Mo Williams to 1-of-18 shooting (West was 0-for-7), and a total of four points combined.

Detroit Free Press

"Bad signs litter this lopsided series," by Michael Rosenberg

Another bad sign: The Pistons have shot 30 free throws in this series. The Cavaliers have shot 100.

Faced with that statistical nugget, you have two choices. You can conclude that the refs have a horrible bias against the fair city of Detroit.

Or you can watch the games.

There are two conventional ways to get to the free-throw line: drive to the basket and draw a foul, or make a post move and draw a foul. The Pistons don’t have anybody who does either consistently.

"Pistons a game away from playoff elimination," by Vince Ellis

After questions about their heart since putting up little resistance in Games 1 and 2, the Pistons fought to try and get back in the series. For three quarters, a Piston victory looked like a possibility, but those hopes were dashed after the Cavs’ 18-2 run in the fourth quarter.

"Prince, Wallace control fate of team," by Vince Ellis

When asked before the game if he would go to the bench earlier, Curry said: "Our bench has been playing really good, but let’s make no mistake about it. If Tayshaun and ‘Sheed can’t play really good in this series we don’t have a chance."

"Instant replay," by Vince Ellis

Cavs coach Mike Brown, on James: "Once he decided to say, ‘Hey, I’m not getting calls. I’m going to will this team to a win,’ our whole team changed."

Booth Newspapers

"It’s LeBron’s world, Pistons are just losing in it," by Greg Johnson

It also means we can rush to judgment here. It has been relatively clear the past few years that whenever James was ready, this team would be championship bound.

He is so ready.

It was just three years ago that the Pistons fought off the younger James, 79-61 in a brutish Game 7 of a playoff series, and showed him exactly what he needed to learn.

"They trapped me, they went under screens, they went over screens," he said that day in 2006. "I’ve seen almost every defense that I could possibly see for the rest of my career in this series."

And so it was, he saw it, learned from it, and now brushes the Pistons aside. Three years later, he simply flips the switch when and if he needs it.

"Pistons fall into 3-0 hole after losing to Cavaliers," by A. Sherrod Blakely

The 68 points scored by Detroit tied the franchise record for fewest points score in a playoff game.

"Detroit, nor ourselves thought we played our best basketball," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "But somehow, someway, especially in the fourth quarter defensively, we found a way."

"Ben Wallace: Pistons definitely a ‘different team’," by A. Sherrod Blakely

"It’s definitely a different team," Wallace said. "I don’t know what’s going on the floor because I’m not here anymore. I know when I was here, we had a lot of passion for the game. We took pride in being able to come out here every night and get it done. It’s definitely a different team."

The Plain Dealer

"With one mighty dunk, James leaves demoralized Pistons thoroughly dashed," by Bill Livingston

Afterward, coach Mike Brown kissed James on the head before the dehydrated, spent player tottered to the locker room to receive intravenous fluids.

In the fourth quarter Friday, James scored 11 points and everything he did then came with serious complications and drama. He hit a 20-foot turnaround jumper with the shot clock at zero. He drove from the arc to the rim, through everybody on the Pistons except maybe Bill Laimbeer, feathering a left-handed layup into the net and following with a free throw. He ran the ball down on three rebounds, passed off for four assists, blocked two shots. He made the blacksmith’s dunk.

Finally, with the Pistons’ resistance as limp as a windsock in the eye of a hurricane, he made another three-point play on a layup down the lane.

"Joe’s a Beast (and LeBron’s pretty good, too) as Cavaliers take 3-0 series lead, 79-68," by Brian Windhorst

The nature in which Smith delivered was as important as the overall numbers. With the Cavs’ offense wheezing in the second half, Smith came up with several giant baskets including a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that gave the Cavs the lead for good. The long-range shot being a new weapon in his game, he’s made as many in the series (two) as he did in the entire regular season.

In general, Smith has been a vital piece in the series, averaging 12.3 points and six rebounds on 55 percent shooting. Another reminder why landing him after the trade deadline after he was bought out by the Thunder so important.

"He’s been here and done that for many teams before," coach Mike Brown said. "We were excited as heck when got him, stuff he’s doing now is no surprise to us."

"The Courtside View: Williams’ rough night brightened by assist to high-flying James," by Mary Schmitt Boyer

As a kid growing up in Lithuania, Ilgauskas played point guard before a growth spurt turned him into a center.

Every once in a while, though, the big fellow shows flashes of his ball-handling ability, as he did in the second quarter on Friday, when he led a fast break, went airborne, used a head-fake as he approached the lane and then fired a high pass to LeBron James for a layup that gave the Cavs a 44-35 lead with 34.7 seconds left in the half.

It was an accident.

"I just took off with the ball and then I got into trouble," Ilgauskas admitted. "So when I was in the air, thankfully I saw LeBron to my left and just lobbed the ball to him. If I would have turned the ball over, I’m sure I would have gotten an interesting look from coach Brown. Thankfully, it all worked out."

Said West, "I’m nervous. The way me and Mo played, he might take one of our positions."

Akron Beacon Journal

"LeBron switches it on," by Patrick McManamon

The Pistons could only watch as James roared.

”This is killing me,” Hamilton said.

He meant emotionally, of course. But he could have been talking about the Pistons themselves. James is doing away with the Pistons — because really it’s anyone’s guess what that team will look like next season.

Detroit’s only solace? James is making it happen fast.

"Cavs push it to brink," by George M. Thomas

James might have thought he was playing at home instead of the Palace. On more than one occasion, chants of MVP could be heard from a substantial number of people in the crowd. Did he ever think he’d hear that in Auburn Hills of all places?

”No,” he said. ”But I didn’t ever think that I’d play the Pistons without Chauncey Billups. I didn’t think that would happen either, but it happened.

Cavs the Blog

"Recap: (14) Really? Is this all we have to be concerned with?," by John Krolik

When everything breaks down, we always have our defense. Two Pistons in double figures tonight, and neither managed a TS >50%. It’s hard to lose when you do that. And LeBron, our best defender and the #2 in the DPOY race, had an off-game on the defensive end of the floor, over-helping and getting beat baseline occasionally, although he did manage two blocks and three steals. That’s like the Lakers hanging 120 with Kobe going 6-17.

Professional Game Coverage: Cleveland 94, Detroit 82

ESPN

"Mo Williams helps Cavs roll," by Chris Broussard

Four seconds into the game, the Pistons made good on their promise, trapping James in the left corner with Antonio McDyess and Rip Hamilton. James beat it with a skip pass and soon thereafter, Williams buried a 20-footer to open the scoring and give Cleveland a lead it never surrendered. It was a precursor of things to come, as Williams followed James’ game-high 29 points with 21.

Williams thought he’d have a good game, especially after Pistons coach Michael Curry revealed his strategy after Game 1.

"We’ve seen teams run and jump LeBron before,” Williams said. "We’re prepared for that. I hope they run and jump. Because I’m itching. I’m itching for them to do that because I’m going to knock down shots. That’s how much confidence I have when LeBron kicks it out. Pick your poison. Pick your poison.”

"Cavs top Pistons with balanced scoring," by Elias Sports Bureau

LeBron James scored 29 points and got support from Mo Williams (21) and Delonte West (20) in the Cavaliers’ 94-82 win over the Pistons. It was the first time in 19 years that three players scored at least 20 points in a 48-minute playoff win against Detroit. The last teammates to do so were Doc Rivers (34), Dominique Wilkins (24), and Sidney Moncrief (23) of the Hawks on May 2, 1991.

CBS Sports

"Make unselfish LeBron angry; I’d really like him if he were angry," by Gregg Doyel

et’s define a term, shall we? By unselfish superstar, I don’t mean "gets lots of assists." Magic Johnson was the best at that, and Bob Cousy and John Stockton weren’t bad. They were unselfish, clearly, and they were superstars. But they weren’t the same kind of unselfish, score-at-will superstar as LeBron or Wilt. Chamberlain once averaged 50 points per game in a season, was at 44.8 in another season and reached the upper 30s four other times. He wasn’t just a superstar. He was an offensive force of nature.

And still he passed the ball. A lot. Chamberlain didn’t famously lead the NBA in assists until he was 31, when his scoring had dropped to 24.3 ppg and his assists were up to 8.6, but he was in the league’s top 10 in assists three other times, including seasons in which he averaged 36.9 ppg and 33.5 ppg. The guy could score whenever he wanted to. Every time down the floor, he was his team’s best scoring option. And still he passed the ball.

