Auburn Hills, Mich. -- The Cavs have won nine of their last 13 games including what is probably their biggest win of the season over the Pistons. The victory in San Antonio was just as impressive, but obviously any game against the Pistons carries more weight. Of those four losses, one was in Utah by a point, one was in Dallas by three points and one was in Miami by five. Five of the wins are over teams with winning records. What I'm saying is, that is a pretty good run of basketball.
Here's some observations:
--LeBron's aggression against the Pistons was, of course, instrumental. When he goes to the basket with space, he is unstoppable. What was more impressive to me was his patience. When the Pistons set up their defense he didn't just dribble and then hoist up a long shot as he did so much earlier in the year. He waited for plays to develop, read the defense, and picked his spots. The last two baskets of regulation illustrate this. On the first he took advantage of Tayshaun Prince favoring his right side by using a spin move to the left. On the second with five seconds to play, he baited Prince and Rasheed Wallace as Anderson Varejao came to set a pick to the left. Prince took one step to his right to prepare to defend the pick and LeBron exploited it by dashing the opposite direction for the easy dunk. He used the Pistons system against them and that is massive growth.
--LeBron easily finished around the rim whenever he got space to drive all night. This is a major difference from last season. To me, Ben Wallace's absence is glaring in these situations, there is no safety net if LeBron beats the perimeter defender.
--The Cavs had 56 points in the paint tonight and 14 in the fourth quarter. This is the type of offense needed to win these games. It seems that is finally getting through to the gents.
--For all his "just the next team on our schedule" nonsense, seeing Mike Brown's emotional reactions to close calls showed just how much he cared about the game. After Brown was hit with a technical for arguing with the officials, Damon Jones came over to calm him down. He pretty much told Damon to get out of his face. He was wound pretty tight tonight.
--It was like a playoff game, both teams badly wanted to win and each team had about a dozen high pressure possessions at the end. Also, Brown played just eight players. In the playoffs, so the saying goes, you play eight and trust seven.
--The Pistons, who I have often said are too much of a jump shot team for my taste, really punished the Cavs for putting Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic out there to defending Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton. Sasha played as hard as he could, he just can't stay with Rip. Eric Snow was serviceable, but Hughes couldn't keep Billups in front of him. This makes the Pistons a much more dynamic offensive team. Billups will kill them because he'll make the right pass when the Cavs bring help in the middle. This could be an issue in the playoffs. In the end, the Pistons started shooting jumpers instead of working inside to Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace. This is why they couldn't score down the stretch, when they shoot jumpers they are vulnerable...just like the Cavs.
--Lots of fans have complained that the Cavs are too friendly with the Pistons, warmly embracing each other and the like. Tonight, there wasn't much of that at all until it was over. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Rasheed Wallace didn't exchange as much as a glance before the game at the jump ball. Drew Gooden was talking smack with 'Sheed during the game, tell him to "shut the (blank) up" at one point. Still hugs after the game, but there was serious intensity out there.
--Could someone, anyone, please explain to me that double foul call? I've seen two players called for loose ball fouls at the same time, that is very possible. And, of course, double technicals. But how can anyone call a block and a charge on the same play. It is impossible, it must be one or the other. That's why those are call block/charge calls not block & charge calls. If the officials disagreed, then get together and decide on a call. Am I wrong?
--If you have a moment or two, check out my weekly column from last week on why I believe LeBron is back.