Auburn Hills, Mich. -- The details were different, but the Cavs' 79-76 loss Monday at the Palace has been played so many times before. Yes, the LeBron James' shot/pass decision on the last play will get the most attention. It will here, too, in a moment. But frankly, holding the Pistons to 79 points has to be enough to win. If it's not, then you're not going to beat them. The Cavs' offense is not equipped, which has been the case for months now, and it will continue to be obvious under pressure. The defense and rebounding can only carry so much burden. You saw the breaking point in Game 1.
Now, the LeBron decision. I have always generally supported James' belief that it is prudent to make the correct basketball play when it comes to shooting and passing. You find the open man. Plus, on the road, even in the playoffs, often the best play is to go for the win and not the tie. You play the percentages and work the system no matter what Charles Barkley says. Here's the problem with tonight, though, it wasn't the best basketball play.
LeBron was not double-teamed when he made the pass, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince were caught by surprise when James attacked so quick and both were out of position. But that's not the point. Yes, Marshall was open, but that's not it either. Looking at it live and then at the replays, it seems pretty certain to me that when LeBron started going down the lane he had no intention of shooting the ball. Based on the angles I saw, I'm not sure he even looked at the rim even though he had good position to finish the play. Marshall said after the game the play was not drawn up for him. Mike Brown said it was James' decision. His decision, not his read, was to pass. And that is the difference between this play and all the others when he passed instead of taking the last shot. It certainly looked like he didn't take the last shot because he didn't want it and I've never before held that stance.
Combine that with his thoughts after the game which included this: "We always want to win the ball game, but we always say if we play as hard as we did tonight for 48 minutes, we're not satisfied, but we can look back and say we're OK with this loss."
This is what I was talking about on my earlier post. This sort of philosophy may be sound by the book, but it doesn't fly in the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron either knows this and is just saying it or deflect blame and divert attention or he genuinely sold himself that how you play the game is more important than winning and losing. On this level, at these stakes, it isn't. The NBA is a win business and on this level, it's magnified ten fold. You can't say you're a leader in one breath and then say it is OK to lose in another.
The Pistons know and this know it well, which is why they found a way to win Game 1. Now the Cavs must learn, too.