Sunday, May 20

NBA: The Final Four: Part II

Eastern Conference Finals: Detroit Pistons (1) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (2)

The Underdog: Cleveland Cavaliers

Ladies and gentlemen, the Cleveland Cavaliers (The man in the picture to your left) have (has) arrived in the Eastern Conference Finals (Hold for applause). This is the farthest Cleveland has ever reached in the post-season since 1992 (15 years) and the farthest LeBron James has ever reached in his life (22 years, a much longer drought). Actually, it wasn't much of a surprise for Cleveland to be here and now. Everyone kind of expected them to even get here much quicker, to the expense of the Washington Wizards and the New Jersey Nets. The closest Cleveland has ever got to the Eastern Conference Finals before this moment was last year, when they faced Detroit Pistons and lost in 7 games. Just for a little taste of history: The Cavaliers were leading the series 3-2 and ALMOST pulled out the Game 6 win. The victory was sitting right at the tip of the tip of the tip of their fingertips, but Detroit had both hands and a leg clasped to it; then thrashed Cleveland in Game 7. This year, the stage is set for a rematch and we will see if LeBron James can get his revenge and finally dispose of the long-time contender Detroit Pistons who will look to once again stifle LeBron James' chances of advancing deeper in to the playoffs. The Cleveland Cavaliers are led by their 22-year-old leader (Yes, 30-plus year old men looking up to a 22-year old boy) LeBron James, accompanied by his supposed complement Larry Hughes, along with the Cavalier giants in Drew Gooden and Zydurnas Ilgauskas (Did I spell that right?). We have yet to see the Cleveland Cavaliers play to their fullest intensity and potential, courtesy of the short-handed Wizards and the ice-cold Nets, so bring on the Detroit Pistons: The King has arrived.

The Favorite (Heavily): Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are once again on familiar ground, much like the Spurs, as this is the 5th straight year that they have reached the Eastern Conference Finals and look to advance to the NBA Finals for the 4th time in 5 years, where the one missing year was contributed by the Miami Heat which went on to win the title last season. The Pistons have been a target of numerous criticism throughout the years since winning in 2004: mainly about their diminishing focus on winning; especially last season where they garnered a league-best 64-win season, only to fall easily but not-so-easily to the Miami Heat. The Pistons are now driven by hunger as the one-time-wonder was short-lived, and look to repeat their title run of 2004. To get to the big stage, they will first have to steamroll through LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that gave them quite a scare in last season's Conference Semi-Finals. The Pistons will be facing an opponent quite opposite of their last, the Chicago Bulls, as the Cleveland Cavaliers are more of an inside-dwelling team on offense compared to the perimeter-shooting Chicago Bulls. Now without Ben Wallace, can the Detroit Pistons defend the interior as well as they used to or will Cleveland finally be able squeak out of Detroit holding their hands in victory? Newly-acquired Chris Webber, who is a much better offensive piece than Ben Wallace ever was, will do his best to make sure that the Pistons will never ever miss Ben Wallace in this series. Steamroller coming through.

The Match-up:

This series looks to be lopsided on paper, but we will never really know until they start going at it. We have yet to see the Cleveland Cavaliers play playoff basketball because I can't really say they totally fought with their souls to get here. The Washington Wizards were easily disposed of in a sweep mainly because Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler were both out for the series. The New Jersey Nets on the other hand were just plain cold. We even caught a glimpse of disinterest in the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Nets series, probably because of the lack of a formidable opponent. The same can be said for the Detroit Pistons who rolled through their first 7 games and then lost the next 2 games because of sloppy play until they finally closed the series out the next game. Now that you think of it, the West isn't the only one with a mirror match in the Spurs and the Jazz, the East has one too: a battle of two disinterested teams. Kidding aside, we can't use "freshness" as an advantage because both teams are completely fresh, both teams have not encountered any team to actually give them a scare (Yes, not even on paper, only until the Bulls game back).

This is probably the first time this series that the Pistons and the Cavaliers will be hyped-up and ready to play some real basketball. The series leans heavily towards the Detroit Pistons for two(2) things: 1) Cleveland relies heavily on LeBron James to create ALL the plays, so Detroit knows that only ONE player on the Cavaliers can beat them. 2) Uhm... Er... You know what? The first aspect is actually the one-and-only knock out punch. Unless Cleveland can get major contributions from all players not named LeBron especially on the offense (since I don't think Cleveland has any problems with banging bodies), then the Cavs will LOSE.

What the Pistons can do: Let LeBron James attempt at scoring 70 points. He's bound to come up short because of fatigue and score maybe around 54 points only. As long as they don't allow LeBron to create plays for his other teammates, this is a sure-shot. Oh yeah, if the Pistons get bored with themselves again, then they are screwed. If not, final score for Game 1: 95-54.

What the Cavaliers can do: Play LeBron James for 40+ minutes per game. I think the Nets series brought out the Cavaliers' weakness, and that is they rely heavily on LBJ to make their plays. Defensively, they are adequate, especially paired with the Nets throwing bricks last game, so defense is not an issue. Offensively, they are very mediocre. Larry Hughes has to step up his offense and drain his shots. If he shoots 3/17 FGs again, the Cavaliers are DOOMED.

Final Call: Detroit will get bored one game and throw one away. Detroit Pistons in 5.

Other perspectives:
Getting Pumped For the Conference Finals

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