Joe Smith Boosts Cavs To a 3-0 Series Lead

Johnny RussoContributor IApril 25, 2009

With a 79-68 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, the Cavs became the first team in the playoffs this season to take a 3-0 series lead. This may have not been the case had Joe Smith not played so well off the bench. 

In just 19 minutes, Smith posted an impressive stat line of 19 points and 10 rebounds. He shot 6-of-8 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the line. 

"I thought Joe Smith was terrific for us," said Cleveland head coach Mike Brown, "Joe came off the bench and he impacted the game, especially at the right time."

Smith did nothing but play hard and hustle when he was on the floor. If he wasn't knocking down his mid-range jump shot, he was chasing down a rebound or scoring around the basket. This is the exact reason why Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry signed him this past March. 

Smith's performance last night was more than huge, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Smith sparked much-needed life into a Cavalier team that was really struggling on the offensive end of the floor. 

Starting guards Mo Williams and Delonte West probably played their worst basketball since slipping on a wine and gold jersey. Over the season, the two combined for an average of 29.5 points per game and 7.6 assists per game, and they were Cleveland's deadly shooters from beyond the arc. They both shoot above 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the three-point line. However, this was not the case in Game Three. 

West's only two points came from the free throw line, as he failed to make a field goal on seven attempts. He also turned the ball over four times, after averaging just 1.4 turnovers on the season. 

Williams went 1-of-11 from the floor, including 0-of-6 from long range, and he also committed four turnovers. Despite Mo's horrible shooting night, he was able to hand out seven assists, one being an alley-oop to Lebron James on a fast-break late in the fourth quarter to help put the game away. 

When a team's starting guards shoot a combined 1-of-18 from the floor, commit eight turnovers, and score four points, nobody would expect them to win the game. It wasn't easy, but the Cavs were able to grind it out and still come up with the win. 

On the bright side, this team has shown that when somebody has a bad game, they have the ability to turn to someone else to step up and pick up the slack. That shows the talent on this team and how important depth is in the playoffs. 

"It was a playoff game that was an ugly game," said Brown, "But some how, some way, especially in the fourth quarter, defensively we found a way and it started with getting stops."

Cleveland's fourth quarter charge was powered by who other than Lebron James. James scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and carried the Cavs to their first road victory of the postseason. 

"I just wanted to turn up the aggression in the fourth quarter," James said.

That's exactly what he did, as he continuously drove to the basket and put pressure on Detroit's defense. In the fourth, he had a pair of lay-ups where he was fouled, and they resulted in three-point plays. He also caught a thunderous alley-oop from Williams and opened the quarter with a jumper. 

"Big-time players make plays and that's what he did," said Detroit coach Michael Curry.

James finished the game just one assist shy of a triple double. He pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out 9 assists to go along with his 25 points.  

The Cavs have beaten the Pistons in seven straight playoff games. They now have the chance to pull off a first-round sweep on Sunday afternoon in the Palace. 

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