Cleveland-Detroit: NBA Playoff Previews

Johnny RussoContributor IApril 18, 2009

As all of you should know by now, the Cleveland Cavaliers are set to play against their Central Division rival, the Detroit Pistons, in the opening round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs.

The Cavaliers and the Pistons have had some intense playoff meetings in recent years. In 2006, the Pistons defeated the Cavs in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals before losing to the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals. The following year, the Cavs defeated the Pistons in six games to advance to the NBA Finals before being swept by the San Antonio Spurs

This year will mark the third playoff series between the two teams since LeBron James joined the team in 2003. Only this time around, the Pistons are the underdogs, not the Cavs.

Cleveland owns the regular season series over Detroit, three games to one. In those four games, they have held the Pistons to just 81.8 points per game on 41 percent shooting. If they can hold Detroit anywhere close to those numbers, the Pistons are going to have a hard time winning a game in the series. 

Defense is going to be a key factor, as it will throughout the rest of the playoffs as well. 

The Pistons are a team that have been very inconsistent throughout the season and have never really found an identity. Much of that blame has been aimed at all-star guard Allen Iverson.

Iverson was acquired by the Pistons in a trade for Chauncey Billups just one week into the season and the team has struggled since. Recent reports have noted that Iverson (back) will not be playing in the upcoming playoffs and many Cleveland fans were happy to hear the news since Iverson is well-known for being a "Cavalier killer."

Cleveland fans may have jumped to conclusions too fast, not realizing that not having Iverson on the court is the best thing for Detroit at this point. Don't get me wrong, Iverson is an unbelievable player, but he killed any chemistry that his team had.

With him out, Rip Hamilton is able to slide back into his comfort zone as the starting shooting guard, while Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum shape out a solid backcourt rotation. 

When you take a look at Detroit's starting frontcourt, they really don't have any low post scorers. As I watched the Pistons play this year, it seemed Rasheed Wallace is relying on his three-pointer and his jump shot more than he has in previous years and I rarely see him score around the basket. 

Kwame Brown has never been known for his offensive game (nor his defensive) and will not pose as a threat down low. Cleveland's bigs will have the hardest time containing Antonio McDyess and an underrated Jason Maxiell off of Detroit's bench. 

Detroit can really use Tayshaun Prince's 14 points per game as they go up against one of the top defensive teams in the league. But Tayshaun's focus will be on the defensive end of the floor, as he will try to stop the anticipated MVP, LeBron James, which is next to impossible.  

My key matchup of this series will be Delonte West and Rip Hamilton. Rip Hamilton is known as one of the most energetic players in the league. He will run around screen after screen to get open and knock down his signature jump shot. Containing him is more the responsibility of the team's defense than it is West's.

But if Delonte can match Hamilton's energy and challenge his jump shots, the results should turn in Cleveland's favor. In their last meeting, West smothered Hamilton all game and held him to just 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting. 

One of the more important keys for the Cavs to win is for them to control the glass. If they can force Detroit into taking tough shots and not allow any offensive rebounds, the Pistons may fall behind quick, because we know what Cleveland is capable of doing on the offensive end. 

At the end of the day, Cleveland just has to continue to do what they have been doing all season. The veteran experience of the Pistons may play a factor in some points of the game, but not enough for them to start winning games in the series. 

If Detroit were to win a game in the series it would be game three, which is the first game at the Palace. But I don't even see that happening and I am predicting a first round sweep. After all, the Cavs do have King James on their side.


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