Just like James.

Detroit News

"LeBron James’ talent too much for Pistons," by Chris McCosky

As the Pistons continue to slide off the basketball radar, let’s not lose sight of what’s really happening here.

LeBron James might be in the process of redefining the NBA’s gold standard. He needs to win a few rings before he unseats Michael Jordan, obviously. But I am here to tell you, he’s 6-foot-9, 270 pounds, and most of the time is stronger, faster and jumps higher than anybody on the court.

If he stays healthy and committed, he’s going to be the best that’s ever played before his time is done.

"Cavaliers put Pistons on the ropes," by Chris McCosky

Don’t be fooled by the final score. The Cavaliers never trailed and were up by 27 points after three quarters.

"They are the best team in the league and they are at home, but at the same time, we’ve got to play with some type of heart," Antonio McDyess said. "We aren’t playing at all like we’ve got any energy. We’re just going through the motions, it seems like."

When asked why that was, McDyess said, "Your guess is better than mine."

"Pistons bench gets Michael Curry’s attention," by Chris McCosky

There will be no lineup change, but that doesn’t mean the reserves didn’t show Pistons coach Michael Curry something.

"I think the second group of guys showed it doesn’t matter what we do, coverage-wise," Curry said. "If you go out, execute and do it extremely hard, we’ll be OK. We cover a lot of ground. We showed on pick and rolls. We trapped. They brought LeBron (James) back in, we trapped, rotated and covered the shooters.

"Physically, we were able to get it done. That’s what we take out of it."

The Pistons were down 27 after three quarters. Curry sent in the second unit. Bynum scored 11 points with five assists and two steals. Afflalo had 10 points, Jason Maxiell had four rebounds and Johnson was flying around covering several perimeter positions.

"Cavs’ Smith provides blueprint for Pistons’ Brown," by Chris McCosky

Cavaliers forward Joe Smith and Pistons center Kwame Brown have for their careers fought the label of "draft bust."

Smith was No. 1 overall in 1995, Brown No. 1 in 2001.

"We’ve never had a sit-down; I’ve never even talked to Kwame, except on the court during games," Smith said. "But we both understand. We know what expectations are for any No. 1 pick."

Still, you would think Brown could take some solace in what Smith has achieved. Though never an all-star, Smith has carved out a successful 14-year career, averaging 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds. He’s been a reliable and productive role player on seven playoff teams.

Detroit Free Press

"Pistons not even worth taking seriously," by Michael Rosenberg

Come on. You’re not counting the Pistons out, are you? Why? Just because they got drilled twice by Cleveland, appear to have replaced the coach’s blackboard with a piece of pavement and some chalk, could not guard LeBron James if the NBA made both fisticuffs and handcuffs legal, and look like they stopped believing in themselves two months ago?

Oh. Well, then I guess I see your point.

The Pistons are so dead, this series should be called on account of carcass. Maybe the Pistons will squeeze out a game at the Palace, but even that seems unlikely.

"LeBron too much for Pistons, down 0-2," by Vince Ellis

By playing the Cavs so often (four times per season and facing them in the playoffs two of the past three seasons), the Pistons generally have a good feel for what the Cavs are trying to do.

But this is a different Cavs team than in the past. With the addition of Mo Williams and a cadre of shooters, gone are the days where the Cavs would just throw the ball to James and have everyone else get out of the way.

"A couple of years ago, we did a lot of standing," James said. "We relied on me sometimes just to dribble and get us into making a play for either myself or a teammate.

"The ball movement that we have and the way we rely on my teammates to make plays is at an all-time high for us as a team just because we’ve been doing it all year, and repetition helps."

"Fans, opposing players awed by LeBron James," by Vince Ellis

But what wasn’t expected was for Tayshaun Price to be suffering from sore ribs, an injury he sustained in the regular-season finale at Miami on Wednesday night.

If you ever have had sore ribs, you know Prince isn’t in top shape to be battling the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James.

But since James plays small forward and it is the postseason, the Pistons and Prince have little choice.

"It’s not stopping me from jumping or running for that matter, it just locks up when I’m out of the game and sit for a minute or even during time-outs," said Prince, who had a wrap around his waist after the game. "That’s why during the time-outs I was standing, because I really couldn’t sit down."

"At Cleveland," by Vince Ellis

The Pistons trotted out a big lineup of Tayshaun Price and Hamilton in the backcourt with Kwame Brown, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess up front in the first quarter. They employed a zone for the five defensive possessions with the lineup and gave up two three-pointers.

Booth Newspapers

"Pistons’ rally falls short in Game 2 at Cleveland," by A. Sherrod Blakely

"We didn’t come out and do the job we were assigned to do," Pistons starting power forward Antonio McDyess said. "It’s like they were doing anything they wanted to do on offense. We didn’t give any resistance.

"We have to play with some type of heart. We ain’t playing at all like we got any type of energy. We’re just going out there, going through the motions, it seems like."

"Pistons still struggling to stop Cavs’ LeBron James," by A. Sherrod Blakely

Pistons forward Amir Johnson, on Cleveland’s moppy-haired power forward Anderson Varejao: "He plays hard, but the hair makes it seem like he plays harder."

The Plain Dealer

"Pistons teach Cavaliers a needed lesson: There’s no coasting in the playoffs," by Terry Pluto

But the Cavs must not forget that while the Pistons might be old and sputtering, they still have enough gas in the tank to push the Cavaliers to the edge of anxiety if the home team wants to coast when the starters need a rest.

Hey, guys, how can you allow anyone to outscore you 32-17 on your home floor in the fourth quarter of the playoffs? How can you settle for long, lazy jumpers? For half-hearted switches on defense? For indifferent effort on the boards?

Brown must drive home the point that the Cavs can’t allow an opponent to bolt to a 27-5 fourth-quarter run and still expect to win — as they did last night. Not against Miami, Atlanta, Orlando or anyone else in the Eastern Conference that has an offense with more octane than these Pistons.

"Flawless for three quarters, Cavaliers fall flat in fourth, but hold off Pistons, 94-82," by Brian Windhorst

In the guts of the game, the Pistons changed the way they played James. With Tayshaun Prince dealing with a back injury, Pistons coach Michael Curry put Richard Hamilton on James and then rotated Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo on him. When James stopped moving, the Pistons then brought a big man over to double-team him.

At one point, Detroit played a huge lineup with no one under 6-7 on the court in a zone, which seemed to confuse the Cavs for a moment or two.

But the Cavs have been built for these situations, especially in the playoffs. James did two things — forcing the issue by driving into the pressure looking to draw fouls, and passing to his offensively skilled teammates. Both worked quite well, which is how the Cavs were able to control the game throughout.

"That was probably the biggest lineup in NBA history," James said. "You want to be aggressive against aggressive teams and definitely they are very aggressive on defense."

"Mo Williams gets the jump on Pistons, helps Cavaliers build a dominating Game 2 lead," by Jodie Valade

“I ain’t been in too many playoff games," he said of his six-game total. "It was just a normal day at the office. This team expects me to go out and perform. If I don’t, it’s a bad day for me."

That’s what happened in Game 1, when Williams was a step slow when defending Stuckey, got in foul trouble, and wound up with a tentative 12 points. Stuckey, meanwhile, accumulated 20 points on 5-for-21 shooting.

In the two off days between games, Williams analyzed every drive Stuckey took in the opener, locating instances where he made mistakes and times when he correctly defended the Pistons point guard.

"We went to the drawing board," Williams said. "So I had a quicker step tonight. I was quicker to my spots."

"The Courtside View: Seen and heard around Saturday’s Game 1 of Cavaliers-Pistons," by Mary Schmitt

OK, he’s not their coach. But as Mike Brown received his Coach of the Year Award before the game, the Pistons conducted their normal pre-game huddle, complete with Rasheed Wallace dancing in the middle of his teammates. Thus inspired, they proceeded to fall behind, 12-2.

Akron Beacon Journal

"Pistons rally in the fourth to spoil fun," by Patrick McManamon

Detroit called timeout trailing 68-46, and you wonder what in the heck Curry said to his players.

Curry had Saturday night, all day Sunday and Monday to come up with something after his team lost Game 1.

