The Pistons are back in the playoffs. As the 8th seed they will play against the 1st seeded Cavs. The Cavs have home court and the series will go as follows: (all times EST) This is a preview for the whole series as well, there will be some mini previews for the individual games. As such, this is going to get a little long, maybe even a little wall of text-y. So bring some snacks, sit down on the toilet, and get comfy.
Game 1: Sunday April 17, 3:30pm. In Cleveland.
Game 2: Wednesday April 20(blaze it), 8:00pm. In Cleveland.
Game 3: Friday April 22, 7:00pm. In Detroit.
Game 4: Sunday April 24, 8:30pm. In Detroit.
Game 5-7: Unneeded Cause the Pistons will already have won.
The Them: People have kind of overstated the Cavs disfunction and weakness. While they might not appear to be the powerhouse expected in many ways, that is really just because the Warriors and Spurs are stupid good. The Cavs are just normal "really good" I mean they won 57 freaking games. Their offense is crazy good with an OffRtg. of 108.1, but their defense is pretty much mediocre (in the true sense, not bad, but certainly not good) with a DefRtg. of 102.3. HOWEVA, when LeBron James is on the floor, this team is an absolute powerhouse, with LeBron on the floor they have a OffRtg. of 112.4 and a DefRtg. of 101.4. To put this in perspective, with LeBron on the floor, the Cavs are damn near the Warriors. (not the Warriors best lineups, but overall) And then keep in mind on top of that, that it is well known at this point that LeBron takes it to another level in the playoffs. Simply put, the Cavs go as far as LeBron takes them. And he leads them in pretty much every which way. He is the Cavs leader in points and assists, and is 3rd behind Love and Thompson in rebounding. So yeah, this LeBron guy is pretty good. Beyond him, don't buy into the rumblings of "Cavs are better without Kyrie" because it is not true, while I don't think Kyrie Irving's game is exactly a winning style, but he is so good that it doesn't matter. He is an absolutely brilliant scorer who is so good that there are times where there is literally nothing that you can do to stop him. His defense is lacking, and he is not a great passer. But once again, such a good scorer that he is still a big help to any team. Kevin Love may be the 3rd wheel, but 16/10/2.4 is a pretty good line for your 3rd wheel. And he has been playing better to finish the year. He is a good, but not great, outside shooter and is still fully capable of being a bruising one on one scorer inside, and is a really good passer. His defense is not good but also not as bad as it is made out to be. JR Smith starts at SG and is a happy 3 point chucker, and by happy I mean he is really good at it. And outside of his occasionally dumbass play, he is actually a pretty solid defender. Tristan Thompson is a bruising rebounder and a dangerous rolling big man, but not much else. He is essentially like a really poor mans Andre Drummond. Off the bench, Matthew Dellevedova is a hugely improved player to the point that he is still a super scrappy, pain-in-the-ass defender, and a really good catch and shoot and passing PG. Timofey Mozgov kind of fell off a cliff this season, but he is still huge and a pretty smart player. Iman Shumpert is a really solid 3 and D guy with a little off dribble bounce as well. Richard Jefferson is somehow still a decent NBA player and will spot LeBron a couple minutes. And that is likely to be their whole rotation provided the series stays close. LeBron is incredible, and the rest of the team is pretty good too.
What are the real odds for the Pistons here?
Not good. The Pistons are better than your average 8th seed (especially in the Eastern conference) due to the simply objective fact that they won 44 games, which (I think) is like 4 games better than average. Then throw in that they are even better than that since the Tobias Harris trade and in a pretty objective manner, the Pistons are not your average 8th seed. Then on top of that, the Pistons have a matchup nightmare in Andre Drummond, and a legit star PG in Reggie Jackson, and the other 3 starters are all very solid players. In the playoffs the starting lineup matters more than in the regulars season, (most teams go with a 8 or even 7 man rotation for the playoffs) and the Pistons bench has been a huge drag on them all year. So in many ways, the Pistons are better than your average 8th seed. HOWEVA. Just as the Pistons are pretty objectively better than most 8th seeds, the Cavs are just objectively a much better team than the Pistons are, and LeBron will be in playoff mode which is always terrifying. For example, I think I saw a stat that said LeBron has not lost an opening round game since 2011. (Might be wrong on that, too lazy to look up.) The Pistons could absolutely take a game from the Cavs, maybe even two, but if the Pistons won this series it would take damn near a miracle. HOWEVA, it is more fun to root for miracles than accept death. So in the matchups section we will look at what needs to happen for the Pistons to win. Once again, it is a long shot, but if it were to happen.
Matchups to watch/What the Pistons need to have happen to win: (Spoiler: A lot needs to go right.)
