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C&R: PISTONS VS. CAVS EDITION

WIN AND GO HOME
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 22, 2006 11:30 a.m. ET

LIKE MIKE

For all the comparisons to Michael Jordan -- whether you like them or not -- here's one more: LeBron James wakes this morning just as M.J. did in the late 80s. He faces the reality there's no more organized hoops until October, while the Pistons march on toward the Finals.
-- [Detroit News]

There's always next year.
-- [ESPN.com]

Or the one after that.
-- [USA Today]

DEEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL

The Pistons suffocating 'D' got the job done when it mattered most: the second half of Game 7.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Want to know just how suffocating that defense really was? Count the number of buckets Cleveland made in the final 24 minutes. Tip: scroll down with your right hand and count on your left.
-- [NBA.com]

Those five buckets were the direct result of what the Pistons failed to do the previous four games: shut down LeBron James. Throwing multiple looks and different defenders at James, Detroit held the young star to a mere one third-quarter point.
-- [Detroit News]

JUST THE BEGINNING

The Cavs season may be over, but their postseason success is just beginning.
-- [Detroit News]

Even team owner Dan Gilbert can't wait for the 2006-07 season to get underway.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

HEAT REDUX

With those pesky Cavs out of the way, Detroit turns its focus on the Heat.
-- [Detroit News]

Miami is well rested after dispatching the Nets in five games. The Pistons, well, they get one day off. At least they don't have to travel.
-- [Detroit News]

As for you, travel on over to our Pistons-Heat series blog to continue following all the Eastern Conference Finals action.
-- [NBA.com]

Backs to the Wall
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 19, 2006 11:45 a.m. ET

You've gotta admit, it's been a great year for Detroit sports fans. The Pistons and Red Wings each finished the regular season atop their leagues' standings. The city is fresh off hosting a Super Bowl three and a half months ago, which is about as exciting as it gets for the home fans given that the Lions stink. Now, the Tigers -- you know, the perennial AL Central doormat? -- have won seven straight to take a one game lead over the White Sox for the division lead.

But, let's face it. Michiganders are not accustomed to paying the Tigers any attention this early in the season. Hockeytown and Dee-troit Basketball are usually in full tilt as the Red Wings and Pistons charge deep into the playoffs.

Peanuts and Cracker Jacks, anybody?

In case you don't follow the action on the ice, the Wings fell to Edmonton -- a disappointing finish to the legendary career of Steve Yzerman, should he decide to hang 'em up.

And I probably don't have to tell you the Pistons are on the verge of elimination themselves -- a disappointing finish to Flip Saunders' first year at the helm and a season many believed would culminate in the franchise's fourth Larry O'Brien Trophy.

So, I should say it's now a good time to be a Cleveland sports fan or, at least, a Cavs fan. Times like these don't come along that often. But you already knew that, just as the Akron Beacon Journal's Terry Pluto did:
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

"Sorting through the Cavaliers' playoff history is a little like discussing the times Barney the dinosaur was up for the Oscar."

But maybe it's time for Cavs fans to forget history and believe in their team?
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

It's also time to believe in the team's defense -- not something you think of first when you consider LeBron James and his teammates.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

But they're playing solid D and will have to continue to do so tonight.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

They also need the contributions from the reserves.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

As for the Pistons, pick your cliche. Win or go home. Backs to the wall. Time to get serious. Wait, was that last one a typo? It's the Playoffs. You'd think they would have been serious back on April 21 ...
-- [Detroit Free Press]

I know, it's tough to maintain focus when you're expected to walk though the first couple rounds, but c'mon? I understand, Milwaukee and Cleveland should have been mere speed bumps on the six-lane freeway to the Championship. But the cost of gas is expensive these days -- especially when you're driving one of those gi-normous, Motown-made SUVs. And if you try to stretch it to the next cheapest filling station, you're bound to overlook the fact your warning light's been on the last 25 miles and you're about to sputter to the side of the road.

The Pistons have been running on fumes for some time now. Only six players are averaging more than 11 minutes per game in these Playoffs. This coming after all five starters averaged 35-plus for the entire regular season.
-- [NBA.com]

Could it just be they're getting tired?

