Professional Game Coverage: Cleveland 102, Detroit 84

ESPN

"James set the tone in opening win over Pistons," by Chris Broussard

We’ve all seen several LeBron masterpieces. And while his 48-point performance against these same (well, sort of) Detroit Pistons in the 2007 playoffs has to go down as his all-time tour de force, what he did Saturday in Game 1 of this first-round series was about as good as it gets.

Still just 24 years old, he was so poised, so cool, so collected in dismantling Rasheed and Rip and Tay that it was ridiculous. He played 40 minutes, 52 seconds, scored 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds, handled the ball enough to give out a game-high seven assists, and never committed a turnover. Not one.

He let the Pistons know from jump street that their dreams of pulling off a Buster Douglas-type upset were folly by scoring 12 points in the first quarter, including a couple of dunks that had Sheed all but cowering beneath the basket.

In the second quarter, he pulled down a defensive rebound, pushed the ball up court (you know he plays point about 60 percent of the time), and threw a left-handed, Stockton-esque pass off the bounce that found a streaking Joe Smith for an easy dunk.

Seven minutes later, he hit Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the post, cut toward the basket and caught Z’s alley-oop pass at the rim for a sweet finger roll. Then on the very next possession, he hit a 41-footer off the glass to beat the buzzer to end the half.

He had 22 points, more than any other player scored the entire game, after the first two quarters.

"It’s kind of scary to say this when talking about LeBron,” teammate Daniel Gibson said. "But this is the time of year when the best players take it to another level.”

"Cavs Learn Pistons’ Ways," by Elias Sports Bureau

The Cavaliers played Pistons basketball, committing only four turnovers in their 102-84 victory over Detroit. This is the 39th season in which the NBA has compiled team turnovers. Until Saturday’s game, only the Pistons had turned the ball over fewer than five times in a playoff game: three versus the Magic (2008 Eastern Conference semis), four versus the Spurs (2005 Finals) and four versus the Celtics (1991 Eastern Conference semis).

CBS Sports

"One thing: Will the Cavs wither without LeBron?," by Gregg Doyel

And Detroit is what it is — overmatched. This series is such a blowout that the Atlanta Hawks scout who sat next to me ignored them. Literally. He took copious notes on the Cavaliers and nothing on the Pistons. He didn’t want to waste his time writing about Detroit.

Can’t say I blame him. I don’t want to waste my time writing about a Detroit team that couldn’t be bothered to stop 7-3 Cleveland centerZydrunas Ilgauskas from running down his own missed 20-footer, then finding teammate Mo Williams, who continued onto the rim and finished with an uncontested lay-up. Disgusting. On recent Detroit teams, someone would have broken Williams in half. Of course, recent Detroit teams wouldn’t have let 7-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas run down his own missed shot, considering Ilgauskas can’t run at all.

FOX Sports

"When Pistons closed gap, LeBron stepped up," by Kerouac Smith

Back to the new sidekick for a moment. Williams struggled after picking up two quick fouls in the first half and was ineffective both playing along side James and leading the second unit. He salvaged the performance with a couple of second-half 3-pointers but still wound up with just 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting.

At least he took care of the ball, finishing with zero turnovers as the Cavs finished with just four overall. And Williams isn’t expecting any carry-over effect into Game 2.

"Once I got that first half out of the way, I was ready to go," said Williams.

Sporting News

"LeBron James’ quest for NBA title is inevitable," by Sean Deveney

Folks in Cleveland don’t really like to admit this, but the cast of characters around James is only somewhere between fair and pretty good. Besides Ilgauskas, every starter Cavs starter was a castoff elsewhere. The Bucks didn’t like the way Williams handled the role of point guard — he was too much of a shooting guard — so they dealt him. The same could be said for the Delonte West, who was unwelcome in Seattle. The Bulls were thrilled to dump Ben Wallace’s salary onto Cleveland, and even with Wallace hurt, remember that Anderson Varejao could not get a team to give him a contract offer when he was a restricted free agent two summers ago.

But the Cavaliers have done two things very well. First, they’ve put players like West, Williams, Wallace and Varejao into very good complementary roles. No player is asked to do more than he can. That makes those role players look deceptively good.

Detroit News

"Cavaliers roll over Pistons in Game 1," by Chris McCosky

"I know this is the playoffs," James said. "It’s a different level of basketball. Mentally you have to be more in tune. Whatever the defense gives me or wherever I see cracks, I try to attack."

