A regression back to the mean was always the most likely outcome for the Detroit Pistons in Game 2 after their scorching shooting performance in the series opener, and their cool-down was quick and intense. A 52 percent showing from deep in Game 1 gave way to a miserable 4-17 line from behind the arc Wednesday night, and the number of attempts was just as significant as the number of makes. The Cleveland Cavaliers significantly cut down on Detroit’s opportunities to fire away, a gap that became more pronounced as the game wore on and the Cavs separated.
Contrast that with the Cavs’ marksmanship, a 52-plus percent showing of their own from three, and there’s your game story. Cleveland set an all-time playoff franchise high and tied an NBA playoff record in made triples with 20 on 38 attempts, consistently moving Detroit defenders around for open looks.
The chasm here outweighed a few other trends in Detroit’s direction, namely a big edge from the line. The Cavs didn’t draw their first shooting foul until midway through the third quarter, and Detroit sported a 32-14 overall advantage in attempts from the stripe (a few were the result of Andre Drummond hack fouls). The Pistons were also unable to capitalize on early foul trouble for Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson with more than a small lead, which quickly evaporated once Cleveland found their rhythm in the second half.
A few rotational elements played a role in the game, like in Sunday’s Game 1. Kevin Love continued to have success playing center with LeBron James at the nominal four spot (not really much of a physical imposition for him with Marcus Morris or Tobias Harris serving as his most frequent matchups), and the Pistons may not have any solid answers for that approach – even when Channing Frye replaces Love, as he did for spells Wednesday. James as the roll man in pick-and-roll action with these lineups is virtually unstoppable. LeBron alongside Cleveland’s bench unit has destroyed the Pistons to begin the second and fourth quarters, and will continue to as long as Aron Baynes is the lone Detroit big on the floor.
Stan Van Gundy is doing his best with a limited and overmatched group, but is still fighting an uphill battle to steal a game in this series. The Pistons are running generally smart offense and leaning on the few advantages they can find, but their best stuff doesn’t really stack up with Cleveland’s. Game 3 in Detroit is probably their best chance to nab one.
Game 3 Prediction: Cavaliers continue to roll, winning the third game of the series on the road.
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