We just saw what we already knew.
Mike Brown, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers just aren’t ready.
Cleveland is no longer in New Jersey where the Cavs roamed freely about the paint and dominated the glass. They’re in Detroit, where the backups backup will come in and score at will against their soft and inexperienced front court. Jason Maxiell provided the timely baskets that Detroit needed while spelling Roscoe and the Cavs had no answers from their starters. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden had a combined seven points and eight rebounds tonight, out produced by their own backup, Anderson Varejao who labored for 14 &14. Their collective reluctance to execute on the blocks and an unhealthy dependency on jumpshots leaves the team without another reliable scoring option, which makes it all the easier for Detroit to defend LeBron James.
Bron attacked the basket early and often in the first half and his penetration put the Pistons at a disadvantage. He seized upon their defensive indecision, dishing and dunking the Cavs to a twelve point halftime lead. But his offensive limitations were revealed when Detroit began to consistently shadow him with a help defender. His driving lanes were shut down and with no jumper to fall back on, he forced passes which quickly became turnovers. The second half offense was stagnant and predictable, isolation plays that went nowhere. Detroits team defense is too skilled and aware for them to be beaten by Bron off the bounce and they simply watched him dribble away the shot clock before collapsing on him. Cleveland continued to flail away from three instead of nourishing their halftime lead and suffered through an eight minute drought which kept the Pistons around.
Then he did it again. This time ahead by one, with a chance to extend a lead, LeBron attacks the basket and draws a cluster of white jerseys. As he and the primary defender both left their feet, Bron had a prime opportunity to draw contact and a whistle by attempting a shot at the rim. Instead, he passed out to Sasha Pavlovic, who wasn’t ready to shoot and traveled. Thirty seconds earlier, he missed the first of two free throws. Coincidence? I think not.
Rasheed Wallace recognized and exploited his mismatch with Varejao throughout the fourth and put Detroit ahead with a clutch fallaway over James. Instead of going for a quick two and fouling to extend the game, Mike Brown, who had wasted all of his timeouts anyway, called another isolation play for his star. After pushing off of Richard Hamilton to get a step, LeBron spun directly into his outstretched arms in a weak attempt to draw a foul and was denied. As if. The Cavs scrambled for two more attempts, but the game was sealed with a technical foul on an incredulous Coach Brown as the King was left shaking his heavy head.
Cleveland loses 79-76. Again.
And Detroit hasn’t even played well yet.
*And no Cleveland, you don’t get to complain about the refs unless you’re also gonna acknowledge that Bron should’ve been suspended.