Saturday, May 20, 2006

Friday Recap (May 19)

PISTONS/CAVS (Game 6): Pistons 84-Cavs 82

- Pistons avoided being the victim of one of the biggest upsets in NBA Playoff history by the slimmest of margins. A string of timely offensive rebounds saved their collective behinds. On the same token, the Cavs have to feel somewhat sick that they actually had a great chance in the 4th quarter, but could not to come out on top.

- The Pistons' offense was still a little troublesome overall in Game 6, they just could not get a consistent rhythm going for the fourth game in a row. Detroit really made things tougher on themselves by shooting 16/28 from the free throw line. But they did make the clutch plays when they needed them in the 4th, not to mention 8 offensive rebounds in the 4th. Although, Chauncey did not have the dominant overall game I thought he would have, he did show his cool demeanor in the 4th by hitting a couple tough shots and knocking down all but one of his free throws--Billups ended with 15 pts. & 8/9 from the line. Sheed also stepped up to the plate by being a factor inside & out--he was 4/8 from deep and did his usual damage on the block. I've always felt that Wallace's low post arsenal is only second to Duncan's; Sheed just needs stop goofing around on the perimeter so much. Detroit's defense was once again rock solid--Cavs shot 44.8% & only 2/12 from 3pt. Big Ben did a wonderful job on his help rotations all game challenging shots at the rim and making sure on a few occasions that Lebron was not getting the old-fashoined 3-point play. Although, the Cavs did win the points/paint battle again, this time 42-22.

- Cleveland came out early looking sharp offensively and seemed to be building a nice momentum in their home arena. I thought the Cavs were really moving the ball well in the 1st half, especially Lebron--who was finding cutting Cav bigs well. Ilgauskas pieced together his second solid game in a row with 16 pts on 8/11 shooting. Drew Gooden pitched in with 13 pts. & 8 rebs., and did a good job of getting to the open space on the floor. Although, the Cavs did not get much other help offensively, especially from their backcourt. I think it is very important for the Cavs in Game 7 to get at least 15 points from Murray if they want a shot. What ultimately burned the Cavs in this game, was they gave away to many possessions in the 4th quarter either by turnovers or Piston off. rebs. I know it's hard to fault Lebron for another elite-level performance, but he ended with 7 TOs and some key ones down the stretch--you just can't give away possessions to a team like the Pistons.

- I think the general consensus is the Cavs blew their chance and there is no way Detroit will lose a Game 7 at home. I agree. But I also felt that the Pistons would just flick a mental switch after Game 3 and totally blow the Cavs' doors off--as you can see the Cavs were not having any of it. So maybe the Cavs will continue to surprise in Detroit. I think the only way they can pull it off though, is if the Cavs get an unreal shooting display from their role players.

SPURS/MAVS (Game 6): Spurs 91-Mavs 86

- I thought the Spurs were pretty much done in the 2nd quarter when Duncan went out with 3 fouls and the Mavs were looking to extend the lead into double digits, but Manu Ginobili would not let it happen. Manu basically single-handedly kept the Spurs afloat in the 2nd quarter, keeping them within striking distance so to stem the tide until Duncan could return in the 2nd half. Finley was also determined last night not to be eliminated by his former team. He was really the only other Spur who brought some relief to Duncan & Manu--16 pts., 6 rebs, 2/3 on 3pts--not to mention the gutsy 3-pointer in the corner with the score tied at 82-82. I really thought that shot was a bad idea when he released it, cause he took it early in the possession and should have dump the ball into Duncan, but Finley did not seem to care--he wanted the Mavs finished.

- The defensive performance by the Spurs in Game 6 was a flashback to the Spurs' defense of old--Dallas was held to 38.6%.
Was this outcome heavily affected by Jason Terry not being there? Not positive, but probably so. San Antonio was definitely sagging off more, daring the Dallas perimeter players to become jumpshooters, something I thought that was a no-brainer for Coach Pop. Devin Harris looked out of sync all game and could not get some easy shots to drop for him. Josh Howard, who was pretty effective in the 1st half, looked really hesitant to shoot from outside when given a wide berth and only shot 7/17 overall. So most of the offensive responsiblity was left to Dirk, who delivered with 26 pts. and 21 rebs. It just was not quite enough to put the Mavs over the hump. One problem did arise for the Spurs again vs. the Mavs--12 off. boards for the Mavs. Spurs' small-ball line-up has continued to hurt them on the boards--Spurs are giving up an average of 11.6 off. boards a game in this series.

- Dallas's defense did a really solid job on closing off driving lanes, especially impeding Parker from flying thru the paint, something that had really hurt the Mavs the last couple games (the Spurs shot 43.3%). Even with all this concentration on cutting driving lanes down, the Mavs still did a good job of not allowing the Spurs to get off from the 3pt line (Spurs 4/10 from 3pt.). This is something they have done a good job on all series, which is key after the Spurs were relying heavily on 3pts. in the Kings' series. Also, I thought Dampier did as good as a job on Duncan one-on-one as one can--Duncan had 24 pts., but only shot 8/21.

- There also seems to be a heavy consensus that the home team will win this Game 7 as well. But I am not so sure this one is as clear-cut as the Pistons/Cavs Game 7; these teams are much more evenly matched than Det. & Clev. Dallas has lost by a combined 3 points in their 2 losses in San Antonio and they cruised to the most lopsided victory in the series there as well. With Terry back, the Spurs are going to have to re-adjust their defensive gameplan, possibly leading to the same problems that happened thru Games 2-5 for the Spurs. I expect Avery to double-team Duncan more, in turn forcing the Spurs to hit from outside, something they really have not been doing all series besides Game 4. As I thought earlier in the series, Pop should try to get Barry & Finley open on some screens to let them get some long-distance attempts up early to help them bulid up some rhythm. With all that being said, with the teams being so close in talent, I have to go with the home-court tie breaker slightly pushing the Spurs thru.