Cavs 89, Pistons 73
--Excellent overall performance by the Cavs. The defense was very solid and the matchups actually worked in the Cavs favor, which I was not sure about. By relying on Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao to play Rasheed Wallace 1-on-1, the rest of the Cavs were able to stick to their men outside and mostly give up contested jumpers. --There is no doubt in my mind, however, the back-to-back was hitting the Pistons. Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton didn't even shoot in the fourth quarter and you could see them all melt a little down the stretch. It has been rare this season for the Cavs to have the rest in their advantage and they took advantage. Nonetheless, the Pistons' magic number to win the Central Division would've been 1 had they won tonight and the Cavs didn't let it happen on their floor and that sends a message. --LeBron's confidence against the Pistons is quite high, which is a departure from last season at at times. He seems like he's easily able to get them back on their heels and it used to be the other way around. Not saying they can't shut him down like they used to, but I think the mental advantage has flopped. It started with that overtime win in the regular season at the Palace last year when LeBron had 41 points. He found out he could apply pressure and get results and he carried it right over into the playoffs. --There are two more meetings between these teams this season and I am just waiting for an Anderson Varejao-Rasheed Wallace throw down. They were on each other tonight and in each other's faces. It was the first meeting for them since the playoffs, Andy was holding out in the previous matchup. They are throwing elbows and talking trash. Totally fun to watch. But once again it seemed like it was Rasheed who got out of his game, he just tossed up 3-pointers in the fourth. Which is what you want him to do. --Let's see if the Cavs can keep up this defense, they have been so inconsistent I just cannot say they have turned a corner. Toronto will be a good test on Friday in that regard. On offense, when Wally Szczerbiak makes shots like he did tonight and Zydrunas Ilgauskas is involved things brighten. We'll see if any of it gels, thought. --So DeShawn Stevenson is at it again. After the Wizards beat the Magic in Orlando tonight, Stevenson was feeling his manhood again and said he was hoping to play the Cavs in the playoffs and he wants to get Soulja Boy into the act. Here is what he said:
"I hope we play Cleveland. I'm going to get Soulja Boy courtside seats and have him wear a DeShawn Stevenson jersey. Maybe (James) can have Jay-Z there since LeBron's all on his (shorts) anyway. And tell LeBron to cut that beard off and stop copying me."
Apparently this all goes deeper. LeBron said something to Drew Gooden, one of Stevenson's boys, about Stevenson once and Gooden passed it along (I don't think this makes Drew a favorite in the LeBron world, either).
"We're all in the same profession," Stevenson said. "We don't need to talk bad about one another. So, that's how it happened. I was ticked off and that's why I said something to him at tip-off. So, it goes back further than people think."
All of this and more from the Washington Post's Ivan Carter on his blog.
Pistons: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace Cavs: Delonte West, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Greg Williard, Tony Brown, Bill Kennedy
--This will be interesting to see where the Cavs are. They are a good home team and a good defensive home team and the Pistons are on a back-to-back. The Pistons are a good road team. --There is a lot of focus on Wallace playing his old team, but that is really old hat. More important is how the Cavs defend the Pistons' perimeter. Also, the matchup of the reserve big men should be interesting. --Keep an eye on how the Pistons play LeBron and how the Cavs react. They have put a big point on moving the ball more when LeBron is kept on the outside and doubled by the Pistons.
Halftime -- Cavs 45, Pistons 38 --The difference in this game seems to be the little spurt at the end of the half when the Pistons went really cold from the floor and the Cavs got hot. But otherwise, it has been what you'd expect, a tight and physical game. The Cavs have done a good job of trying to get inside with drives and passes into the post. They have 20 points in the paint, which is good against the Pistons. --The Pistons are using their standard LeBron defense. They are leaving Prince on him 1-on-1 and then playing a mini-zone behind him with two players moving. He's had success driving and kicking, he's got four assists. He needs to keep moving and so do the other players, because when stagnant this defense is very effective. He has no problem getting past Prince and then the issue is whether he can beat the second man or find the hole in the defense. --Detroit is something like 30-1 when they score 100 points and about .500 when they don't so this pace favors the Cavs. Just keeping the game close and giving LeBron a chance to win it is a good idea. --The Pistons obviously think when Ben Wallace is guarding Rasheed it is an advantage, because they kept going to him on the block over and over. He made one shot and drew one foul, but Ben battled him OK and Sheed is just 1-of-7. I don't think that's a great matchup because Sheed can shoot over Ben, but it was an interesting battle to watch. --Two things from this half: 1. Rip Hamilton can get an open jumper against the Cavs any time he wants. 2. Anderson Varejao is yet to make a good decision. --LeBron has been guarding Billups a little bit, this is an interesting idea because in the past Billups has struggled against bigger/taller defenders like Larry Hughes. --The Cavs kept their turnovers down but that is always a concern as is their offense stagnating and having to take bad shots at the end of the shot clock. Keep and eye on these factors in the second half. Also, you have to assume Detroit will shoot a little better from the outside.
Stars LeBron, 30 points, seven rebounds, six assists Ilgauskas, 20 points, eight rebounds Hamilton, 14 points, seven assists
Quotes: LeBron: "It's not a statement game, it's just a regular season game and another game for us to get better.We took more than one step forward tonight, we took five steps, especially on the defense end." Mike Brown: "I thought our guys came into the game with the right mindset. We put together a complete game on the defensive side of the floor."