LeBron Chill Mode. On/Off: I mean, this really is the most important thing in the series. LeBron is clearly the best player in the series. IF the Pistons want to have any sort of shot, they need to find a way to keep LeBron from just totally smashing them into oblivion. I would imagine that Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson will pretty much split the time guarding him, and while obviously you don't shut down LeBron, they need to keep him from scoring at will. Marcus has been a awesome defensive player this year, with an almost uncanny ability to guard with physicality while not fouling, and Stanley is young but he can absolutely match up physically. If Marcus and Stanley could sort of fuse into one player I would actually like the chances of being able to do this, but alas. Marcus will put up a valiant effort for sure, but he is probably not physically capable of really holding LeBron effectively for a whole series, and Johnson is still 19 and prone to occasional stupid mistakes. Beyond those two, Tobias Harris will probably switch occasionally but it is well proven that he can't do much to stop LeBron, and KCP will probably get switched a few times but he is too small and will have his hands full with Kyrie most of the time anyways. Essentially what needs to happen here is that Morris needs to play some of the most tactful and smart defense of his life, and Johnson needs to grow up fast. Another wild card that I legit want to see, although I doubt SVG would have the balls to do it, but if it is crunch time and LeBron is going off, I want to see Andre guard LeBron.
TL;DR Marcus and Stanley need to play the series of their lives on the defensive end.
The Backcourts: KCP will almost certainly take Kyrie most of the series, bumping Reggie onto JR Smith. The Cavs might respond in kind, but less likely I think. KCP has been a freaking defensive beast this season, but his only flaw is occasionally making small mental mistakes like going under a screen he should go over, or getting a little too greedy swiping for a steal. These are small mistakes usually, but against a scorer as good as Kyrie they matter. The one thing that makes me feel good about this is that if anyone is going to play a damn near flawless defensive series it is KCP. He will have to not make mistakes, but he is fully capable of totally stumping Kyrie, and he really has too. And on the other matchup, JR Smith is not a huge threat, but he is not just a spot up guy. Reggie will have to be locked in and stay disciplined following Smith around the court, because if he gets lazy, Smith is still fully capable of going off for a big game. And on the other end, whoever Kyrie guards needs to absolutely give it to him. If it is KCP, the Pistons basically have to hope KCP has a hot shooting series, if it is Reggie, then God save the Cavs. The thought of Kyrie trying to navigate multiple screens from Andre and Baynes makes me happy as a Pistons fan.
Reggie/Drummond vs. Kyrie/Love: This is really the big one. No matter what LeBron will be the best player, other than against Dallas, I am not sure there has ever been a time that LeBron has lost a series to a team where his supporting cast was not almost comically overmatched by the opponent. Obviously these 4 are not going to be going up against each other all that much per say, but Reggie and Andre need to be better than Kyrie and Kevin Love by a wider margin than LeBron is better than everyone else. This is actually the thing that gives me some real hope the Pistons can compete in this series. I don't know for sure that Reggie is better than Kyrie, but he sure as hell isn't much worse, and Reggie absolutely has a thing for the big moments, and is more capable of playing good defense when it is needed. And I straight up know that Drummond is better than either Irving or Love so thats not even a contest really. But I really do think that this is what it will really come down too, can Reggie and Andre outplay Irving and Love by a wide margin. If that happens the Pistons will be competitive, if it doesn't, then they won't be.
Mobias vs. Love: Since Marcus will (probably) take LeBron most of the time, that means Tobias has to take Love. Love is a lot bigger than Harris, and a much better rebounder. Harris needs to be able to hold his own on defense, and then whoever Love takes on defense (I don't know who will get LeBron stuck on them, cause whoever LeBron guards will probably get smashed) needs to absolutely abuse him. Love is not as bad a defender as his reputation is, but he is still not an especially strong defender, and one of the Mobias monster will be eaten by LeBron. Love will probably cause lots of issues for the Pistons on offense, because he is exactly the sort of guy that Mobias can have some trouble with (big, strong, can still shoot) so they need to give it back just as good as they get.
Andre vs. Thompson: This has to be totally one sided. Tristan Thompson is basically like a much worse version of Andre. The things that Thompson are good at (rebounding, rolling to the rim for lobs) are both things that Andre should be able to totally shut off. It won't be easy because Thompson is relentless, and has way less other responsibilities than Andre does. But Andre needs to destroy him. Like Andre has 20 boards per game and Thompson has 7 type of destroy.
Bang-a-Drum: I don't know how this will go or when it would. But it will probably play a factor. If the Cavs do it early and often then the Pistons game plan has to totally shift into attack the hoop at all costs and make it a free throw parade. But I doubt the Cavs will do anything too drastic because they probably don't need too.
Coaching: Lol. This is going to be one sided. SVG is a much better coach, I don't think there is much question about that (although I actually have been more impressed with Lue than I thought I'd be) and the Pistons will need that. But still, just like some other things, SVG needs to coach out of his mind. Once again, the Cavs are a better team, by a pretty wide margin. And the thing that worries me a bit about SVG is that he is not always quick to be creative with his lineups. But this should still be one sided.