Cracks? The path through the Pistons’ defense had to seem like a four-lane highway to him. Nothing the Pistons did fazed him. James certainly didn’t appear to take the physical pounding he typically takes against the Pistons.

"Easy for you to say when you aren’t out there," James said. "It was a very physical game tonight. Maybe the games in the past you used to see me get knocked into the stands, maybe that’s what you are used to.

"I think we are ready for whatever — a finesse game, a physical game, we can adjust."

The only time the Pistons made some noise was when James sat down. And he only sat down for seven minutes.

"Pistons’ defense nonexistent in Game 1," by Chris McCosky

Apparently, the Pistons talked before the game about not letting LeBronJames get off to a fast start. He had 12 points, hitting six of his first eight shots.

"We tried to establish ourselves on the defensive end and I thought some of the things we did were really good," said Pistons coach Michael Curry. "Except for our recognition of them going to LeBron early. We allowed him to get to the basket on the first four possessions."

But it wasn’t just that James scored 38; he did it so efficiently (making 13 of 20 shots) and four other Cavaliers scored in double figures. In the past, the Pistons could take away one or the other.Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press

"LeBron, Cavs bull forward," by Drew Sharp

How many times during those haughty days of 50-win seasons and top playoff seeds did we thumb our noses on those sub-.500 wrecks that stumbled into the playoffs? Their only qualifications for extended life were that league rules demanded eight playoff teams from each conference.

This season, the Pistons are the NBA’s lone playoff representative with a losing record.

A four-game sweep might prove more embarrassing than missing the playoffs. Helplessly standing in James’ way might seem like cruel and unusual punishment for a team of the Pistons’ recent playoff pedigree.

"Piston defense looks confused in Game 1," by Vince Ellis

By playing the Cavs so often (four times per season and facing them in the playoffs two of the past three seasons), the Pistons generally have a good feel for what the Cavs are trying to do.

But this is a different Cavs team than in the past. With the addition of Mo Williams and a cadre of shooters, gone are the days where the Cavs would just throw the ball to James and have everyone else get out of the way.

"A couple of years ago, we did a lot of standing," James said. "We relied on me sometimes just to dribble and get us into making a play for either myself or a teammate.

"The ball movement that we have and the way we rely on my teammates to make plays is at an all-time high for us as a team just because we’ve been doing it all year, and repetition helps."

"Prince’s injury hurts more against LeBron," by Vince Ellis

But what wasn’t expected was for Tayshaun Price to be suffering from sore ribs, an injury he sustained in the regular-season finale at Miami on Wednesday night.

If you ever have had sore ribs, you know Prince isn’t in top shape to be battling the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James.

But since James plays small forward and it is the postseason, the Pistons and Prince have little choice.

"It’s not stopping me from jumping or running for that matter, it just locks up when I’m out of the game and sit for a minute or even during time-outs," said Prince, who had a wrap around his waist after the game. "That’s why during the time-outs I was standing, because I really couldn’t sit down."

"Instant replay," by Vince Ellis

It wasn’t clear before the game whether former Piston Ben Wallace (sore left knee tendon) would play, but he entered the game at 1:45 of the first quarter for the Cavs. He played just under 12 minutes.

Booth Newspapers

"Pistons can’t keep up with Cavaliers in Game 1," by A. Sherrod Blakely

Pistons guard Richard Hamilton was asked about whether Detroit shooting a respectable 46.2 percent for the game was a good sign.

"Not at all," Hamilton said. "When you shoot 46 percent and you still lose by almost 20, you can’t hang your hat on that because there have been times this year where we shot the ball well and still lost."

"Pistons disappointed with their defense in Game 1," by A. Sherrod Blakely

"Experience is huge when it comes to the playoffs," Detroit coach Michael Curry said after the Pistons dropped a 91-88 game to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

"During the regular season, it matters, but not as much as it does in the playoffs. And so, we will be depending on that."

The Plain Dealer

"LeBron James’ buzzer beater the highlight of another playoff masterpiece," by Bill Livingston

Pistons coach Michael Curry supposed he might try trapping James more to make him give up the ball. (Altogether now: Ya think?)

James scored 48 points in the playoffs two years ago against the Pistons when former coach Flip Saunders started putting the "former" in his job description by not making James give up the ball and also by instructing his players to go under the screen instead of fight through it and deny him space. James, whose jumper was en mucho fuego, scored until he had put up the last 25 points in a double-overtime victory.

