LeBron’s LCA debut goes nuclear early as Cavs put the hurt on Pistons

Avery Bradley scored nine quick points but the Pistons faded fast in losing their first game in four tries this season on the second night of a back to back.
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FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Monday night’s 116-88 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Little Caesars Arena

1-ONE TO FORGET – Well, that couldn’t have gone much worse. It seemed a bad sign when LeBron James came out fully engaged, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and looking to get his game going early instead of his often-employed strategy of acting as playmaker and getting his teammates involved first. He had 16 points less than eight minutes into the game, making all three of his 3-point tries. He dragged his teammates along with him as soon they all got in the act. The Cavs hit 11 triples – from seven different players – in the first half alone, when they scored 73, and finished 16 of 33 from the arc (15 of 25 through three quarters) with nine players getting in on the act. The last time these teams met – at Cleveland last March – the Cavs led at halftime 74-48. This time: 73-46. It was the most points the Pistons have given up in a half this season – by nine points. The Pistons appeared to let Cleveland’s shot-making sap their spirit. Stan Van Gundy surely wasn’t happy with the number of second chances the Cavs got or the cutters who slipped behind his defense or the transition threes or the slow rotations and passive closeouts to shooters. Not a lot went right. It was just the second loss for the Pistons at Little Caesars arena in nine games. Turn the page.

2-WHAT ABOUT DEFENSE? – The expectation that the Cavaliers can and will turn it up at the defensive end on a whim might get put to the test this season. LeBron James, fully engaged, remains an All-Defensive team staple, but he’s not getting any younger and Cleveland’s roster demands more of him at the offensive end – at least on nights when Cleveland doesn’t get up by 20-plus points before halftime – where he assumes point guard duties with Kyrie Irving no longer around to take his turn dominating the ball. But the Cavs were trending in the right direction coming into Little Caesars Arena. Even though they still rank 30th in defense, during their four-game winning streak Cleveland had registered as the No. 10-ranked defense. Monday’s game probably didn’t provide much of a barometer for Cleveland’s defense as the Pistons fell behind by too much, too soon – mostly because of Cleveland’s shooting but also because of 11 first-half turnovers, the bulk of them unforced. Cleveland’s offense, meanwhile, remains elite. It ranks fourth for the season and had scored 110 points or more in six of the previous seven games before cracking that threshold with three minutes left in their win over the Pistons.

3-BACK-TO-BACK LEGS – Avery Bradley got rolling early, draining his first four shots, one a triple, to keep the Pistons in contact with Cleveland despite LeBron James’ explosive entrée to Little Caesars Arena. He then missed his next five shots, pretty much every one of them coming up short, before calling it a night. In NBA parlance, this one is what’s known as a scheduling loss. The Pistons played at Minnesota and came back from 11 down in the fourth quarter to win Sunday night and got back home in the wee hours Monday morning. Cleveland, meanwhile, had been off since a Friday win and had spent the past two nights in Detroit, with several Cavs attending the Jaz-Z concert at LCA on Saturday and practicing at Cass Tech on Sunday. The Pistons now get three days off before they’ll play again on Friday at Oklahoma City as they continue a stretch that sees them play nine of 11 games away from home. The loss to the Cavs was the first this season for the Pistons on the second night of a back to back after winning the first three such games.

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Monday night’s 118-108 win over the the Boston Celtics at TD Garden...

1-ANOTHER BIG NOTCH – The Pistons are putting up a lot of signature wins before the NBA season hits the quarter pole. Chalk up a road win over the NBA’s hottest team, Boston, and put it up there with wins at Golden State and Oklahoma City and the seven comebacks from double-digits deficits. No surprise that this one went down the final minute. In an insanely good game between the teams that entered the night first and second in the Eastern Conference standings, of course it went down to the wire. That’s the way it should be and that’s the history of this series. Over the past 10 meetings at Boston Garden, the average score was Pistons 104, Celtics 103.9, reflected in the shooting percentages: Pistons 43.7, Celtics 43.4. And it was tied after three quarters at 86, tied at 100 with five minutes left. Another constant has been Andre Drummond’s dominance, which certainly continued apace. Over his past 15 games against the Celtics, Drummond – usually operating against smaller frontcourts – averaged 19.0 points and 16.2 rebounds while shooting nearly 60 percent and recording double-doubles in all but one game. In 14 of those games, he’d recorded a double-double and he made it 15 of 16 on that score by halftime, finishing with 26 points, 22 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Tobias Harris finished with 31points to lead the Pistons, hitting 5 of 6 3-point shots. The Pistons survived a 16 of 33 shooting night from the arc by Boston, including Marcus Smart’s 6 of 9 outing.

2-FAMILIAR FACES – Avery Bradley’s return to Boston started with a video tribute to him during Pistons pregame player introductions, ending with a “Thank You, Avery Bradley” message. Bradley was a big part of the Pistons early onslaught with six points and three assists in the first 10 minutes. He hit the game’s first basket and the pregame ovation turned to a smattering of boos. On the other side, the Pistons saw two old friends, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes. Bradley, who shadowed Kyrie Irving for pretty much every possession as Stan Van Gundy manipulated his substitution pattern to facilitate that matchup, finished with 13 points and five assists and helped hold Irving to 18 points and 6 of 16 shooting. Morris had 13 for Boston and made 3 of 5 triples. Baynes helped the Celtics get Andre Drummond somewhat under control when he came into the game, grabbing four rebounds in seven first-half minutes and finishing with six points and six boards..

3-OFFENSE HUMS – Boston came into the game with the league’s clear No. 1 ranked defense, but the Pistons got great shots most of the night in rolling to the highest-scoring game this season against the Celtics. Nobody had scored 60 points in a half against Boston this season. The Pistons did it in the first half, then came back with 58 more in the second. It helped that they played an immaculate game, turning the ball over just eight times. In rolling to 31 first-quarter points and a dominant performance from Andre Drummond. He had six points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the quarter, grabbing all but three of Boston’s 13 missed shots. The Pistons shot 52 percent over and hit 11 of 25 (44 percent) from the 3-point arc. Drummond hit 10 of 12 shots, Reggie Jackson (20 points, seven assists0 hit 7 of 10 and Tobias Harris got his 31 points on just 16 shots, making 11.

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