Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Not my favorite episode of "The LeBrons"

Before last night's Pistons-Cavaliers game, I thought that Detroit really needed to stomp the LeBrons. Blow the Cavs off the floor and give them something to think about as they looked ahead toward a possible (likely?) playoff match-up with DEE-troit BAS-ket-ball. Let 'em know who the best team in the Eastern Conference is, that they don't want any of this, and that last year's seven-game series was a fluke.

Instead, Cleveland looked like they were more interested in sending a message and jumped out to an early lead. And in the process, we got a reminder of just how scary LeBron James could be for the Pistons in the playoffs. 41 points. A near triple-double.

It's difficult to imagine he could put up those kinds of numbers in every game of a playoff series, especially when playing for Team USA didn't really give him any time off last summer. But remember how much energy you had when you were 22 years old? He just might be able to do this.

Detroit just didn't have an answer for LeBron last night. Had Lindsey Hunter not gobbled up the wrong pill from his kitchen counter, maybe the Pistons would've had an extra body to throw at him on the perimeter. (And with a 10-game suspension and approximately $250,000 in lost salary, those better be the best damn diet pills ever, Ivy Hunter.) Given the height difference between James and Hunter, such a match-up probably would've been exploited. But the Pistons could've used the help. Would LeBron have been able to drive to the basket for a game-tying dunk at the end of regulation had anyone else besides Tayshaun Prince and his five fouls been able to stick with him?

And for a minute or so, LeBron appeared to have made the kind of game-winning shot that might have been replayed in Nike and Gatorade ads for years to come. I would've loved to see and hear the reaction at a sports bar or in the Palace as that ball went through the net. In my armchair, I just sat quietly with eyebrows raised. Did that just happen?

On TV, it sounded as if the crowd was initially stunned (and rightly so) before trying to badger the officials into taking a look at the replay. You can say that the ball was clearly on LeBron's fingertips when the clock hit zero and the red lights went on. As a Pistons fan, I certainly would've made that argument. But I'm glad I didn't have to make that call, because it was damn close.

When the shot was waved off, I thought the Cavs were going to be deflated in overtime. I can't even imagine what it would feel like to run to the locker room, high from the euphoria of an amazing, crowd-silencing win, only to be told, "Sorry guys - shot didn't count. Get back on the floor." But LeBron and Co. took that energy into overtime, while the Pistons acted like they knew they were lucky to be playing an extra period. Letting one get away like that, against a division rival and likely playoff opponent, had to hurt.

▪▪ Rasheed Wallace might be the Pistons' most valuable player, but if he's gimpy, I'm not sure how much he really helps. The Free Press' Chris Silva said 'Sheed "showed no signs of discomfort," and he obviously had a much better view than I did. But to me, it looked like 'Sheed couldn't move on defense, and had nothing to put into his jump shot. (And I imagine he had even less interest than usual in mixing it up down low with that ankle.) Detroit's surely a better team with 'Sheed on the floor, even if he's not fully healthy. But maybe sitting him out until that ankle can heal up might be the better long-term plan.

▪▪ The Cavs don't have a match-up for Chris Webber, and he could drive them mad in a playoff series. Even with his lessened mobility, he can frustrate Zydrunas Ilgauskas by moving him all around the floor. Either Webber pulls him up toward the high post, opening the lane for drives to the basket, or faces Ilgauskas straight up and takes him to the hole. Maybe Mike Brown was experimenting when he put Donyell Marshall on Webber late in the game when Ilgauskas was either in foul trouble or needed a breather, but if that's what Cleveland has to resort to in such a situation, they could have big problems.

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