NBA: Pistons regroup to stop LeBron
CLEVELAND ó Detroit coach Michael Curry got home Saturday night after his team’s playoff loss and stayed up late watching a movie.
It was like one of those slasher genre films: predictable plot, unstoppable villain, sequel-spawning finish. No blood or gratuitous gore in this one, though, just bodies everywhere.
Pistons splayed all over the floor.
LeBron James was a hardwood horror for Detroit in Game 1.
James, in get-out-of-my-way overdrive from the outset, scored 38 points ó mostly on shots from near range ó and got all his teammates involved as the Cavaliers, and their highly evolved offense, rolled to a 102-84 win over the Pistons, who went back to the drawing board to devise a new plan for James in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“It’s going to take more than one person to stop LeBron,” Pistons guard Will Bynum said. “It’s going to take all five of us.”
James made it look easy, too easy, in the opener. Given a seam to drive, he blasted to the basket. Given room to shoot, he shot and finished 13-of-20 from the floor. In just under 41 minutes, he added eight rebounds, seven assists and didn’t commit a turnover despite facing a defense designed for him.
The Pistons tried everyone they had on James. Tayshaun Prince, sorry. Richard Hamilton, nope. Arron Afflalo, next. Rodney Stuckey, nice try.
“LeBron’s very tough when he puts his mind to it,” Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said following a short practice on Sunday. “It’s pick your poison with him.”
Too often, the Pistons seemed out of sync defensively when James had the ball. In previous games, Detroit would overload one side of the floor to James, hoping to overwhelm him with numbers and take away his passing lanes. This time, the Pistons tried to trap him coming off screens and dropped others toward the basket.
Nothing worked well as he either beat his man or threaded a pass to an open teammate for an easy bucket. Cleveland shot 53 percent.
Curry was disappointed with the Pistons’ inability to keep James out of the foul lane, where he can simply outjump his defender.
“We didn’t make him take the shots that we wanted him to take,” Curry said. “He had eight shots in the paint and 11-of-14 from the free-throw line. We have to keep him out of the paint more, make him pass it to those guys (teammates) and try to make those guys make plays. I think we’ll do a much better job on him.”
It’s not as if the Pistons haven’t seen this before.
Surely, they remember his not-of-this-world, 48-point performance in Game 5 of the 2007 playoffs, when he scored Cleveland’s last 25 while taking on all five Pistons by himself. What Detroit, and the rest of the league are finding out, is that the Cavaliers are more than James.
He is surrounded by more weapons than ever, and he trusts than when he passes the ball to Ilgauskas or Mo Williams or Anderson Varejao or Delonte West, they are going to put the ball in the basket.