Or could it have something to do with their coach -- or, more appropriate, the change from one of the game's greatest to one who's floundered in the postseason?
-- [New York Times]

The old coach preached the right way. Their new coach has to figure out what that means against the Cavs zone defense.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Note to Flip: It starts with your point guard's aggressiveness.
-- [Detroit News]

He's saying the team's not going to lose this series, which could be seen as a good thing until you recall how cheap talk has been the last three contests.
-- [Detroit News]

So, now, it's time for the Pistons to stop the chit-chat and get back to work.
-- [Detroit News]

Otherwise, it'll be Cleveland fans who finally have a team to celebrate.
-- [Detroit News]

MORE INK

The man who literally -- literarily? -- wrote the book on Jordan is questioning whether LeBron could be better ...
-- [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, the man who wrote The Five People You Meet in Heaven is stuck in a nighmarish hell envisioning himself as the Pistons five starters.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

HEATING UP

I'm not buying the Heat is indifferent ... you have to believe the Cavs are a more enticing option.
-- [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

One writer does.
-- [Miami Herald]

The Heat began by practicing as though they'll face the Cavs.
-- [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

Shock and Awe
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 18, 2006 12:15 p.m. ET

Stunned this morning, anybody?
-- [MLive.com]

Get any sleep last night, Cleveland fans?
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

And no, I don't mean those who stayed up to watch last year's champs stave off elimination.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

The thing is, you can't really count either team out, can you? Sure, the odds clearly are not in favor of either of last year's finalists, but they're still alive. And that's what matters most to both clubs.

What matters most to Cavs fans is they have the chance to close out this fairy tale series at home Friday. But, they had better hope the clock hasn't yet struck midnight.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

If you're a Cavs fan, right now you should be hoping -- no, demanding! -- that your team put its foot on the proverbial throat of the defending Eastern Conference Champs while it has them down. That's because, now's no time to start thinking you only have to win one of the next two games ... If the Cavs lose Game 6 at home, don't bank on them winning a roadie two nights later at The Palace.

Of the 93 series that have gone the full seven games, only 17 teams have been able to pull off a road win in the final contest. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, there's a Game 6 to be played tomorrow.

So, let's turn our attention to a number that doesn't bode well for the Cavs: 10. There have been only 10 teams to ever bounce back from a 2-0 deficit. Of those 10, five (Boston, 1969; Baltimore, 1971; Houston, 1994 and 1995; Dallas, 2005) needed the full seven games, in which three (Boston, Baltimore and the 1995 Rockets) managed to close out the series on the road.

But, should the Cavs eliminate the Pistons tomorrow, could they be headed to the Finals? Well, four of the five teams -- from the 10 above -- that took four straight after dropping the first two did (L.A., 1969; Portland, 1977; Chicago, 1993; L.A. Lakers, 2004; Washington, 2005). The Blazers and Bulls won the title, while the Lakers lost both times.

What's all that mean? Well, not much really. But we know LeBron's a student of the game and is learning his hoops history, so we felt the need to share a little that applies here.

Back to the present-day situation, however, the Pistons are saying they've been in this position before and know what it takes to rebound.
-- [Detroit News]

They're also saying they're not concerned.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Fine, they're the experienced ones. And now they're in a position they love to be: Backs to the wall with people counting them out.

But if they drop this series to the Cavs, they'll have nobody but themselves to blame.
-- [Detroit News]

Well, except maybe the folks at SI.com, who could add Detroit to this list.
-- [SI.com]

So, should we expect the Pistons to go out quietly in Game 6? Or roar back to win the next two?

Answers: 1) Probably not. 2) Maybe.

As SI's Kelly Dwyer put it, "This is merely an unfocused bunch of veterans, and a team of professionals that hasn't been asked to play a game that matters since early March at the latest."
-- [SI.com]

Now it matters. Now's time for Detroit to find focus.

It's also time for Cleveland to step up and do the improbable.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

Best of Three
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 17, 2006 12:45 p.m. ET

Well, a day later we learn that Rasheed Wallace's ankle isn't at 100 percent, but at least his mouth still is. Wallace said had he not turned the ankle, the Pistons would have won Game 4.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Of course, such words mean very little as the Pistons didn't win and now find themselves even at two games apiece heading into tonight's matchup at The Palace.