During the timeout, the Teletubbies danced on the big screen while Curry tried to coach.

He might as well have put the Teletubbies (”Tinky winky passes to Po, back to Dipsy … ”) out there for all that.

The result: At the end of the third quarter Delonte West made a 3-pointer that gave the Cavs a 27-point lead.

A once-proud team was playing like it knew it had no chance.

"Cavs KO Pistons in Game 2," by George M. Thomas

James didn’t match his point total from the weekend, but Curry’s calculated gamble of forcing the rest of the Cavs to beat his team proved to be a bust.

The Cavs worked the ball around on offense as Delonte West (20 points, three rebounds, four assists) and Mo Williams (21 points, two rebounds, seven assists) knocked down shots. The Cavs’ defense forced the Pistons to sputter with 40 percent shooting.

"Finishing second OK with LeBron," by Tom Gaffney

The two home games for the Pistons guarantee them nothing, forward Tayshaun Prince said.

”We haven’t played well at home all season,” Prince said. ”We’ve had a lot of bad losses at home to teams we definitely should have beat. To get in the playoffs now and obviously have your home crowd and court is something that’s important. But we’ve definitely shown throughout the season that we haven’t done a good job of taking care of our home court.”

The Pistons were 21-20 at home this season, going 1-1 against the Cavs.

The Morning Journal

"THE MORNING ROAST: Wallace should be respected as a person," by Mike Perry

The best thing about Wallace’s charitable endeavors is that he doesn’t just write a check and feel like he has done his part. Every year around Christmas he visits Children’s Hospital, usually bringing along a few teammates, to visit with and distribute gifts to sick children in Detroit. Kids with life-threatening diseases, kids who have virtual death sentences, the most heartbreaking children who, in some cases, are living out the rest of their short lives in antiseptic hospital wards — Wallace does what he can to bring smiles to their young faces.

Wallace is also very active in the NBA’s "Read to Achieve" program.

Wallace might be the biggest punk you will ever see on the basketball court, but everything he does away from the game of basketball deserves our respect.

Hate him as a player, respect him as a person.

"Cavs are built to win now," by Jeff Schudel

The Cavaliers lost an epic seven-game battle to the Celtics last year in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and as they fell in Boston in Game Seven it was more evident than ever the Cavs needed someone other than James to direct the offense.

In the Cavaliers locker room before the game Tuesday night, James was talking about how he sets goals for himself every season. Williams, sitting in his chair on the other side of the locker room, overheard James and announced, smiling, what one of James’ goals was after last season, "Get Mo here! Get Mo here!"

James broke into a smile and chuckled before proceeding.

"Cavs have Pistons’ number," by Brad Bournival

When James drove the lane in the first half, Johnson met him with a hard shove to the ground. And when Anderson Varejao approached him, Johnson gave him a shove as well.

That drew a technical, but showed these Pistons can be just as mean as the teams in the past. The fact Kwame Brown picked one up at halftime showed there was still some spit left in Detroit.

"We’re a different Detroit team than we were two years ago," Curry said. "We lost that series. Hopefully some of the older guys can calm things down and get after it. We’ll try to find the perfect mix."

"PHYSICAL CONFRONTATION: No answer for King James as Cavs survive bumps and bruises," by Bob Finnan

The Cavs were 32 of 43 from the foul line, compared to 13 of 16 for the Pistons.

"We have to find way to keep them off free-throw line," Pistons coach Michael Curry said.

"LeBron finishes second in DPOY voting, Brown satisfied," by David Glasier

Brown has never lost a first-round series in the playoffs. “You need patience, but still have a sense of urgency,” he said. “You need that to have success in the playoffs.”

Cavs the Blog

"Recap: (14) Really? Is this all we have to be concerned with?," by John Krolik

More of LeBron just wanting to destroy everyone. 17 free throws means that they can’t stop him from getting to the basket and he doesn’t want to stop going. This was a bit of an uglier game than game 1, and LeBron was ugly-effective, getting to the line over and over again. He was also mixing it up, judiciously going to the post and refraining from shooting midrange jumpers until the fourth quarter, with two of his three misses from that range coming on the Cavs’ final two possessions. Add that to the 13 rebounds, and this game was all about LeBron James just physically overpowering a team with nothing approaching an answer for him.

Professional Game Coverage: Cleveland 102, Detroit 84

ESPN

"James set the tone in opening win over Pistons," by Chris Broussard

We’ve all seen several LeBron masterpieces. And while his 48-point performance against these same (well, sort of) Detroit Pistons in the 2007 playoffs has to go down as his all-time tour de force, what he did Saturday in Game 1 of this first-round series was about as good as it gets.

Still just 24 years old, he was so poised, so cool, so collected in dismantling Rasheed and Rip and Tay that it was ridiculous. He played 40 minutes, 52 seconds, scored 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds, handled the ball enough to give out a game-high seven assists, and never committed a turnover. Not one.

He let the Pistons know from jump street that their dreams of pulling off a Buster Douglas-type upset were folly by scoring 12 points in the first quarter, including a couple of dunks that had Sheed all but cowering beneath the basket.

In the second quarter, he pulled down a defensive rebound, pushed the ball up court (you know he plays point about 60 percent of the time), and threw a left-handed, Stockton-esque pass off the bounce that found a streaking Joe Smith for an easy dunk.

Seven minutes later, he hit Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the post, cut toward the basket and caught Z’s alley-oop pass at the rim for a sweet finger roll. Then on the very next possession, he hit a 41-footer off the glass to beat the buzzer to end the half.

He had 22 points, more than any other player scored the entire game, after the first two quarters.

"It’s kind of scary to say this when talking about LeBron,” teammate Daniel Gibson said. "But this is the time of year when the best players take it to another level.”

"Cavs Learn Pistons’ Ways," by Elias Sports Bureau

The Cavaliers played Pistons basketball, committing only four turnovers in their 102-84 victory over Detroit. This is the 39th season in which the NBA has compiled team turnovers. Until Saturday’s game, only the Pistons had turned the ball over fewer than five times in a playoff game: three versus the Magic (2008 Eastern Conference semis), four versus the Spurs (2005 Finals) and four versus the Celtics (1991 Eastern Conference semis).

CBS Sports

"One thing: Will the Cavs wither without LeBron?," by Gregg Doyel

And Detroit is what it is — overmatched. This series is such a blowout that the Atlanta Hawks scout who sat next to me ignored them. Literally. He took copious notes on the Cavaliers and nothing on the Pistons. He didn’t want to waste his time writing about Detroit.

Can’t say I blame him. I don’t want to waste my time writing about a Detroit team that couldn’t be bothered to stop 7-3 Cleveland centerZydrunas Ilgauskas from running down his own missed 20-footer, then finding teammate Mo Williams, who continued onto the rim and finished with an uncontested lay-up. Disgusting. On recent Detroit teams, someone would have broken Williams in half. Of course, recent Detroit teams wouldn’t have let 7-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas run down his own missed shot, considering Ilgauskas can’t run at all.

FOX Sports

"When Pistons closed gap, LeBron stepped up," by Kerouac Smith

Back to the new sidekick for a moment. Williams struggled after picking up two quick fouls in the first half and was ineffective both playing along side James and leading the second unit. He salvaged the performance with a couple of second-half 3-pointers but still wound up with just 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting.

At least he took care of the ball, finishing with zero turnovers as the Cavs finished with just four overall. And Williams isn’t expecting any carry-over effect into Game 2.

"Once I got that first half out of the way, I was ready to go," said Williams.

Sporting News

"LeBron James’ quest for NBA title is inevitable," by Sean Deveney

Folks in Cleveland don’t really like to admit this, but the cast of characters around James is only somewhere between fair and pretty good. Besides Ilgauskas, every starter Cavs starter was a castoff elsewhere. The Bucks didn’t like the way Williams handled the role of point guard — he was too much of a shooting guard — so they dealt him. The same could be said for the Delonte West, who was unwelcome in Seattle. The Bulls were thrilled to dump Ben Wallace’s salary onto Cleveland, and even with Wallace hurt, remember that Anderson Varejao could not get a team to give him a contract offer when he was a restricted free agent two summers ago.

But the Cavaliers have done two things very well. First, they’ve put players like West, Williams, Wallace and Varejao into very good complementary roles. No player is asked to do more than he can. That makes those role players look deceptively good.

