National Basketball Association
Pistons-Cavaliers Preview
National Basketball Association

Pistons-Cavaliers Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 2:54 p.m. ET

The Detroit Pistons did beat the Cleveland Cavaliers three times during the regular season, but the defending Eastern Conference champions' Big 3 was healthy for only one of those games.

The trio appears to be very much at full strength now, leaving the Pistons trying to avoid exiting Cleveland in an 0-2 hole Wednesday night even though they were quite competitive in the opener to this first-round series.

LeBron James has won 14 straight opening-round games, so even winning one from the Cavs would be a notable achievement for an eighth-seeded Detroit team making its first playoff appearance since 2009.

It's clear, though, that these young Pistons aren't lacking in confidence despite being heavy underdogs against a team which has so much more playoff experience and All-Star appearances - 12 for James and three apiece for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.


Reggie Jackson is Detroit's only starter with playoff experience and Andre Drummond has the roster's lone All-Star nod.

"We don't care who you put in front of us," Jackson said. "We fear nobody and experience is going to be our best teacher. We're going to learn on the fly. We think we have a chance."

That certainly was the case Sunday in Game 1, which the Pistons led by seven early in the fourth quarter before losing 106-101.

Irving had seven of his 31 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes, Love's 28 included two key 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions midway through the fourth and James chipped in 22 points with 11 assists.

"It definitely starts with us. It starts with our mindsets and it starts with how we approach the game," James said when asked about the Big 3's role.

It was a triumphant return to the playoffs for Irving, who broke his kneecap in Game 1 of last year's NBA Finals, as well as for Love, whose 2015 postseason ended in the first round with a shoulder injury.

"For these two guys, they were just excited to get back to this moment," James said. "It was great to be out on the floor with them and for them to put together the performance that they did."

Love's 22 field-goal attempts were his most in a Cavaliers uniform, and Cleveland improved to 17-4 this season when he has more than 20 points.

"My mentality was to be aggressive all night," said Love, who also grabbed 13 rebounds. "We have to do that the entire series."

Coach Tyronn Lue echoed those sentiments and had to be happy that Cleveland outscored Detroit in the paint (38-24) and off turnovers (19-2) after the Pistons won both battles in three of four regular-season meetings.

"Our objective in this series is to be aggressive and attack; we don't want to bail them out with jump shots," Lue told the Cavaliers' official website. "We want to attack, get downhill, get to the paint, and then we can kick out for 3s. I thought the Big 3 did a phenomenal job of doing that."

Detroit was the better 3-point shooting team in Game 1, hitting 15 of 29, even though Cleveland was much more prolific in that department this season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit four en route to 21 points and Marcus Morris made three and scored 20.

"I thought our guys were out there playing like it was any other game and competing hard," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I'm proud of the way they competed."

Yet, the Pistons know improvements must be made if they're going to hand James his first opening-round loss since 2012 and return to Detroit for Friday's Game 3 with the series tied.

They are one of only four East teams to win in Cleveland this season and the only one in the league to do it twice.

"We're still confident," Jackson said after scoring 17 points in Game 1. "We know this is Goliath. We welcome it. We like the challenge."


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