Maybe they did just get a little overconfident, as some think.
-- [Detroit News]

The Cavs, on the other hand, aren't overconfident, but they are certain they have a chance if they keep the games close.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

That chance is diminished a bit by the fact that two of the remaining three contests are in Detroit, where the Pistons play a more consistent brand of ball and have lost only four times since dropping Game 5 to the Spurs in last year's Finals.
-- [MLive.com]

BA-BA-BA-BAD

You know how Mason, the Pistons PA announcer, rattles off a little "Chauncey Ba-Ba-Ba-Billups" whenever the Pistons point guard scores or dishes? No? Listen here.
-- [Pistons.com]

Anyway, Ba-ba-ba-Billups has been ba-ba-ba-bad on the road. That needs to change.
-- [MLive.com]

And he knows it, too.
-- [Detroit News]

LINGUISTICS 101

We'll just call him Andy.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

RESPECT YOUR ELDERS

Believe it or not, the Cavs are made up of more than a young phenom.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

Nothing's Guaran-Sheed
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 16, 2006 11:30 a.m. ET

I've been there. Well, not there, as in the Playoffs. Nor have I plied my trade in front of 20,000-plus people. (Imagine me sitting mid-court in Madison Square Garden with the faithful booing every time I hit the 'L' key. But, I digress.)

No, I've been there, as in running my mouth only to have it bite me in the proverbial rear end.

Thankfully, I am no Rasheed Wallace, nor is he me. Although, I would love to use the word "cats" in a sentence and have it come off as cool as the Pistons big man.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

You see, I'm not hating on Rasheed -- I, too, point to him for much of the Pistons recent successes -- but Cavs fans certainly don't like the outspoken one much these days.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

Think they'll like the way Wallace responded after Detroit's Game 4 loss? In case you might've missed it ...
-- [Northeast Ohio News-Herald]

"Even the sun shines on a dog's [behind]. There ain't no way they're going to beat us in no series. They beat us tonight, which is good for them. But, nah, they ain't going to beat us in the series."

Of course, Cavs fans will certainly take the way the Pistons responded to Wallace's initial guarantee. As the other Wallace put it:

"You can't let a man predict a win then go out and play like that, stink it up like we did. Players, coaching staff, everyone."

The Pistons can at least hang their hats on one fact after that stinker in Cleveland: They can't possibly play any worse, as they head home for Game 5. Can they?
-- [Detroit News]

Then again, not many people believed this series could ever be knotted at two games apiece. So, I guess, anything's possible.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

A Cavs series win, while still possible, is deemed unlikely by many. But, as the Pistons learned yesterday, nothing is guaran-Sheed.
-- [Detroit News]

LICKING HIS WOUNDS

If the shot to his ego wasn't painful enough, Wallace has to contend with a bum ankle now, too.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Well, that and local scribes calling for a cease-fire on the guarantees.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

YOU'RE 7-3!

And now, a note from the dunk-the-damn-ball-already files ... In his notebook, Terry Pluto wrote: "Ilgauskas needs to pull himself out of his funk. There are open jumpers for him -- start making them. He also should quit going to the basket as if looking to get his shot blocked."
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

But that was before Game 4 and Z's dunk "attempt" late in the first half. Had Ben Wallace not thwarted Ilgauskas on the way up, I'm not so convinced he'd have gotten it over the rim anyway ...

CLE > STL > DTW

The Cavaliers will have a layover in St. Louis on their way back to Detroit for Game 5. The team has flown to be with the Hughes family for the funeral of Justin Hughes, younger brother of Cavs guard Larry.
-- [New York Times]

Talkin' Sheed
Posted by By Rob Peterson on May 15, 2006 1:30 p.m. ET

I love the smell of verbal napalm in the morning. It smells like ... victory!

And imagine, it only took one loss to the Cavaliers to get the Pistons Rasheed Wallace droppin' quote bombs.

Wallace did not like losing Game 3 at the Q. As a matter of fact, Mr. Wallace has guaranteed that Cavs fans will see their team no more at home this season.
-- [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]

Excuse us while we get out the soapbox. [Scraaaaaaaaaape!] OK, Mr. Wallace, step up here please. Good. Face this way. You set? Go:

"We're going to bust [them]. I know we're going to win. It's not bulletin board material; it's a fact. They can put it on the bulletin board and they can put it on video. I don't care. I know what we're going to do. I'm not worried about [the Cavs] at all."

