On Sunday afternoon, the Detroit Pistons gave the Cleveland Cavaliers all the No. 1 seed could handle in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference series. In the end, LeBron James and his crew were too much to handle for Detroit, downing the Pistons 106-101.
Before the series began, Reggie Jackson was rather talkative about the prospects of Detroit upsetting Cleveland. He told The Detroit Free Press that a win in February versus the Cavaliers had propelled the Pistons throughout the rest of the season.
“Winning against a team who is considered a title contender at that point gives a young team like us a mental boost, and I think it was a great win for us that’s kind of carried us throughout the season.”
This win infused the Pistons with a confidence that was evident on Sunday in Cleveland, where Detroit came out unintimated and ready to take on the challenge of facing the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Andre Drummond, Detroit’s centerpiece, came into the game averaging 20.3 points and 13.7 rebounds per game in four prior games versus the Cavaliers this season. Drummond was nonexistent in the first half as the Cavaliers condensed their defense, limiting his ability to roll off of ball screens and catch lobs. Instead, Drummond was forced to make plays for himself on the low block in isolation situations where he is much more uncomfortable.
However, in the second half, Drummond was much more engaged both offensively and defensively. He looked much better offensively, possibly ridding himself of playoff nerves in the first 24 minutes of the game. He finished with 13 points and deterred several key shots at the rim in the second half.
Around Drummond, Detroit had one of their best shooting performances of the year. Despite being a team that only connected on 34.5 percent of their three-point attempts on the year and ranked 22nd in the league in three-point shooting percentage, the tides turned versus Cleveland in Game 1. In the game, Detroit shot 51.7 percent from behind the arc, and unlikely three-pointers came from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson, who made seven combined.
On the defensive end of the floor, Kevin Love gave the Pistons all the team could handle down low. As Kevin Pelton explained to ABC News, Love’s matchup against Detroit’s frontline was much more likely to be exploited than other possible matchups.
“I think the offensive matchups are a lot more favorable to Kevin Love (who can post up whichever forward the Pistons put on him) than Kyrie Irving (who will have to deal with stopper Kentavious Caldwell-Pope).”
According to NBA/Stats, Kevin Love tallied.98 points per possession on post up situations in the regular season, ranking in the 83rd percentile in the league. The Cavaliers plastered Love on the block versus Detroit, and he did not disappoint. Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris were not a match for Love, one of the most polished post players in the league. Love finished with 28 points and attempted 22 shots in the contest.
Ultimately, this shooting display from the Pistons will not be replicated again. However, Detroit can limit their turnovers in the upcoming games and find ways to free up Drummond on rolls, which could give the Pistons more scoring opportunities. Still, Detroit will need to figure out how to stop Love in the post, possibly focusing on attacking his poor lateral quickness when he is on the defensive end of the floor. Additionally, the Pistons will have to come with more help on Love, who needs to be contained if Detroit has any chance in this series.
[Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images]