In the third matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, the teams are in completely different places. On one hand, we have the Cavaliers coming off of their worst performances of the season in a 105-98 loss to the Warriors. The Pistons, on the other hand, just acquired point guard Jose Calderon from the Toronto Raptors in a three-team trade. It is still unknown if he will suit up on Friday for the Pistons, but the veteran point guard will provide starter Brandon Knight with a strong backup as they make a push for the playoffs in the second half of the season. And with Rajon Rondo done for the season in Boston, I think it is going to come down to the Pistons and Sixers for the eighth seed – better known as the right to be sacrificed to the Miami Heat.
Opponent’s Blog: Life on Dumars
Venue: The Palace of Auburn Hills – Detroit, Michigan
Tipoff: Friday, February 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Betting Line: Detroit by 4 1/2
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio
Where you can listen: WTAM (1100 AM), WFUN (970 AM)
In the Cavaliers previous two meetings with the Pistons, Cleveland was without their star, Kyrie Irving. With ex-Cavalier Jeremy Pargo starting, the Pistons had a huge advantage at the point guard position. With Irving back, the Cavaliers will have huge advantage there. Knight is a fine player (as is Calderon), but Irving is on another level. In my mind, he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference right now, and is definitely one of the top five point guards in the entire league.
For the Cavaliers to win, they’ll have to nullify the Pistons on the inside. Detroit is currently ninth in the NBA in rebounds. They are also 11th in the NBA in scoring defense. Stylistically, this is a tough game for the Cavs. Cleveland, as of late, has thrived when they are able to get out into the open court and score in transition. The Pistons are going to look to slow the tempo down, and be methodical with their attack. Last time these teams played, the styles made for an exciting game. Both teams had their moments, but the Pistons were able to control the tempo down the stretch. It may come down to that again.
For the Cavs to win this game, they will need to be efficient. Right now they are 27th in the league in offensive efficiency. Against a team that will try to slow the pace, that will not cut it. Strategically, I’d like to see the Cavs go inside to Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Marresse Speights. From there, they can kick it back to Irving, C.J. Miles and company. If they can score on the inside, and make 35-40 percent of their threes, than the Cavaliers can win this game. If not, it could be a long night in Auburn Hills.
With the Cavaliers recent additions, I think these teams are pretty close talent wise. It’s going to come down to what team can best implement their style, and this could be a close game that goes down the wire. For Cleveland, it’s going to come down to trusting Irving to make plays. He struggled against the Warriors (shooting 5-of-17 from the field), but before that, he was playing the best basketball of his career. If Irving is on, I cannot see the Pistons having an answer for him defensively. That alone may be the difference.