So, what do the Pistons think of Sheed's mouth?

Hehehehehe, that's just Sheed bein' Sheed.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

This Akron Beacon-Journal writer compared Sheed to Baghdad Bob.
-- [Akron Beacon-Journal]

It's good to see people keep things in perspective.

Seems like the press is taking it harder than Cavs coach Mike Brown, who noted if you need bulletin board material at this point in the season, then what are you doing here?
-- [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]

I need to agree with Brown. Comments like Sheed's excite the dopes (like me) behind the keyboards more than they encite the opponent.

Meanwhile, the Cavs' Optimist is, well, optimistic about his team's chances in Game 4.
-- [Cavs.com]

More Cowbell
Ever since I first saw it, I wanted to mention this. LeBron's new "We're All Witnesses" commercials have the best use of more cowbell (the last 10 seconds) I've heard in quite some time.
-- [Nikebasketball.com]

Xs and Os
Oh, by the way, what do the Pistons need to do to make sure the guarantee is, well, guaranteed? Protect the rock.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

On the other side, the Wine and Gold need to keep everyone involved to keep the momentum in the series.
-- [Akron Beacon-Journal]

Larry Hughes
The Cavs starting two will miss Game 4 because he's in St. Louis for the funeral for his brother, Justin. Flip Murray will start in Hughes' place.
-- [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]

Cavs.com has an excellent piece about the bond between the Hughes brothers. So does SI.com's Marty Burns.
-- [Cavs.com, SI.com]

Slow News (Off-)Day
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 12, 2006 11:30 a.m. ET

What to do with an extra day off between games other than go through a spirited practice session with all your teammates?
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Well, that, and it gives gents like Rip Hamilton a chance to rest those nagging little injuries.

But overall, it creates a bit of a slow basketball-related news day. To that, we get a new take on an old story, that's been done a few times in between.
-- [Sports Illustrated, Akron Beacon Journal, Detroit Free Press]

Off the court, however, the Cavs players and coaches are lending support to Larry Hughes, whose younger brother Justin passed away yesterday after a long battle with a heart defect.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Hughes will be in St. Louis with his family and is expected to miss Game 3. His return is uncertain.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

While the Cavs' thoughts go out to the Hughes family, their attention must shift to tomorrow's Game 3 matchup at home. Our focus, now that we've covered the day's news, turns to the blogerati.

The Akron Beacon Journal's Brian Windhorst has a few thoughts that may not sit entirely well with Cavs fans.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

You've heard how Flip Saunders knows his team is having a little too much fun when Rasheed Wallace starts heaving lefty triples, right? What would he think about the two-handed try a Detroit Bad Boys reader captured before Game 2?
-- [Detroit Bad Boys]

DBB also points us to an article from the Metro Times on Steve Conway -- the man behind the music at Pistons games.
-- [Detroit Bad Boys, Metro Times]

(Disclosure: I got to know Conway years ago when I was an audio intern at The Palace. It's always good to go home and catch up with him and the broadcasting crew. It's also good to read up on them from time to time.)

A Rivalry a-Brewin'
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 11, 2006 12:00 p.m. ET

Ah, the Pistons and Cavs. Can you say rivalry? You don't see too many true ones these days, but this pairing has all the makings of one -- even if it is a bit lopsided at this point.

To have a true rivalry, it helps to start with two teams in the same division who can play each other four times in a season, adding in a little physical play with a few bruises and cuts. Check.
-- [Orlando Sentinel]

Mix in some meetings in the postseason. Check.
-- [NBA.com]

And finally, sprinkle in some trash talk on off days. For a bit of that, check out this exchange between Cleveland's Damon Jones and Detroit's Ben Wallace.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Jones has seen more floor time against the Pistons -- for whom he suited up in 2001-02 -- but it hasn't been his game that's spoken the loudest. And it seems the Pistons are having fun at his expense. To wit, see this photo the Detroit Free Press ran online today.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

So yes, folks, we have the makings for a real rivalry here. It harkens one back to the mid 1980s, when Detroit couldn't get past Boston in the Playoffs. When the Pistons finally did in the late '80s, they had to hold off the advances of a young Michael Jordan and his Bulls team. Games between those teams were heated affairs, showdowns not to be missed.
-- [NBA.com and Cleveland Plain Dealer]