"It’s a good start: Cavaliers in fine form offensively, pulling away to 102-84 victory over Detroit," by Brian Windhorst

But the Cavs blew right through them, breaking the century mark against Detroit in a regulation playoff game for the first time in 14 tries in the James era. It happened with crisp ball movement, textbook spacing, a heady mix of sets, fast-break chances and a game-long focus not to relapse.

Consider the epic double-overtime Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals that saw James score 48 points. In that game the Cavs had 13 assists. Two days later when James spent the evening setting up Daniel Gibson for the game of his life when the Cavs seemed to make everything, they managed 19 and 98 points.

Saturday the Cavs racked up 24 assists, 16 in the first half alone. That doesn’t reflect the afternoon’s final three minutes, which were played on cruise control. They had just five turnovers, setting a franchise low in a playoff game. James had none and seven assists. Mo Williams had none and four assists. Delonte West had two and five assists.

"Stuckey provides Pistons with a bright spot, while Williams is confident he’ll improve for Game 2," by Jodie Valade

But in Saturday afternoon’s Game 1, Rodney Stuckey unexpectedly materialized as the game’s best point guard — finally following the advice of his coaches, attacking the basket, outplaying a hesitant Williams early and not displaying the kind of nerves a second-year player typically might.

"I’m not scared," Stuckey said. "This is what I do for a living. I love playing basketball. Mo Williams is a great point guard, too. He’s an All-Star. That’s what I’m trying to be, so every chance that I can get to play [against] a player like that, I’m going to try to bring it to him."

"Cavaliers Insider: Bumps and bruises, but no bad feelings emerge from Game 1," by Brian Windhorst

Delonte West hit the ground after taking a charge and Rodney Stuckey pushed in front of West’s teammates to be the first to help him up.

Richard Hamilton banged into Zydrunas Ilgauskas after a dunk while hanging on the rim and he quickly patted Ilgauskas on the back to make sure there was no hard feelings.Rasheed Wallace collared LeBron James on a drive to the basket and instantly raised his hand in the NBA tradition of admitting wrongdoing to the officials.

This was a playoff game? No less, a playoff game between the Cavs and Pistons? The rivalry filled with flagrant fouls, bloody foreheads and ejections? Apparently so.

"The Courtside View: Seen and heard around Saturday’s Game 1 of Cavaliers-Pistons," by Mary Schmitt

With LeBron James taking his customary rest at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Pistons took advantage of his absence with a 7-2 run that got them within 80-72 with 8:48 left.

Cavs coach Mike Brown took a timeout, sent in James and wanted to call a post-up play for him. Instead, James found Mo Williams coming off a screen in the right corner, and Williams drained a 3-pointer that effectively ended any Pistons plans for a comeback.

Said Brown, "I have to give credit to [assistant coach John Kuester] for that timeout because I said ‘Let’s put LeBron on the post,’ and Kuester said, ‘No. No. Let’s run this particular play.’ I’m the type of guy, if I look somebody in the eye, or they look me in the eye and tell me to do something and I feel that belief in my gut, then I’m going to go with it. Our guys did a nice job executing it, but the good thing about it is that if it wouldn’t have worked, I could have gotten on Kuester and said, ‘See, I could have called my idea, not yours.’"

Akron Beacon Journal

"LeBron sizzles, Pistons fizzle," by Patrick McManamon

But most amazing was that James was on the court for just about 41 minutes and had zero turnovers and seven assists.

”It doesn’t really amaze us anymore,” Cavs guard Mo Williams said.

It should.

Because of James, the Pistons lost by 18 in a game when they shot 46 percent and turned the ball over only seven times.

Williams did not shoot well, and the Cavs’ second-leading scorer was Joe Smith, who played very well off the bench.

With all that, the Cavs won 102-84.

James? Sensational in a very business-like, efficient, workmanlike way.

”His pacing offensively was very good,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said.

And Raphael’s brush strokes are pretty good, too.

"First win in the bank," by George M. Thomas

The first quarter of Saturday’s game went against the norm. The teams lit up the scoreboard in the first 12 minutes, with the Cavs shooting 60 percent and the Pistons 56. Many of the Pistons’ points came courtesy of point guard Rodney Stuckey, who scored 10 in the quarter. Stuckey drove into the lane seemingly at will to make easy layups.

