Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Comfortably Uncomfortable: Just the Way the Pistons Need It

Uncomfortably close? Maybe. But it's probably what we should've expected, given the recent history between the Pistons and the Cleveland LeBrons. I was actually thrilled Game 1 was so tight - though I obviously wouldn't be too joyful about it had Donyell Marshall made that last three-pointer, or if LeBron had seized the step he had and tied the score.

But I certainly don't think it's a bad thing that the Cavaliers got into the Pistons' face, and gave them one or two smacks in the mouth to get their attention. It just might force this Detroit team out of its more frustrating tendencies. Had Detroit won this first game easily, and worked up a decent amount of disrespect for the LeBrons, we know what likely would've happened next. We've seen it too many times over the past two or three seasons.

They'd lose focus. 'Sheed would start taking more three-pointers instead of fighting in the paint for baskets and rebounds. (To me, there was no more encouraging number from last night's box score than Wallace's 12 boards. I could've almost guessed the final score based on that.) They'd figure they could turn it on when winning time came around.

However, if these guys know that they're in for a fight, if Cleveland shows that they're not going to make it easy, then there shouldn't be a lapse. That's not to say the Pistons won't lose a game or two (or three). Even if it looks like Detroit has the match-up advantage at virtually every position and should win this series relatively easily, some teams simply have a rough time with certain opponents. And I think the Cavaliers are one of those irritants.

But what's everyone talking about today? LeBron should've taken that last shot. That's what superstars who get entire shoe ad campaigns built around them do. He shouldn't have passed the ball, even if the guy was horrifyingly wide open. Or he did the right thing because that's the play that's supposed to be made every time. (Matt at Detroit Bad Boys analyzes this whole thing so well that I wasn't even sure if I should bring it up here.)

Kornheiser and Wilbon will surely discuss whether or not LeBron is one of those superstars who can take over a game on "PTI" this afternoon, and I hope Wilbon raises an excellent point he's made before. Players who leave for the NBA right out of high school might not be as well schooled in the rhythms and demands of a game than a college player who's been through big conference and tournament match-ups. If a star player has never learned how and when to take over a game, what happens when just such an opportunity is thrust upon him?

Do I think LeBron should've taken the shot? Like Matt at DBB, my opinions changed after I saw the replay. As the play was happening, it looked like LeBron made the right decision because Marshall was so wide open. On a second and third viewing, however, you see that he actually had a step on his defender(s), which means he could've taken the ball to the rim and either have drawn a foul or laid in the tying basket. But we don't know what the plan was. Maybe the play called for exactly the pass that LeBron made. Maybe the sentiment on the Cavs' bench was to go for the win, rather than slog through an overtime period.

As a Pistons fan, I think all of this is awesome. Let LeBron, his teammates, and coaches answer those questions over the next two days. Let that thought influence LeBron the next time he's in such a situation, and it just might cause the kind of hesitation that can cause a player to seize up in key moments. Maybe he decides to force the issue and run into a double-team, rather than kick it out to the wing - because he's sick of hearing about this stuff. This stuff is in LeBron's head now - and the Pistons didn't even have anything to do with it.

But wait a minute - what if this fires LeBron up to become the unstoppable force many of us fear? Is this a case of "Be careful what you wish for"? Ah, let's worry about that on Thursday...

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