Game Recap/Notes: Playoff game #1. Pistons 101 - Cavs 106. Cavs lead 1-0

Super fun game. Some really good stuff from the Pistons, some not so good stuff. I do have a bad feeling that this game was their chance to get one because they shot so well, but they showed that they can legit play with the Cavs.

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Box score.

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Reggie Jackson: Most people will say that Reggie (also Andre) started off the game quietly, but in reality, there is a reason that Morris and KCP were the Pistons leading scorers in the 1st half. The Cavs threw the kitchen sink at the Reggie/Drummond PnR which then opened up chances for the rest of the team. Other guys having such good games is a credit to how terrified the Cavs are of the Pistons top two players. Even with the slow (statistical) start, Reggie still ended up with a really good overall game. 17 points on just 12 shots and 7 assists. In the second half, and especially the 4th quarter, the Cavs started to show some more respect to the supporting cast and Reggie started to get more buckets. At the end of the game he did not manage to pull out any heroics, but the reality is that SVG conceded to the fate of Reggie trying desperately to play hero ball when he pulled Andre. That can fly in the regular season, it might even work for a few possessions in the playoffs. But When the opposing defense is both good and locked in, you need another threat on the floor. It was a really good game for Reggie, and his willingness to let others do the damage early in the game, and then switch into attack mode later on was a big reason for the Pistons being in the game. It isn't his fault that without Andre on the floor there is nothing else to spook a defense into giving him any space. Also, his defense was generally very solid, he spent most of the game on JR Smith and Shumpert and neither of them were real factors all game. He did not so much to stem the offense of Kyrie but that was not really his job. Also, even though it does not usually matter a ton in the final outcome of the play, I love that when he gets switched onto LeBron he does not just give up on the play and bodies up and makes him work.

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KCP: What an odd experience. KCP did above expectations on offense, and got pretty roasted on defense. On offense he did a really good job of attacking Kyrie (when he was on him) and generally take advantage of the holes created by Andre and Reggie. He shot well on his way to a 21 point night on 16 equivalents, and even had 3 assists to show for his part in the great ball movement shown by the Pistons early in the game. On defense though, he ended up not really being up to the task of Kyrie. Which will be a huge issue if it keeps up. And to be fair, it was not all on him, KCP did not play bad defense, but as I said in my preview, several dudes would have to play the series of their lives. They need KCP to be not just really good, they need all world defense from him. It is a lot to ask, but this is the playoffs. HOWEVA, even all that said, I was a little disappointed by his defense. I was just hoping for a little bit more. But still, he made some nice plays (and got absolutely robbed of drawing a charge on LeBron.) and his offense was very good. They need him to hit shots because he has been (by a fair margin) the weakest offensive link for the Pistons this season, so he is who they will be most willing to help off of, so he needs to punish. If he goes cold the Pistons will be in serious trouble. But for now, he isn't.

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Tobias Harris: I want to dispel something real quick. I have seen several people say that Tobias needs to play better and even needs to lose some minutes to Stanley/Bullock. NO. He did not play particularly well, but LeBron James spent literally the whole game on him. And I must remind everyone, that playoff LeBron refers more to his defense than his offense. There was once a computer simulation where they tried to design a perfect defender, and LeBon James outperformed them. You literally cannot build a more effective defensive player than LeBron. And so, as I have said before, part of the power of Tobias is allowing Marcus to get the weaker defenders and then have a good game. If it wasn't for Tobias then Marcus would have gotten roasted. In the end, Tobias had 9 points on 11 equivalents, 10 boards, and a couple assists. Those are not great numbers, and I would hope he can do some more in the future, especially in his defense of Kevin Love. But he was guarded by one of the best defenders ever to step onto a basketball court and still got some tough buckets, which has real value. Hopefully he can find another gear to get more points, but he only took 11 shots in this game, just like the Reggie/Drummond PnR. Sometimes his greatest value is not in the points he scores, but the points he allows others to score. (Once again, he did not play all that well, and it is fine to expect a little more. But dude should not lose minutes, and he did not play poorly.)

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Greater Morris: His game perfectly encapsulated how the Pistons offense went, and how the Cavs responded in the different halves. He had 19 points on brilliant shooting in the first half, courtesy largely of open looks and Kevin Love. In the second half the Cavs tightened up, gave Jackson/Drummond a little more space, and moved Kevin Love to center. And he ended the game with 20 points. To be clear, he still played a really good game, 20 points on 17 equivalents and 5 assists is good no matter what half of the game it comes in. And in the second half he did not force stuff, which means he was just playing through the offense. It is the other end that was concerning. Marcus has consistently surprised me with his defense this season, and he has shown a down right uncanny ability to play physical defense without fouling. And he had some possessions where it was evident against LeBron. But on far to many plays, LeBron got into the paint with ease, which is death. Obviously, this is LeBron we are talking about. There is no shame in Marcus struggling to keep LeBron out of the paint lol. The reality is that I thought he did pretty well all things considered. But if the Pistons want a chance in this series, they need to find some way to keep him from slicing up the defense so easily. Marcus had good ball denial, but once LeBron got it he did almost whatever he wanted. As I said in my preview, he needs to play the best defense he has ever played in his life, and that was not it. They need some more.