Detroit News

"Cavaliers roll over Pistons in Game 1," by Chris McCosky

"I know this is the playoffs," James said. "It’s a different level of basketball. Mentally you have to be more in tune. Whatever the defense gives me or wherever I see cracks, I try to attack."

Cracks? The path through the Pistons’ defense had to seem like a four-lane highway to him. Nothing the Pistons did fazed him. James certainly didn’t appear to take the physical pounding he typically takes against the Pistons.

"Easy for you to say when you aren’t out there," James said. "It was a very physical game tonight. Maybe the games in the past you used to see me get knocked into the stands, maybe that’s what you are used to.

"I think we are ready for whatever — a finesse game, a physical game, we can adjust."

The only time the Pistons made some noise was when James sat down. And he only sat down for seven minutes.

"Pistons’ defense nonexistent in Game 1," by Chris McCosky

Apparently, the Pistons talked before the game about not letting LeBronJames get off to a fast start. He had 12 points, hitting six of his first eight shots.

"We tried to establish ourselves on the defensive end and I thought some of the things we did were really good," said Pistons coach Michael Curry. "Except for our recognition of them going to LeBron early. We allowed him to get to the basket on the first four possessions."

But it wasn’t just that James scored 38; he did it so efficiently (making 13 of 20 shots) and four other Cavaliers scored in double figures. In the past, the Pistons could take away one or the other.Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press

"LeBron, Cavs bull forward," by Drew Sharp

How many times during those haughty days of 50-win seasons and top playoff seeds did we thumb our noses on those sub-.500 wrecks that stumbled into the playoffs? Their only qualifications for extended life were that league rules demanded eight playoff teams from each conference.

This season, the Pistons are the NBA’s lone playoff representative with a losing record.

A four-game sweep might prove more embarrassing than missing the playoffs. Helplessly standing in James’ way might seem like cruel and unusual punishment for a team of the Pistons’ recent playoff pedigree.

"Piston defense looks confused in Game 1," by Vince Ellis

By playing the Cavs so often (four times per season and facing them in the playoffs two of the past three seasons), the Pistons generally have a good feel for what the Cavs are trying to do.

But this is a different Cavs team than in the past. With the addition of Mo Williams and a cadre of shooters, gone are the days where the Cavs would just throw the ball to James and have everyone else get out of the way.

"A couple of years ago, we did a lot of standing," James said. "We relied on me sometimes just to dribble and get us into making a play for either myself or a teammate.

"The ball movement that we have and the way we rely on my teammates to make plays is at an all-time high for us as a team just because we’ve been doing it all year, and repetition helps."

"Prince’s injury hurts more against LeBron," by Vince Ellis

But what wasn’t expected was for Tayshaun Price to be suffering from sore ribs, an injury he sustained in the regular-season finale at Miami on Wednesday night.

If you ever have had sore ribs, you know Prince isn’t in top shape to be battling the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James.

But since James plays small forward and it is the postseason, the Pistons and Prince have little choice.

"It’s not stopping me from jumping or running for that matter, it just locks up when I’m out of the game and sit for a minute or even during time-outs," said Prince, who had a wrap around his waist after the game. "That’s why during the time-outs I was standing, because I really couldn’t sit down."

"Instant replay," by Vince Ellis

It wasn’t clear before the game whether former Piston Ben Wallace (sore left knee tendon) would play, but he entered the game at 1:45 of the first quarter for the Cavs. He played just under 12 minutes.

Booth Newspapers

"Pistons can’t keep up with Cavaliers in Game 1," by A. Sherrod Blakely

Pistons guard Richard Hamilton was asked about whether Detroit shooting a respectable 46.2 percent for the game was a good sign.

"Not at all," Hamilton said. "When you shoot 46 percent and you still lose by almost 20, you can’t hang your hat on that because there have been times this year where we shot the ball well and still lost."

"Pistons disappointed with their defense in Game 1," by A. Sherrod Blakely

"Experience is huge when it comes to the playoffs," Detroit coach Michael Curry said after the Pistons dropped a 91-88 game to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

"During the regular season, it matters, but not as much as it does in the playoffs. And so, we will be depending on that."

The Plain Dealer

"LeBron James’ buzzer beater the highlight of another playoff masterpiece," by Bill Livingston

Pistons coach Michael Curry supposed he might try trapping James more to make him give up the ball. (Altogether now: Ya think?)

James scored 48 points in the playoffs two years ago against the Pistons when former coach Flip Saunders started putting the "former" in his job description by not making James give up the ball and also by instructing his players to go under the screen instead of fight through it and deny him space. James, whose jumper was en mucho fuego, scored until he had put up the last 25 points in a double-overtime victory.

"It’s a good start: Cavaliers in fine form offensively, pulling away to 102-84 victory over Detroit," by Brian Windhorst

But the Cavs blew right through them, breaking the century mark against Detroit in a regulation playoff game for the first time in 14 tries in the James era. It happened with crisp ball movement, textbook spacing, a heady mix of sets, fast-break chances and a game-long focus not to relapse.

Consider the epic double-overtime Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals that saw James score 48 points. In that game the Cavs had 13 assists. Two days later when James spent the evening setting up Daniel Gibson for the game of his life when the Cavs seemed to make everything, they managed 19 and 98 points.

Saturday the Cavs racked up 24 assists, 16 in the first half alone. That doesn’t reflect the afternoon’s final three minutes, which were played on cruise control. They had just five turnovers, setting a franchise low in a playoff game. James had none and seven assists. Mo Williams had none and four assists. Delonte West had two and five assists.

"Stuckey provides Pistons with a bright spot, while Williams is confident he’ll improve for Game 2," by Jodie Valade

But in Saturday afternoon’s Game 1, Rodney Stuckey unexpectedly materialized as the game’s best point guard — finally following the advice of his coaches, attacking the basket, outplaying a hesitant Williams early and not displaying the kind of nerves a second-year player typically might.

"I’m not scared," Stuckey said. "This is what I do for a living. I love playing basketball. Mo Williams is a great point guard, too. He’s an All-Star. That’s what I’m trying to be, so every chance that I can get to play [against] a player like that, I’m going to try to bring it to him."

"Cavaliers Insider: Bumps and bruises, but no bad feelings emerge from Game 1," by Brian Windhorst

Delonte West hit the ground after taking a charge and Rodney Stuckey pushed in front of West’s teammates to be the first to help him up.

Richard Hamilton banged into Zydrunas Ilgauskas after a dunk while hanging on the rim and he quickly patted Ilgauskas on the back to make sure there was no hard feelings.Rasheed Wallace collared LeBron James on a drive to the basket and instantly raised his hand in the NBA tradition of admitting wrongdoing to the officials.

This was a playoff game? No less, a playoff game between the Cavs and Pistons? The rivalry filled with flagrant fouls, bloody foreheads and ejections? Apparently so.

"The Courtside View: Seen and heard around Saturday’s Game 1 of Cavaliers-Pistons," by Mary Schmitt

With LeBron James taking his customary rest at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Pistons took advantage of his absence with a 7-2 run that got them within 80-72 with 8:48 left.

Cavs coach Mike Brown took a timeout, sent in James and wanted to call a post-up play for him. Instead, James found Mo Williams coming off a screen in the right corner, and Williams drained a 3-pointer that effectively ended any Pistons plans for a comeback.

Said Brown, "I have to give credit to [assistant coach John Kuester] for that timeout because I said ‘Let’s put LeBron on the post,’ and Kuester said, ‘No. No. Let’s run this particular play.’ I’m the type of guy, if I look somebody in the eye, or they look me in the eye and tell me to do something and I feel that belief in my gut, then I’m going to go with it. Our guys did a nice job executing it, but the good thing about it is that if it wouldn’t have worked, I could have gotten on Kuester and said, ‘See, I could have called my idea, not yours.’"

Akron Beacon Journal

"LeBron sizzles, Pistons fizzle," by Patrick McManamon

But most amazing was that James was on the court for just about 41 minutes and had zero turnovers and seven assists.

”It doesn’t really amaze us anymore,” Cavs guard Mo Williams said.

It should.

Because of James, the Pistons lost by 18 in a game when they shot 46 percent and turned the ball over only seven times.