One team had to eventually step up and play some defense. That was when the Cavs created some separation in the second quarter courtesy of defense and rebounding. They kept the Pistons off the offensive boards and slowed down Stuckey, who scored just four points. The Cavs took a 57-45 halftime lead and plenty of momentum after James connected on a 41-foot bank shot as time expired.

"Joe Smith sparks Cavaliers’ run," by Tom Gaffney

Reserve Joe Smith was reacquired for games and situations just like this.

Smith, 33, a 14-year veteran in his second stint with the Cavs, scored nine points in a four-minute span in the second quarter Saturday in a 102-84 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Quicken Loans Arena in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Cavs were ahead just 30-25 when Smith started his personal onslaught. It sparked the Cavs to a run that eventually made it 57-45 at the half.

”That’s the thing about coming off the bench. You have to bring energy,” said the 6-foot-10 Smith. ”I was fortunate I was able to find spots out there on the floor, to make things happen.”

The Morning Journal

"It ain’t over yet, well… yeah it is," by Jim Ingraham

The Detroit Pistons this season won 39 games.

The Cavs won 39 games. . . AT HOME.

That, in a nutshell, is what a No.1 vs. a No.8 seed looks like in the NBA.

The onus is on the No.8 seed to prove that its players don’t, as ABC analyst Mark Jackson said of the mailing-it-in Warriors during a late-season no-show, "have one foot on the court and the other foot in Cancun.’’

So the gist of what happened at Quicken Loans Arena Saturday was essentially this:

Cavs to Pistons: "You ain’t even close to us. You weren’t in the regular season. You ain’t today. And you ain’t gonna be for three more games after this.’’

Pistons to Cavs: "OK!’’

"Cavs hold serve with dominant victory," by Bob Finnan

He connected on a 41-foot, 3-point bomb off the glass at the first-half buzzer.

It was demoralizing for the Pistons, who trailed at halftime, 57-45.

"The 3 helped momentum," James said. "It brings the house down. The crowd will go crazy. My range is unlimited."

He was asked if he called glass on the play.

”Yes, after I hit it," he joked.

"Stuckey only spark for Pistons," by Mike Perry

Rodney Stuckey lives for the postseason.

As a rookie last season, Stuckey had his "coming out" party during the NBA Playoffs. He saw action off the bench in 17 games and scored 8.2 points in slightly over 22 minutes per contest after being forced into an extended role when starting point guard Chauncey Billups was limited with an injury.

After the Pistons were bounced out of the playoffs by the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, Stuckey then turned some heads during scrimmages against Team USA as the "Dream Team" prepared for the 2008 Olympics.

"Smith proves a super sub against Pistons," by Bob Finnan

The Cavs were the 12th team in NBA history to win at least 66 games in a season. Nine of the previous 11 teams that won 66 or more have gone on to win the NBA championship.

"The ‘Q’ is special in the playoffs," by David Glasier

The inside of The Q was an ocean of maroon, aka "wine,’’ for Game 1. Fans received a wine-colored t-shirt emblazoned with the Cavs logo and the team’s playoff mantra of "One Goal.’’ That goal, of course, is winning the NBA title.

Cavs the Blog

"Recap: (15) Dominance is a state of mind, and a point differential.," by John Krolik

From the opening whistle to when he sat down, LeBron was absolutely relentless. He was looking to get to the basket at every possible opportunity in the half-court and blowing right by his man. He was looking to get out in transition at every opportunity. He was firing laser-beam passes with either hand when they doubled him. He was forcing contact and getting himself to the line. He was making hard cuts off the ball and finishing at the basket. He was in full on loot, pillage, and destroy mode, and sending a clear message to anyone watching that he fully intends to take the championship by force this season.

Most frigteningly of all for the rest of the league, LeBron flashed a midrange and a post game tonight, going 6-9 from midrange (although a few of those were unorthodox floaters and runners) and posting Aaron Affalo whenever he got the opportunity, getting easy looks from about 8 feet and flashing an absolutely ILLEGAL spin move to beat him at one point, although he couldn’t finish. LeBron went 8-10 in the first half, and I was most excited about one of his two misses. We’re used to LeBron scrapping and MacGuyvering in the playoffs, or feeling out the game and pouncing when he feels the time is right. Tonight, he made the game his, and never gave the Pistons hope.

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