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Andre Drummond: Just like Reggie or Tobias, the stats might say he did not play so well. The stats are wrong. The fear he put into the Cavs is the only reason the Pistons were in this game for so long. And at the end of the game it became painfully apparent just how much more important Andre is the the partnership with Reggie. On top of that, he played awesome ball in the 3rd quarter by getting several really hard rebounds and scoring in the paint. He literally played Tristan Thompson off the floor. Thompson only attempted a single FG the whole game because Andre did not allow any lobs, and Thompson ended with just 6 boards, and at least 2 of them were because Andre left to contest a driver and Mobias did not manage to box out Thompson. Andre was the thing that the Cavs did not have a good answer to. The only thing really. Which is why I still freaking hate that SVG took him out at the end of the game. The Cavs had not even started fouling yet or anything, the only real defense for it is that SVG is hoping that Andre is sitting on the bench thinking "I've gotta work harder at my free throws this offseason than anything I have ever worked at before" which who knows if that would work or not. But especially in a series like this, SVG has to know that if he pulls Andre in any situation that is not a solid lead, he is forfeiting the game. As nice as he is as a backup, Aron Baynes needs to play as little as possible, because he is just not really good enough to hang with Love or Thompson. Oh I forgot his statline, 13 points on 15 equivalents and 11 boards.

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Stanley Johnson: WOOOOOOO. He will miss more shots occasionally in the future, but wow. This is the crap we like to see from the youngin. the 9 points on 4 shots was cool (3/3 from deep) but it was his defense of LeBron that was awesome. He battled and battled and battled with LeBron. And clearly frustrated him. That is actually the real argument for him cutting into someone's minutes, is not for something other people are doing wrong, but for the fact that he is the only guy who can really go toe to toe with LeBron on a physical standpoint. Also, he guarded Kyrie with effectiveness at several points which was cool.

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Reggie Bullock: After spending damn near the entirety of this short career nailed to the end of the bench, Reggie Bullock is out he being a key cog int he bench and nailing 3s. Finishing with 8 points on 3/3 from the field (2/2 from 3). Simply put, the bench is a totally different animal with Reggie's shooting, cutting, and passing. His defense was not exposed much either, he made a couple bad plays but the Cavs didn't real capitalize. Plus he tackled LeBron which was funny.

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Steve Blake: He was a cog in the super ball movement of the bench, and he actually had like, 2 good defensive plays. But he was still bad. It makes me upset that he is playing minutes in the playoffs. And just as an example of what I mean by teams targeting him in the playoffs, Kyrie was the first starter to the bench, so that he could come back into the game when Blake was on the floor. This was not as devestating as I thought it would be (once again, Blake actually defended well on like 2 of the possessions, which is 2 more than I expect from him) but it was still a source of several easy buckets for Kyrie.

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General: I still hate sending Andre to the bench when the other team hasn't even started fouling, but SVG has done it all year so I see no reason he will change that. Bullock took over Tolly's place in the rotation, which I am not a huge fan of but I like that Bullock is playing.

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Takeaways for the rest of the series: Still kinda worried that this is the one the Pistons should have stolen. Andre is the only thing that spooks the Cavs. KCP and Marcus have to dig deep and try and find another gear for defense. If the Cavs come out as keyed into Reggie/Andre as they were in this one, pray the rest of the guys don't get cold. The Kevin Love at center thing is an issue because Andre has no choice but to vacate the paint, but Andre can (and did) give Love trouble on the boards and in the post on the other end. Also, when the Cavs do that, the Pistons need to just run an endless amount of PnRs against Love. He is really good so he will hurt the Pistons with his offense, there is not a good answer with him at center. Either have Andre go out and smother him and let LeBron/Kyrie run rupshot in the paint and likely give up the teams best skill (Andre's rebounding) or have Andre hang back to protect the rim/rebound and let Kevin Love get a string of warmup 3s. HOWEVA, the Pistons legit have something with the Jackson/Drummond PnR that gives the Cavs issues, and if the bench can keep shooting (which is not impossible) the Pistons are actually still in good shape to make this competitive.

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What do you think? Still Pistons in 6? Let me know! We all get smarter!

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GoFundMe thang: If you want to help me do some dope offseason stuff then you can throw a few cents my way here. 

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WOOO: I'm going to be at game 4 next Sunday. If anyone else is going to be there you should totally come say hi.