Monday, June 04, 2007

Cleveland Says Hello to Its 1st NBA Finals

East Conf. Finals (Game 6)-- Cavs 98, Pistons 82
Cavs win series 4-2

- Cleveland showed us their Boobie in Game 6. Was pushing for more Gibson in the series since the start, and he really delivered. The rookie guard led the Cavs in Game 6 with 31 pts on 7/9 overall, 5/5 from the 3pt. line. Plays with such poise, doesn't seemed phased at all. Once again caused major problems for the Pistons' defense with his ability to draw fouls (Dan was 12/15 on FTs). Gibson had 19 of his 31 in the 4th, and hit 3 3pts in a 2 & 1/2 min. span to start the 4th.

- The game was decided in the first 3 minutes of the 4th. The Cavs went on a huge 12-1 run sparked by Gibson's long-range shooting, and the Pistons responded poorly by becoming to anxious on offense. (Would that have happened under Larry Brown, not so sure). One of the most crushing plays for Det. might have been Hunter's weak pass to the high post that Bron immediately turned into a steal & a plus-1 bucket to push the lead to 9 with about 10 mins left. Thought that was huge at the time because I thought Det. needed a bucket after 2 back2back Gibson 3s. Then the train in Sheed's head went off the tracks, and really put the Pistons' hopes out of reach.

- Feel even better at how Gibson performed after we thought he was the right fit for the Cavs since before last year's draft. This passage is from our Cavs' Team Needs entry from last June:

"There was some speculation that Jordan Farmar or Kyle Lowry (Villanova) would make sense at the #25 spot. But I never really liked that thought process because neither guy is a very good shooter and that's what you need next to Lebron. The Cavs don't really have to worry about their point being a great playmaker or distributor, because Lebron's there and he becomes their defacto point guard in 4th quarters anyway. I do like the current rumor of a promise to Daniel Gibson at #25 though. He's more of a combo guard, but he can shoot, and does not have to handle the ball as much with Bron & Hughes capable of doing the brunt of it. Now can he defend well enough? Will have to see, but I still think he's a much better fit than Lowry or Farmar."

Though they picked Shannon Brown at number #25, they lucked out Dan fell to them in the 2nd round. We thought Gibson would've made sense for the Lakers at #26 for the same reasons he made sense next to Bron. (At the Painted Area we know how to spot a good Boobie). Sorry, last Boobie joke.

- Also stressed in the series preview for the need for having 2 shooters around Bron as much as possible, if not 3 shooters. And Coach Brown finally came to this realization after the Game 1 mistake of pulling Gibson in the 4th in favor of Hughes. We liked the lineup of Varejao, Marshall, Gibson, Damon/Sasha, & Bron in the Nets series, and this 3 shooter lineup was key in the 2nd half in Game 6.

- The Pistons were determined not to let Bron abuse them like Game 5, so he did not look to force his shot in this game (only 3/11 overall). Even with the increased defensive attention the moment he got past half-court, Bron still managed to get to the foul line 19 times, and got 14 of 20 pts from the line.

- What has totally gone underappreciated this series is how good the Cavs' defense has been. Their defense was consistently better than their offense in this series, and has been steady in the playoffs after being a top notch reg. season defensive unit. Pistons shot just 42% from the floor from the series, and were held to a paltry 36% in Game 6. Also, Bron's defense needs to be commended because he had a big hand in Prince's poor shooting. Prince could never rev up his nifty little post game.

- In our series preview we thought that the Pistons could keep the rebound margin close enough, and really would not become a decisive factor. They were doing just that for the 1st 5 games, the board battle was basically equal. But in Game 6 they lost their focus and got mauled on the boards by 20.

- Rip did some damage off his drives tonite and was the only Piston who had an impressive Game 6--Rip had 29 (10/20) & 3 stls. Tay Prince capped off a really rough series with another ragged offensive game--1/10 in Game 6 & finished the series only shooting 24% overall for 8.7 ppg.

- Billups had himself another subpar game with 9 pts & only 1 asst to finish off a very subpar series. I really don't have a good explanation to why Billups struggled so much in this series & why the Cavs have his number lately. His scoring production wasn't too bad but his assists & TOs were way out of whack for the series. He only averaged 3.5 apg and even though he only turned the ball over once in the last 2 games, he still managed to average 3.8 TOpg thanks to committing at least 5 TOs a game in Games 1-4. Bad timing for a guy who takes care of the ball as well as PG in the league & had one of the best asst/to ratio among PGs this year.

- Can't really fault the Pistons defense today or for the series for that matter, thought they were pretty effective for most of the night. Their doubling/trapping off of their zone set was very effective never letting the Cavs get into a groove offensively before the 4th quarter. They were getting the ball out of Bron's hands and were deflecting a lot of balls that led to a bunch of steals (11) & Cav turnovers (17). The Pistons wanted the other Cavs to prove they could make shots, and the Cavs did, & you live with it. But as solid as their core half-court defense was (Cavs shot 39%), they just fouled a little too much--the Cavs got to the line 46 times, 19 more attempts than Det. Then they compounded this parade to the charity stripe by not protecting their defensive backboard--the Cavs grabbed 17 off. boards to only 23 def. rebs for the Pistons. Big Z did most this board damage with 7 off. for 12 overall.

- Does this underachieving series spell the end to the recent incarnation of the Pistons. Have been the best team the last 5 years in the East, and reached the Conf. Finals for 5 years straight, but are only 2-3 in Conf Finals, & lost twice in a row being the 1-seed. Their defense was not really the issue in this series besides some breakdowns in Game 5, it was the offense that went in the crapper for the 2nd Conf Finals in a row. This team is not particularly young and you saw how Gibson gave them trouble getting inside to draw fouls. Biggest issues facing Dumars this summer is what to do with some key veteran free agents. Primarily, what to do with Chauncey, then secondarily, what to do with Webber & McDyess. Also, Dumars might have to address the coaching situation since their is no question Flip has not gotten as much out of this roster as possible. (We'll cover this in a later post).


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