NBA Playoffs Game 2 - Cleveland Cavaliers at Detroit Pistons (-5Ĺ, 174) 8:00 PM ET
Itís seldom when a player doesnít shoot a ball that half the world is in an uproar about that individual not doing so. However, that is exactly what happened to LeBron James in opening game loss to Detroit 79-76.
As Cleveland got the ball to James at the top of the key with time ticking down, James gave a head fake to his right, whipped Tayshaun Prince like a statue and went towards the basket to his left.
The Detroit defenders frantically worked to collapse on The King, and he whipped a pass to Donyell Marshall standing in the corner who was so alone he was even ordering off the new breakfast menu at Whataburger. Marshall missed the open shot sending those that had Cleveland on the money line into disgust.
Some say James should have taken the shot considering his skills, ''I've got a problem with the best player on the floor not taking any of these shots down the stretch,'' TNT analyst Charles Barkley said. ''He passed it to (Zydrunas) Ilgauskas twice, he passed it to Larry Hughes and he passed it to Marshall. If I'm the best player on the court, I've got to get a shot. That's not a criticism, that's a fact.''
The other aspect to consider is if Marshallís shot falls. The Cavaliers would have had a one point lead with 5.2 seconds to go, with a real chance to pull outright upset as 6.5-point road underdogs. James would have been lauded for his unselfish play and finished with a triple double. The Cavs are now 0-12 in the playoffs on the road in Game 1.
Cleveland upped their record to 18-8 ATS as a road dog and will be out to achieve greater heights in Game Two. Despite being double and sometimes triple teamed, coach Mike Brown needs to design plays for James to get the ball and score.
The Cavs are not going to do anything in this series if LeBron scores 10 points a game. The series starter showed Cleveland might be able to create plays on the left side of the floor using center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden.
Ilgauskas had 22 points and 13 boards dominating Chris Webber and whoever else was guarding him. If Gooden sets a solid screen for James and Ilgauskas gets open in the paint, LeBron will have numerous options including scoring himself. If they can work better to improve on 37.2 shooting percentage, the Cavs can easily move on 15-6 ATS record as a road underdog of six points or less this season.
Detroit continues to struggle at home with 18-28-1 ATS record. This Pistons squad has returned to the identity of the team that won the NBA title in 2004, with a great asphyxiating defense. More often then not it has been the scoring droughts that have caused the Pistons not to cover.
Coach Flip Saunders seemed to have a good explanation for what ails his team like in Game One. "We were sluggish because we missed some shots early," Saunders said. "I thought that we started playing a little bit individualistic and didn't play together as much as a team. Each guy individually wanted to do it on his own and didn't set things up for the other people. When we play like that, we get bogged down. We start playing one on one. That's what we did early and couldn't get momentum." Low scoring games donít bring out the best in Detroit who is 10-23 ATS after allowing 80 points or less over the last two seasons.
Detroit opens as 5.5-point home favorite, with the total sliding to 174.5 at sportsbook.com. Doug Collins of TNT said early in the first quarter of the opener in the East Finals, ďThe goal is to be the first one (team) to 90 (points).Ē While no one will question the competence or intelligence of Michael Jordanís first pro coach, only eight of the last 10 games between these teams have seen that happen.
Dating back to last yearís playoffs, six of the last eight games have had at least one team fail to break the 90 point barrier. Cleveland is 12-2 UNDER in road games after a combined score of 175 points or less two straight games.
The Pistons canít quite match that number; nevertheless they are 18-6 UNDER in the conference finals since 1996. Adding all these figures together it clearly explains why these two Central Division rivals are 17-3 Under the last three seasons.
Cleveland comes into Game Two in Detroit 10-4 ATS as an underdog the last two postseasons. The Pistons are now 1-6 ATS the last two years in the East finals and 5-17 ATS after two straight games forcing opponent to commit 11 or less turnovers.
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