Steve Blake: I'm terrified. In the playoffs it can become much harder to hide a bad defender. If Lue is smart (which we don't know for sure) whenever Blake is on the floor he will immediately put Kyrie back in the game, and whoever Blake is guarding will set screens until Blake is guarding Kyrie. They will do everything they can to get him involved in the defensive play. And if he is suddenly the center of every defensive possession, the Pistons might get totally slaughtered in those possessions. There is also the whole thing where against turned up defenses Blake occasionally will struggle to get the ball across half court. His veteran presence will be nice to have, but his defensive presence could possibly kill the Pistons chances.
SVG vs. Unleashing the Kraken: SVG has clearly given Andre strict instructions to stay in the paint and not to stray from it. Andre has not always adjusted all that well to this. But there may come times where Andre is needed away from the paint, and has to guard on the outside, especially if the Cavs go with Love at center very often. Also just in general, here is the thing that excites me about Andre potentially in this series. He is the one guy the Pistons have, who LeBron can't just decide "yeah you are done now" and destroy. If Andre is just abusing people getting all sorts of rebounds, LeBron can't do much to stop that.
Pistons vs. Experience: Of the 8/9 guys who figure to be in the rotation, exactly 3 (or 4 if Meeks actually plays) have played in a playoff game before. And Reggie Jackson was a backup playing alongside Westbrook and Durant when he was last in the playoffs. And the other 2 (or 3) are all bench guys who don't figure to be playing much. And of the rest of them, Marcus Morris is the only one to have ever played a meaningful NBA game before this season. Even more concerning is that Reggie has had a tendency to get overhyped for big moments and be a dumbass. Essentially the Pistons need to not do all the dumbass things that inexperienced guys do sometimes.
Meeks? If Meeks actually plays then that could be a huge boon for the Pistons. Especially because he could maybe run the point (he has done it before in his career) for the few minutes that Reggie sits and then the Pistons don't have to play Steve Blake.
The awesomest bench ever? If Meeks were to play, there is an interesting thing that could happen with the bench. Between Tolly, Bullock, Blake, and Meeks. That is a hell of a lot of shooting on the bench. Once again, none of them will play much (hopefully) but if they could do a full San Antonio and come off the bench hot, that could be a huge help to the Pistons.
So in conclusion...
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Kyrie and Kevin Love are getting involved in lots of Pick and Rolls and Reggie and Andre are slaughtering them for it.
Everyone is like "woah he has been playing this whole time?" every time Tristan Thompson touches the ball.
KCP is in Kyrie's jersey the whole series.
Kevin Love gets roasted by Mobias.
Marcus Morris has one last defensive surprise up his sleeve for the season.
SO MUCH SHOOTING OFF THE BENCH SUDDENLY.
Run for the hills if:
Tristan Thompson is going toe to toe with Andre.
Mobias can't guard Kevin Love.
KCP does not smother Kyrie.
JR Smith scores 40 points in a game.
Steve Blake is guarding the lead ball handler.
The bench lays an egg shooting wise.
Oppourtunities for me to look stupid:
- Pistons in 7.
For realsies though?
Andre Drummond wins the Pistons one game damn near totally on his own, and also has one game where he makes some dumb mistakes and plays like 25 minutes.
The Cavs don't really do the bang-a-drum.
Reggie Jackson damn near wins a game totally on his own.
Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson surprise everyone with their defense.
The Pistons lose in either 5 or possibly 6. The Cavs are clearly the better team the whole way through, but the Pistons have enough firepower between Andre and Reggie that they do put a real scare into the Cavs at a few points and make it a real war at times.
What should Pistons fans really be hoping for?
A war. I would rather get swept with each game being a hard fought and close game than lose in 5 or even 6 where the Cavs just kind of sleep walk through the whole series and everyone knows that the Cavs are just not really turned on yet. Players say all the time, that the first time you get into a real playoff war is a career changing thing. I want there to be techs, flagrants, maybe a brawl or two. The whole deal. The Pistons are almost certainly not going to win, but they need to find out what it is like to be in a battle with the best player in the world. Marcus Morris might be handy in this regard as well.
Playoffs are back. As long as the Pistons don't get totally crapped on it will be fun.
What do you think? Pistons in 6? Let me know! We all get smarter!
Grand Rapids folk! Its supposed to be super nice so I am definitely looking to hoop on Sunday. We hoop at Forest Hills Northernand will probably start about noon. And a couple of ya'll had some interest in that, and I had a thought, if people wanted to go to a restaurant to watch the game or something I would definitely be interested. SO, if people wanted to come hoop with me first that'd be dope, and if anyone wanted to go somewhere to watch the game (restaurant or if someone has a dope TV their house. I'd be cool with people coming to my house probably although my TV isn't that dope) then that would be even more dope. Sound off and we can try and get that together if people wanted.
Gofundme thang: If you wanna throw a few cents my way then you can go here. (You will have to go to another link there because I don't want to get shadow banned lol) Also, sorry about the last couple of posts being up kind of late, they got shadow banned for some reason. AND TO BE CLEAR if you don't know what shadow banned means, it is an auto thing that the Mods don't really do. The Mods have been cool with me all season lol. Also, all of you have been cool all season, I didn't really think it would be, but this has been so much fun for me.