Williams did not shoot well, and the Cavs’ second-leading scorer was Joe Smith, who played very well off the bench.

With all that, the Cavs won 102-84.

James? Sensational in a very business-like, efficient, workmanlike way.

”His pacing offensively was very good,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said.

And Raphael’s brush strokes are pretty good, too.

"First win in the bank," by George M. Thomas

The first quarter of Saturday’s game went against the norm. The teams lit up the scoreboard in the first 12 minutes, with the Cavs shooting 60 percent and the Pistons 56. Many of the Pistons’ points came courtesy of point guard Rodney Stuckey, who scored 10 in the quarter. Stuckey drove into the lane seemingly at will to make easy layups.

One team had to eventually step up and play some defense. That was when the Cavs created some separation in the second quarter courtesy of defense and rebounding. They kept the Pistons off the offensive boards and slowed down Stuckey, who scored just four points. The Cavs took a 57-45 halftime lead and plenty of momentum after James connected on a 41-foot bank shot as time expired.

"Joe Smith sparks Cavaliers’ run," by Tom Gaffney

Reserve Joe Smith was reacquired for games and situations just like this.

Smith, 33, a 14-year veteran in his second stint with the Cavs, scored nine points in a four-minute span in the second quarter Saturday in a 102-84 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Quicken Loans Arena in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Cavs were ahead just 30-25 when Smith started his personal onslaught. It sparked the Cavs to a run that eventually made it 57-45 at the half.

”That’s the thing about coming off the bench. You have to bring energy,” said the 6-foot-10 Smith. ”I was fortunate I was able to find spots out there on the floor, to make things happen.”

The Morning Journal

"It ain’t over yet, well… yeah it is," by Jim Ingraham

The Detroit Pistons this season won 39 games.

The Cavs won 39 games. . . AT HOME.

That, in a nutshell, is what a No.1 vs. a No.8 seed looks like in the NBA.

The onus is on the No.8 seed to prove that its players don’t, as ABC analyst Mark Jackson said of the mailing-it-in Warriors during a late-season no-show, "have one foot on the court and the other foot in Cancun.’’

So the gist of what happened at Quicken Loans Arena Saturday was essentially this:

Cavs to Pistons: "You ain’t even close to us. You weren’t in the regular season. You ain’t today. And you ain’t gonna be for three more games after this.’’

Pistons to Cavs: "OK!’’

"Cavs hold serve with dominant victory," by Bob Finnan

He connected on a 41-foot, 3-point bomb off the glass at the first-half buzzer.

It was demoralizing for the Pistons, who trailed at halftime, 57-45.

"The 3 helped momentum," James said. "It brings the house down. The crowd will go crazy. My range is unlimited."

He was asked if he called glass on the play.

”Yes, after I hit it," he joked.

"Stuckey only spark for Pistons," by Mike Perry

Rodney Stuckey lives for the postseason.

As a rookie last season, Stuckey had his "coming out" party during the NBA Playoffs. He saw action off the bench in 17 games and scored 8.2 points in slightly over 22 minutes per contest after being forced into an extended role when starting point guard Chauncey Billups was limited with an injury.

After the Pistons were bounced out of the playoffs by the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, Stuckey then turned some heads during scrimmages against Team USA as the "Dream Team" prepared for the 2008 Olympics.

"Smith proves a super sub against Pistons," by Bob Finnan

The Cavs were the 12th team in NBA history to win at least 66 games in a season. Nine of the previous 11 teams that won 66 or more have gone on to win the NBA championship.

"The ‘Q’ is special in the playoffs," by David Glasier

The inside of The Q was an ocean of maroon, aka "wine,’’ for Game 1. Fans received a wine-colored t-shirt emblazoned with the Cavs logo and the team’s playoff mantra of "One Goal.’’ That goal, of course, is winning the NBA title.

Cavs the Blog

"Recap: (15) Dominance is a state of mind, and a point differential.," by John Krolik

From the opening whistle to when he sat down, LeBron was absolutely relentless. He was looking to get to the basket at every possible opportunity in the half-court and blowing right by his man. He was looking to get out in transition at every opportunity. He was firing laser-beam passes with either hand when they doubled him. He was forcing contact and getting himself to the line. He was making hard cuts off the ball and finishing at the basket. He was in full on loot, pillage, and destroy mode, and sending a clear message to anyone watching that he fully intends to take the championship by force this season.

Most frigteningly of all for the rest of the league, LeBron flashed a midrange and a post game tonight, going 6-9 from midrange (although a few of those were unorthodox floaters and runners) and posting Aaron Affalo whenever he got the opportunity, getting easy looks from about 8 feet and flashing an absolutely ILLEGAL spin move to beat him at one point, although he couldn’t finish. LeBron went 8-10 in the first half, and I was most excited about one of his two misses. We’re used to LeBron scrapping and MacGuyvering in the playoffs, or feeling out the game and pouncing when he feels the time is right. Tonight, he made the game his, and never gave the Pistons hope.

Professional Game Coverage: Chicago 91, Detroit 88

Detroit News

Pistons lose, will finish eighth in the East,” by Chris McCosky

In one bad loss to a lottery-bound team, the Pistons went from thinking about stealing the fifth spot in the East to being almost resigned to the eighth spot.

“There is no worst-case scenario for us right now,” said Tayshaun Prince, after the Pistons’ fourth-quarter rally fell short in a 106-102 loss to the Pacers Saturday. “The way we’ve played all year, the best-case scenario is that we got into the playoffs. Hopefully we can go in there and do some damage.”

The loss means the Pistons have to beat Chicago Monday and Miami Wednesday to avoid finishing eighth and facing Cleveland in the first round.

Richard Hamilton: Flip Saunders is a good choice for Wizards,” by Chris McCosky

Antonio McDyess just shook his head.

“(Monday) just summed up the way we’ve been playing the whole season,” he said, after the Pistons kicked away a 91-88 loss to the Chicago Bulls. “We were up in the fourth quarter and we let the game go.”

The loss dooms the Pistons to the eighth spot in the East and a first-round match against the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.

Detroit Free Press

Chance of beating the Cavs? Zilch!,” by Michael Rosenberg

In the locker room, Rasheed Wallace looked distraught, which is how he always is when he blames himself. He’d missed a potential game-winning three-pointer with eight seconds left.

Arron Afflalo tried to tell him that one play doesn’t decide a game. Wallace got up and walked away.

So say that for the Pistons: they wanted this one badly. Unfortunately, the desire came too late in the season for a team that has much better talent than its 39-42 record indicates.

What Wallace surely knew is that the Pistons ended up with their worst possible playoff opponent. Entering this game, there were three options, and none of them were good options, but hey, this is what the Pistons get for underachieving all year. You can’t blow off auditions and ask to be cast as the lead.

Pistons drop lead late in battle for No. 7 seed,” by Vince Ellis

Pistons forward Antonio McDyess slowly walked off the Palace floor Monday night wearing the same forlorn look he has sported many times this season.

The Pistons’ postseason fate had just become known after their close 91-88 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Pistons must now face NBA’s best in first round,” by Vince Ellis

Curry didn’t know how he would approach the regular-season finale Wednesday night at Chicago, now that there’s nothing at stake.

In years past, the Pistons would rest regulars this time of the season because their seeding would be decided.

But Curry feels it could be a blessing that the team has had to fight and scratch almost all the way through to the end.

“But when I look at it, it might not be such a bad thing because the games that we’ve missed, hopefully we can keep a rhythm going into the weekend of the playoffs instead of tonight being the last game for about three guys and they don’t play again until Saturday and then we try to get a rhythm again,” Curry said.

Instant replay,” by Vince Ellis

Backup center Kwame Brown showed little ill effect from the strained left hamstring that sidelined him for Saturday’s loss at Indiana.

The Grand Rapids Press

Pistons locked into No. 8 seed after losing to Bulls,” by Greg Johnson

McDyess missed three shots in the closing 49 seconds, and he messed up a pick play that resulted in Rodney Stuckey getting his shot blocked by Chicago rookie point guard Derrick Rose with 35 seconds remaining and the score tied at 88.

Ben Gordon, the Bulls’ shooting guard, scored on a driving layup with 15 seconds remaining to provide the winning points.

“You know, I put this whole game on me this time,” McDyess said. “I definitely felt like I lost this game.”