There's one showdown in this series you don't want to miss: The battle being waged between Tayshaun Prince and LeBron James. It's a rare moment when James can't get whatever he wants, whenever he wants, on the hardwood. But for seven quarters he was outplayed by the long-limbed Prince.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Of course, James shook free in the fourth quarter of Game 2, giving the team some hope as it heads back home for the next two contests.
-- [Northeast Ohio News-Herald]

But the Pistons players and coaches are saying, nobody's going to remember the comeback and the final score of that game because it's really more about what Detroit didn't do as opposed to what James and the Cavs did.
-- [Detroit News]

One can only hope that what the Pistons are doing to James and his team right now will inspire the young star to return determined to get past this enormous roadblock. And that his teammates will step up to the challenge, too. Hey, it worked for Jordan 15 years ago.

Too Little, Too Late
Posted by By Jeff Dengate on May 10, 2006 12:00 p.m. ET

So, Donyell Marshall's words got a bit twisted by the media? Imagine that. Okay, Marshall isn't saying the Cavs don't have a chance in this series vs. the Pistons, but others are happy to turn his words into just that. All you have to do is listen to Detroit radio.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Even so, one could -- and one does -- argue the team realistically knows the odds are not in their favor.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

But, witnessing Marshall's team rally late in the game as LeBron James heated up, you have to believe they have a chance at winning at least one game, if not more.
-- [Detroit News]

But, in watching the Pistons domination -- as LeBron James disappeared for two complete halves through the first two games -- you get the feeling that playing out this series is a mere formality. Pencil the Pistons in for a showdown with the Heat or Nets, right?

Not so fast. The Cavs could give the Pistons a bump in the road for two reasons: One, they host the next two in their gym. Second, LeBron James is beginning to figure out how the lanky Tayshaun Prince and his teammates have held him in check.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

The problem for James is that the Pistons are on to him. So, expect adjustments to the defense to keep him feeling the heat and prevent him from again dropping 14 fourth-quarter points on them.
-- [Detroit Free Press and Detroit News]

A big problem for the Cavs is that the Pistons didn't receive passing grades in Game 2, despite what looked like the makings of a blowout in the early going. The starting backcourt's shot was shaky and the bench contributed zip. Neither is likely to happen again.
-- [Detroit News]

But if either does or the Pistons fall asleep for even a moment, the Cavs have to be ready to capitalize. No Pistons squad has swept a best-of-seven series since the 1988-89 season when they eliminated the Lakers 4-0 in The Finals after sweeping the Bucks 4-0 in the Conference Semifinals, so the possibility of them getting lax over the next two games does exist.

Regardless, whether you believe this series will go four or five games, as some out there do, there's always next year for the Cavs.
-- [SI.com and Akron Beacon Journal]

James and Co. fell short of a shocking upset.
(D. Lippitt/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
QUICK QUOTE
Rasheed Wallace, after his guarantee of a Pistons Game 4 victory didn't pan out:

"Even the sun shines on a dog's [behind]. There ain't no way they're going to beat us in no series. They beat us tonight, which is good for them. But, nah, they ain't going to beat us in the series."
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

2005-06 ARCHIVE
May 5 -- The Wait Continues
April 28 -- One for the Little Guy
April 19 -- Still Mostly Cloudy
April 14 -- You Can Do Magic
April 6 -- Work to be Done
Mar. 31 -- Will Suns Rise?
Mar. 24 -- Artest Fit For A King
Mar. 17 -- Almost Doesn't Count
Mar. 10 -- A Magical Game
Mar. 3 -- Revenge of the Herds
Feb. 13 -- The Heat is On
Feb. 10 -- Left Out in the Cold
Feb. 3 -- We're Going Streaking!
Jan. 27 -- Trade Winds Blow
Jan. 23 -- Points a Plenty
Jan. 20 -- Give the King a Break
Jan. 13 -- Who's the Man?
Dec. 1 -- Welcome Back, Larry
Nov. 17 -- League Pass Surfing
Nov. 10 -- Setting OWGs Straight
Nov. 4 -- Season Underway
Oct. 27 -- The Central Is Stacked
Oct. 19 -- All Dressed Up
Oct. 14 -- LeBron Out Of Hospital
2004-05 -- Archive
2003-04 -- Archive