Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wednesday Recap (May 17)

PISTONS/CAVS (Game 5): Cavs 86-Pistons 84

- Stunning. I highly doubt anyone predicted that the Cavs would be in position to close out the series at home in six games. I don't even think anyone in the Cavs' organization thought they had a chance in this series, besides maybe Lebron and his mother. For the third game in a row, the game was a defensive-dominated affair where offense was not easy to come by.

- Who would have thought that Cleveland could play at the same level defensively as Detroit, if not maybe slightly better. When people during the regular season were guessing how far that Lebron could take the Cavs in the playoffs, I always made the case that was not the major issue: the main issue I had was I did not think their defense was anywhere near playoff-caliber. But Mike Brown has pushed the right buttons in this series after a thorough beating in Game 1. Cleveland's defense was once again the key last night--holding the Pistons to 42.7% and only letting them shoot 2/10 from 3pt. The Cavs have done a super job holding the Pistons to a paltry 39.2% for the last 4 games and they've really clamped down on the Pistons' 3pt. success--the Pistons have only hit 13 total 3pts. the last 3 games after hitting 25 the first two games. The Cavs also were very active last night causing turnovers and deterring shots--the Pistons had 17 TOs, & Ilgauskas had 6 blocked shots. Donyell Marshall came thru with a huge block late in the game to go along with another overall good game for him--14 pts., 13 rebs. (5 off.). The Cavs finally got the performance from Big Z they needed--14 pts., 10 rebs. (5 off.), 6 blocks, doing most of his damage in the 1st half.

- The Pistons' offense is picking the absolute worst time to go into a funk after looking as flawless as any team the entire season. They just look totally discombobulated the last 3 games--this is as out of sync thatI've seen them the last couple years. Prince was the only guy on the roster that was effective for the entire game--21 pts. & 8 rebs. Billups did make a big contribution in the 3rd quarter by being the key to the Pistons' rally, but overall he was not typical clutch Chauncey (he had 6 TOs). McDyess seemed like the only Piston to show up in the 4th quarter, by single-handedly keeping Detroit close--he ended with 11 pts., 11 rebs., 3 blocks (a huge one on Damon Jones). I really think that for the rest of the series the Detroit offense has go thru Billups as much as possible. He needs to take over and look to attack the basket more, either off the bounce or by posting up.

- Some people are wondering if the Pistons' defense is as good as it has been the last couple years, thus being the crux of their problems lately. Granted, the Pistons' numbers were not amazing in the regular season, in the last 3 losses to the Cavs the Pistons have been pretty good. Detroit held the Cavs to 38.3% shooting. Although, they can't be giving up 19 offensive boards to the Cavs too often; the Pistons did somewhat neutralize that total by grabbing 16 off. boards of their own. I think if the Pistons could just get a decent performance from their offense, they should pull out a win cause their defense is fine. I think the Pistons will prevail in Game 6 and eventually pull-out the series with a more concentrated effort from their offense, especially Billups. My theory now is that the Pistons are waiting to the exact last possible moment to lay the anvil down on the Cavs; at least that's the theory I am trying to convince myself of.

SPURS/MAVS (Game 5): Spurs 98-Mavericks 97

- The third thoroughly entertaining game in a row of one of the better playoff series in awhile. Most people thought these two teams were pretty evenly matched and this series is a testament to the predictions. Although, you would have thought that there would be more of an emphasis on defense, but it's turned into more of an offensive shootout.

- San Antonio came out very aggressive once again, looking to take the action right back at the speedy Mavs. Parker was once again flying around with reckless abandon, creating offense with his penetration. Duncan continued being a monster on the block--he was 11/11 in the 1st half with 28 pts--while the Dallas bigs were picking up fouls left & right. Timmy ended with another massive statline--36 pts. (13/19), 12 rebs (4 off.) & 3 blocks. Manu brought the chaos on both ends with 18 pts., 5 assts. and countless hustle plays that were key to the win. You really can see why Ginobili is always a leader on plus/minus lists. Overall, the Spurs offense was very effective the whole game--they shot 53.6%, won the points/paint battle 56-48 and had the added bonus of 14 fast break points.

- This game actually saw some defensive stops after not seeing too many since Game 1. After a back-in forth offensive 1st half devoid of any defense, the 2nd half showed a little bit in the way of defense. In the middle of the 3rd, the Spurs strung together a few defensive stops that helped them build up a 10 point lead. But then the Mavs responded at the end of the 3rd with some tough defense (thanks to a solid zone), and eventually cut the Spurs' lead to 3 to end the 3rd. In the 4th, the Spurs probably played the best defense they've played in the last couple games. Overall, the Spurs never let Harris & Terry (both had 15 pts.) go too crazy the way they have been the last 3 games. Dirk had a big game with 31 & 10, but I think the Spurs can live with it if they can keep the other Mavs somewhat in check.

- On the last Spurs possession, Duncan can't give up the ball to Parker, he needs to back-in Diop. I thought this almost cost them big time and Duncan could have been regretting this decision for awhile. If the Spurs can play the kind of defense they put forth in the 2nd half, they have a great shot in Dallas in Game 6.


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