Pistons hope experience helps against Cavaliers,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

“Experience is huge when it comes to the playoffs,” Detroit coach Michael Curry said after the Pistons dropped a 91-88 game to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

“During the regular season, it matters, but not as much as it does in the playoffs. And so, we will be depending on that.”

Chicago Tribune

Bulls evade Cavaliers in first round with win,” by K.C. Johnson

Little has been easy about this Bulls season. Heck, Derrick Rose even lost a tussle with an apple cutter.

So Monday’s 91-88 victory over the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills shouldn’t surprise. It should merely satisfy.

Overcoming extremely physical play, their own road woes, Brad Miller’s ejection and a hostile crowd, the Bulls took a half-game lead over Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed and guaranteed themselves no worse than a seventh-place finish.

Bulls’ Gordon has showcase game vs. Pistons,” by K.C. Johnson

The Pistons are one of the few teams this off-season armed with salary-cap space, roughly $22 million.

Ben Gordon arrived as the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week with a team-leading scoring average of 20.7 points per game. And he capped Monday by scoring the go-ahead layup with 14.6 seconds left. 

Can you say showcase game?

“I’m not even thinking about that stuff,” Gordon said. “I’m just going to keep my options open this summer and see what happens.”

Chicago Sun-Times

6-shooters get it done for Bulls,” by Brian Hanley

 Too bad the Bulls and Detroit Pistons can’t meet in the opening round of the playoffs.

Because if this game that had as many bodies falling as shots was any indication, the series would rekindle the vintage Bad Boys-Bulls postseason get-togethers of the early ’90s.

Bull notes,” by  Brian Hanley

With one regular-season game remaining, Ben Gordon is assured of leading the team in scoring for the fourth consecutive season.

Gordon, who was named conference player of the week Monday, scored 19 against the Detroit Pistons on Monday and has a 20.7 average, more than two points better than his career mark (18 ppg). Some wondered whether his contract stalemate with the Bulls last summer would have a negative impact.

The team pulled its final offer of six years and $58 million off the table at the deadline, leaving Gordon as a restricted free agent to sign a one-year qualifying offer of $6.4 million.

”A lot of people expected me to come out this year and kind of cry and pout and everything like that,” Gordon said. ”I did exactly the opposite. That’s always going to be my stance regardless what’s going on. I take pride in trying to handle myself in a professional manner. I think I’ve definitely been able to do that.”

Professional Game Coverage: Indiana 106, Detroit 102

Detroit News

Pistons’ win streak ends at three,” by Chris McCosky

In one bad loss to a lottery-bound team, the Pistons went from thinking about stealing the fifth spot in the East to being almost resigned to the eighth spot.

“There is no worst-case scenario for us right now,” said Tayshaun Prince, after the Pistons’ fourth-quarter rally fell short in a 106-102 loss to the Pacers Saturday. “The way we’ve played all year, the best-case scenario is that we got into the playoffs. Hopefully we can go in there and do some damage.”

The loss means the Pistons have to beat Chicago Monday and Miami Wednesday to avoid finishing eighth and facing Cleveland in the first round.

Post-up strategy doesn’t work,” by Chris McCosky

The Pistons wanted to post up Indiana’s small guards. No way could T.J. Ford, at 5-foot-10, guard Richard Hamilton, at 6-7, right?

Wrong.

The Pistons tried to force the ball into Hamilton on most of the possessions of the third quarter and the end result was a 3 for 12 shooting quarter by Hamilton, a stagnated Pistons offense, and a flurry of 3-pointers by the Pacers that put the Pistons in a 12-point hole early in the fourth quarter of their 106-102 loss Saturday.

“We wanted to post because it helps us tempo the game,” coach Michael Curry said. “They are coming into the game trying to score 110 or more and we had it down around 100. We will take that.”

Sound theory, but it failed in practice.

Detroit Free Press

With loss, Pistons inch closer to first-round series against LeBron, Cavs,” by Vince Ellis

Another sterling effort from Bynum was wasted. The backup point guard either scored or assisted on 18 of the Pistons’ last 22 points. He finished with 16 points, six assists and even grabbed four rebounds as starting point guard Rodney Stuckey spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench.

Pacers’ speedy point guards give Pistons fits,” by Vince Ellis

Indiana used two point guards – Jarrett Jack and T.J. Ford — exclusively in the fourth quarter, and the Pistons had problems defensively down the stretch falling, 106-102, at Conseco Fieldhouse.

In the fourth quarter the duo combined for 14 points and four assists as the Pacers (35-45) scored 28 points to hold off a Pistons’ (39-41) comeback. They finished with a combined 36 points and 11 assists.

Team has tools to win — strong bench, postseason experience,” by Vince Ellis

The Pistons have a 5-6 record against Cleveland, Boston and Orlando, although that’s inflated by their 3-0 record vs. the Magic. But all three are the type of teams the Pistons have had success against this season — teams with size.

That’s because the Pistons are a big team with 6-foot-11 Rasheed Wallace, 6-11 Kwame Brown and frontcourt strongmen AntonioMcDyess and Jason Maxiell.

Instant replay,” by Vince Ellis

Wallace picked up his 17th technical foul of the season. If he gets another in the last two games, he earns a one-game suspension. Luckily, the clock resets for the postseason.

Booth Newspapers

Pistons lose battle of boards, fall to Indiana,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

On the opening tipoff, the Indiana Pacers got four shots at the basket before they scored.

It would serve as an omen for what the Detroit Pistons were in store for Saturday, as Indiana’s dominance on the offensive boards in the first half played a major role in Detroit’s 106-102 loss.

The Pistons gave up 14 offensive rebounds in the first half, which led to 22 points for the Pacers.

Pistons still looking to improve as playoffs near,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

O’Brien spent a season coaching Allen Iverson with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers coach knows how talented Iverson is, and he also realizes it’s difficult to mix a player of his skill set with a veteran Pistons team.

O’Brien said he wasn’t surprised that Iverson didn’t mesh well with the Pistons after he was traded from Denver to Detroit for Chauncey Billups last November.

“It’s like oil and water, absolutely,” O’Brien said.

Iverson averaged 17.4 points and 4.9 assists in 54 games with Detroit.

Team officials shut him down the rest of the season earlier this month so he could rest his injured back. The announcement came days after Iverson said he’d “rather retire” than come off the bench.

“I’m not surprised,” O’Brien said when asked about the Iverson experiment not working out. “He’s a great player when the lights come on, but I think to be in a situation where they put Rip Hamilton on the bench, it caused some challenges.”

The Indianapolis Star

Jarret Jack leads spirited effort for Pacers,” by Mike Wells

The standings say the Indiana Pacers already have been eliminated from making the playoffs.

They don’t seem to care. They are playing like a postseason spot is still on the line.

The Pacers responded from blowing a double-digit lead earlier in the fourth quarter to beat the playoff-bound Detroit Pistons 106-102 Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

“Like I’ve been saying, the commitment you make as an NBA player is you play 82 games, regardless if you’re playing for the playoffs or you’re not in the playoffs,” Pacers guard Jarrett Jack said. “You go about it in a professional manner, and I think that’s what everybody is doing.”

O’Brien wants Jack, Ford back,” by Mike Wells

O’Brien spent a season coaching Allen Iverson with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers coach knows how talented Iverson is, and he also realizes it’s difficult to mix a player of his skill set with a veteran Pistons team.

O’Brien said he wasn’t surprised that Iverson didn’t mesh well with the Pistons after he was traded from Denver to Detroit for Chauncey Billups last November.

“It’s like oil and water, absolutely,” O’Brien said.

Iverson averaged 17.4 points and 4.9 assists in 54 games with Detroit.

Team officials shut him down the rest of the season earlier this month so he could rest his injured back. The announcement came days after Iverson said he’d “rather retire” than come off the bench.

“I’m not surprised,” O’Brien said when asked about the Iverson experiment not working out. “He’s a great player when the lights come on, but I think to be in a situation where they put Rip Hamilton on the bench, it caused some challenges.”

Professional Game Coverage: Detroit 100, New Jersey 93

Detroit News

Pistons stop Nets to clinch playoff spot,” by Joanne C. Gerstner

The Pistons clinched a playoff spot with a 100-93 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Friday night at The Palace.

The Pistons are tied for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls, with three regular-season games remaining.

“We’ve been through some struggles, rough times this year, but if we can learn and take things from that, hopefully it will help us in the playoffs,” said Michael Curry, in his first postseason as a head coach. “We were always confident that we’d be a team that was in the playoffs. We’re a different seed this year, and we’ve got to start off on the road.

Michael Curry plans prodigious playoff lineup,” by Joanne C. Gerstner

“If everything is secure (with the playoff seed), maybe we won’t play Dyess in Miami on Wednesday,” Curry said. “The practice (Tuesday) will be aimed more toward the playoffs than just that Miami game.”

The Pistons, who are the eighth seed in the East, could move up as high as fifth depending on how the rest of the conference shakes out.

Detroit Free Press

Pistons clinch playoff spot with win,” by Carlos Monarrez

Backup point guard Will Bynum continued to play inspired basketball by scoring a team-high 20 points in 27 minutes for the Pistons (39-40) and led a charge from the bench, which contributed 46 points and had several players on the floor late into the game.

“It’s supposed to give us confidence,” Bynum said of coach Michael Curry’s decision to let the reserves play late into the game. “It’s good for us to know that Coach got our back, whether we’re playing good or we’re playing bad and he’s still going to come to us. That just shows his confidence in us.”

Michael Curry will stay with current Pistons’ rotation,” by Carlos Monarrez

The Pistons clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 100-93 win Friday night over New Jersey at the Palace, and coach Michael Curry said he still expects to keep the same nine- or 10-man rotation in the postseason.

That would mean Jason Maxiell, center Kwame Brown and point guard Will Bynum coming off the bench.

The Grand Rapids Press

Will Bynum helps Pistons clinch playoff berth,” by Greg Johnson

It didn’t hurt the Pistons’ chances when Devin Harris, who averaged over 25 points and almost seven assists in the three previous games against the Pistons this season, left in the second half with a sore left shoulder. He was 0-for-4 from the field in the first half and scored just one point with one assist.

Pistons’ Michael Curry to lean on bench in playoffs,” by Greg Johnson

Curry noted Friday the ramifications of giving up Chauncey Billups, and Antonio McDyess for a month, for Allen Iverson in a November trade.

“Missing McDyess — he is like a glue to this team — was tough,” he said. “Any transition we went through would have been a lot better if we had McDyess that entire time. We struggled to blend everything else together.”

The Star-Ledger

Devin Harris a favorite for NBA’s Most Improved Award as New Jersey Nets drop 100-93 loss to Detroit Pistons,” by Dave D’Alessandro

Coach Lawrence Frank flipped his active list Friday night and let Mo Ager, a Detroit native, suit up. Sean Williams was inactive, but he’ll suit up Saturday night against Orlando at Izod Center, if only because the Nets will “need 18 fouls against Dwight Howard” Frank explained.

NJ Nets: Brook the Rook’s Temper,” by Dave D’Alessandro

If Brook Lopez ever turns into the gigantic holy terror that some people expect him to be, the Nets are going to send a token of gratitude to Kwame Brown. 

The Nets’ big kid was snorting with rage throughout much of the second half comeback Friday night – they came from 20 down before dropping a 100-93 decision to the Pistons – and it was mostly related to Kwame treating him like he was. . . .well, a rookie.

“I think he kind of amazingly scored a layup, and then decided he wanted to talk to me and then he tried to guard me,” Lopez said, still steaming about 20 minutes after the buzzer. “Apparently he can’t do that, so what are you going to do? If there was a little more time left, I would have hoped we would have kept going inside, because I would have loved to take it to him more.”

Professional Game Coverage: Detroit 113, New York 86

Detroit News

Pistons cruise against Knicks,” by Chris McCosky

“That was fun,” said Richard Hamilton, who led the way with 22 points and seven assists. “I think we’re getting healthy, everybody’s out there playing and feeding off each other. The ball moved and guys made plays for each other.”

It also marked the second time in six trips to New York that Hamilton didn’t get ejected.

“Today I did everything opposite,” he said. “If I normally take a shower in one stall, I switched to the other one because I got thrown out four of the last five times I’ve been here. I was just real happy to walk off the court on my own and not with security.”

Detroit Free Press

Rested Pistons dominate Knicks in most complete performance of the season,” by Vince Ellis

NEW YORK – Pistons coach Michael Curry liked what he saw at practice Tuesday morning so much that he decided to cancel Wednesday morning’s shootaround before the game against the Knicks.

The team justified Curry’s faith with its best 48 minutes of the year with a 113-86 stomping of the Knicks to win its second straight game.

The victory put Pistons’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot at one game.

Stuckey plucky, patient vs. Knicks,” by Vince Ellis

Pistons killer David Lee was held in check with only nine points and four rebounds.

Before Wednesday, Lee averaged 15 points and 17.3 rebounds through the first three games against Detroit this season.

Instant replay,” by Vince Ellis

“Today we were drained. We didn’t have any energy.” — Chandler, blaming the Knicks’ performance Wednesday on a tough loss at Chicago on Tuesday.

Booth Newspapers

Well-rested Pistons easily whip New York Knicks,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

Even before the blowout got started, the Pistons seemed to have a bit more bounce than usual.

The usual pre-game dance that Rasheed Wallace does, while surrounded by the Pistons’ backups, was even more over the top than usual when he did a back spin on the Madison Square Garden floor.

Before the opening tip-off, players usually work on jumpers and lay-ups. On Wednesday, players like Jason Maxiell were attempting acrobatic, highlight reel quality dunks.

Pistons’ Rodney Stuckey a floor leader vs. Knicks,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

But for three quarters, Stuckey was able to balance his ability to score with getting others involved offensively, all the while playing solid defense against ultra-quick New York guard Nate Robinson.

“He was great,” Pistons guard Richard Hamilton said. “He controlled the tempo. He made plays. When guys were open, he got them the ball. We’re going to need that from him.”

Stuckey even made a 3-pointer, a shot he’s looking more and more comfortable taking.

The New York Times

No Iverson, Pistons Try to Move on, to Playoffs,” by Howard Beck

“We knew it would be a season of transition, but we also expected to play better this year than we did,” said Joe Dumars, the team president. “We knew we had to take a step back. But we weren’t looking at seventh or eighth seed back.”

When Dumars made the trade last fall, he hoped that Iverson might help the Pistons challenge Boston and Cleveland. But the greatest value in the trade was never what Iverson would bring, but what he would take away — specifically his $21.9 million contract, which expires after the season.

New York Post

START SPREADIN’ THE SNOOZE,” by Marc Berman

The Knicks have only one more chance to disgrace the Garden, like they did in last night’s despicable 113-86 loss to the Pistons before a disgusted crowd.

The Knicks have quit. They fell behind 10-0 after two minutes, 30-9 late in the first quarter and 63-39 by halftime. Clearly, the players can’t wait for Wednesday’s finale at the Garden against the Nets.

Newsday

Knicks ‘D’ nonexistent in loss to Pistons,” by Roderick Boone

“We need to get a lot better defensively,” said D’Antoni, whose team came into last night allowing 108 points per game with only Golden State and Sacramento yielding more. “You can’t be 28th or 27th in the league defensively and think you are a playoff team. You need to be in the top 15 at least if not in the top 10. So yeah, we are not there and it’s not there on a consistent basis. But that’s one of the things that we’ll try to address in the offseason.”

That means looking for help to bolster an undersized frontcourt that has 6-9 power forward David Lee starting out of position at center. The Knicks’ lack of size on their front line has been a major flaw that’s been exposed.

Professional Game Coverage: Detroit 104, Charlotte 97

Detroit News

Pistons take control of race for final playoff spot,” by Chris McCosky

Kwame Brown stuck his head into the media huddle surrounding Will Bynum following the Pistons’ 104-97 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday and said, “You better say my name or I won’t set another pick for you the rest of the season. The lineman never gets any credit.”

No, on this night the credit goes to Bynum. With Richard Hamilton ejected and the Pistons trying to shake a three-game losing streak, Bynum scored 26 of his career-best 32 in the fourth quarter. That’s a new franchise record for points in a quarter, topping the old mark of 24 held by Isiah Thomas and Jerry Stackhouse.

“That’s really not me,” Bynum said. “That’s on my teammates and coaching staff. I don’t deserve all the credit. My teammates set the screens and my coaching staff believed in me enough to put the ball in my hands in the fourth quarter. I was just trying to do everything I could to win this game.”

Larry Brown: Allen Iverson can still play,” by Chris McCosky

As for whether he wants to coach Iverson again — they were together for six years in Philadelphia — he didn’t bite on that one.

“I don’t want to get into that right now because we don’t know what will happen with us in the draft or in free agency,” he said. “My thing is, some guys who are at the end of their careers you want to see go where they can win a championship. At this stage of Allen’s career, that has to be paramount in his mind. Anybody who thinks they are close (to winning a title), I wouldn’t be surprised if they stepped up and tried to get him.”

Detroit Free Press

Bynum puts his name in the record books and his team closer to playoffs,” by Carlos Monarrez

Bynum had struggled recently in the fourth quarter of games while spelling starting point guard Rodney Stuckey. Coach Michael Curry warned against Bynum trying to force a shot when the team’s offense struggled and instead suggested he get the ball to the team’s scorers.

But Bynum kept the ball all to himself and worked off screens, hitting running jumpers and floaters. Everything went through the net.

“Will was great all night,” Curry said. “… We ran the (pick-and-roll) with Will and (Tayshaun Prince) and I thought it went really well. (Bynum) made his free throws; that was huge. As I said, Will plays really good basketball as long as he doesn’t turn the basketball over and stays in front of his guy.”

Will power: Bynum breaks team record,” by Carlos Monarrez

Center Rasheed Wallace returned to the starting lineup for the first time in 15 games and had 12 points and a season-high six assists in 37 minutes. Wallace last started March 9 against Orlando, then missed the next 11 games with a strained left calf.

Coach Michael Curry made the decision to start Wallace after they spoke just before tip-off.

“He actually came to me before the game and just said he feels really good and he would like to start,” Curry said. “So I said, ‘OK.’ “

Instant replay,” by Carlos Monarrez

The magic number for the Pistons is two. The Pistons and Bobcats each have five games left. Any combination of two Detroit wins or two Charlotte losses clinches a playoff spot for the Pistons.

Booth Newspapers

Will Bynum carries Pistons with 26 in fourth quarter,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

 Jerry Stackhouse. Isiah Thomas. Will Bynum.

Yes, Bynum indeed is in select company following a career-best 32-point effort in Detroit’s 104-97 win against Charlotte on Sunday.

Bynum scored 26 of his points in the fourth quarter, the most ever by a Piston in any quarter of play.

Pistons’ Arron Afflalo comes through off the bench,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

Throughout Arron Afflalo’s career with the Detroit Pistons, rarely does he take center stage. But when called upon, the second-year guard usually comes through.

Sunday night was no different, as Afflalo’s 12 points off the bench played an important role in Detroit’s 104-97 win against Charlotte.

“It’s been a two-year thing, playing when available,” said Afflalo, who made each of his four shot attempts and three 3-pointers. “Mentally, trying to stay tough and smart with the whole situation to where I’m in a situation where the minutes are more stable.”

Charlotte Observer

Bobcats rally comes up short, playoff hope dims,” by Rick Bonnell

With Hamilton out, the Pistons relied heavily on a pick-and-roll offense featuring Bynum and Prince, which was a different look from what the Bobcats saw in the first three quarters.

“The thing that causes this team (Charlotte) the most problems, is dribble penetration,” Pistons coach Michael Curry said. “When we got some of it in the first half, they went to the zone and made us stagnant the beginning of the third quarter. When we got Will back in the game, he made it difficult for them to go back into the zone. He just kept attacking pick-and-roll situations.”

Bobcats feeling more pain,” by Rick Bonnell

There isn’t a while left. The Bobcats fell to 34-42, two games behind the idle Chicago Bulls for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Forward Gerald Wallace, who finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, described the fix they’re in with six games left.

“Now we’re in a (best-of-7) series and down 3-0,” Wallace said.

Professional Game Coverage: Philadelphia 95, Detroit 90

Detroit News

Pistons go cold, fall to eighth in East,” by Ted Kulfan

Andre Iguodala led all scorers with 31 (15 in the first quarter) for the 76ers. Miller had 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. His triple-double was the first such performance against the Pistons since the Heat’s Dwayne Wade did it Dec. 30, 2004.

“We brought good focus and effort, but we just made some mistakes,” coach Michael Curry said. “On a night like tonight, you just can’t make that many mistakes.”

The Pistons allowed Iguodala four lob dunks and shot 26.7 percent in the second half (after shooting 50 percent in the first half).

Allen Iverson, Pistons didn’t blend well, Curry says,” by Ted Kulfan

Curry thinks Iverson, 33, still can be a force in the league.

“He’s still a starter in this league; he’s going to have a lot of success,” Curry said. “This was a tough situation this year. As he gets older, he’ll have to do different thing so his body can hold up for the rigors of an NBA season. He’ll probably have to adapt a little bit, because I’m not sure how many teams will be centered just around him, but he’s still a very capable player, and at times this year, he was really, really good for us.

“A lot of things maybe I could have done better, and the players could have done better, and maybe he could have done better. All of us, we haven’t gotten it done this year. By no means do I want to make it seem it was just on Allen.

“The reality is we’re in the position we’re in, and we have to make the most of.”

Detroit Free Press

Pistons run out of gas, lose to 76ers,” by Vince Ellis

The 76ers were effective double-teaming Rip Hamilton whenever he would come off a screen. The Pistons countered by moving the ball quickly to the other side of the floor, but the recipient of the pass would often miss as both Antonio McDyess (2-for-9) and Rasheed Wallace (3-for-12) shot poorly.

But Hamilton wasn’t much better, shooting 6-for-17, and scoring 15 points and he missed two good looks down the stretch.

Iverson, Pistons never really clicked,” by Vince Ellis

Curry said a training camp with Iverson could have helped. Dumars orchestrated the Chauncey Billups-for-Iverson trade two games into the season.

“I’ve always been a big believer in training camp,” Curry said. “In some of our areas where we struggled while Allen was playing, I think we could have been better in those areas had we been in training camp. I just think getting used to playing with him and him used to playing with the other guys, you could have gotten that done in training camp.

Winning Bobcats series now the concern,” by Vince Ellis

Buoyed by the midseason acquisition of Boris Diaw and Raja Bell from the Phoenix Suns, the Bobcats made a surprising run into playoff contention. Each team has six games left, but it would appear the Pistons might have an edge since the Bobcats have five games on the road. But besides the obvious ramifications of tonight’s game, if the Pistons can get the victory, they would win any tiebreaker with the Bobcats since they would take the season series, 3-1.

Booth Newspapers

Pistons lose ‘must-win’ game at Philadelphia,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

With the loss, the Pistons (36-40) have now lost three in a row and are four games below .500 for the first time this season. Meanwhile, Philadelphia (40-35) clinched a playoff berth with the victory.

More importantly, Chicago’s victory over the Nets dropped the Pistons into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons hold a two-game lead over Charlotte, which in ninth in the playoff race in the East. The Bobcats visits Detroit in an important game tonight — a win and Charlotte would be only one game back in the playoff race.

Pistons try to hold off Bobcats for final playoff spot,” by A. Sherrod Blakely

Several Bobcats have stepped up their play lately, but much of the credit for their late season surge has gone to Brown who coached the Pistons for two seasons which includes the 2004 NBA championship squad.

“LB is a great coach,” Hamilton said. “He’s going to have his guys out there fighting until the end.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer

76ers beat Pistons, clinch playoff berth,” by Kate Fagan

The most important of those free throws came from forward Reggie Evans, who was fouled with 30.8 seconds left and the Sixers leading, 90-88.

As Evans walked to the line, Miller mimicked a high release. Evans practiced. A few seconds later, Evans, who entered the game shooting a career-high 61.3 percent from the line, made both.

“He always kids about he wants to shoot the technicals,” deadpanned DiLeo. “So he’s been working hard on free throws.”

76ers beat Pistons, clinch playoff berth,” by Kate Fagan

With 2:47 left in last night’s game, Tayshaun Prince caught an alley-oop pass and tried to lay it in. On the play, Sixers center Theo Ratliff was called for a foul.

Prince then appeared to land awkwardly on his left knee. He stayed down for a few minutes before walking off under his own power. Prince didn’t miss a second and made 1 of 2 free throws.