Professional Game Coverage: Cleveland 79, Detroit 68

ESPN

"Joe Smith’s double-double comes with lyrics," by Chris Broussard

Smith’s impact was lost on no one, and afterward, coach Mike Brown gathered his team in the locker room and gave props to his 33-year-old reserve.

"I said in front of the team, ‘Way to go, old man,’" Brown said. "And the players jumped on me right away and reminded me that he’s not an old man, he’s ‘Joe Beast.’"

We’re not joking about this "Joe Beast" stuff. In a league full of wannabe emcees, Smith is the real thing. In December, he released a mixtape titled "The Beginning," and his hip-hop ode to the Cavs, "One Goal," has become the club’s playoff anthem this spring. The song blared through The Q’s sound system as the players warmed up before the first two games of this series.

"Z the president, ‘Bron James the king, and Anderson Varejao, they call him the wild thing …"

Detroit won’t hear the Beast spit any more this season — unless they purchase his CD — because obviously this thing is over, not likely to return to Cleveland for a Game 5. The Cavs hold a 3-0 lead heading into Sunday’s Game 4, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a collection of brooms in the luggage compartment of the Cavaliers’ bus.

Detroit News

"Cavs emphatically ending Pistons era," by Bob Wojnowski

This isn’t about heart and pride and effort anymore. The Pistons played hard for stretches, they’re just not nearly good enough. Once this team fully realized how valuable Chauncey Billups was after the trade, and how uncoachable Allen Iverson was, it was over.

"Pistons have no answer for Cavs," by Chris McCosky

"This is killing me, I can’t even lie," Hamilton said. "Knowing how great we were, and then being down 0-3 and being the eighth seed and watching them celebrate shot after shot, it’s hard. It’s a terrible situation."

"Cavs reserve Joe Smith killing his former team," by Tim Twentyman

Joe Smith is officially becoming a Pistons killer.

And in the process, the former Piston is proving he’s no ordinary Joe when it comes to these 2009 playoffs.

Smith has scored 13 or more points in a playoff game just seven times in his career, but six of those games have come against the Pistons.

"Fourth quarter haunts Pistons again," by Ted Kulfan and Tim Twentyman

The Pistons held the backcourt of Delonte West and Mo Williams to 1-of-18 shooting (West was 0-for-7), and a total of four points combined.

Detroit Free Press

"Bad signs litter this lopsided series," by Michael Rosenberg

Another bad sign: The Pistons have shot 30 free throws in this series. The Cavaliers have shot 100.

Faced with that statistical nugget, you have two choices. You can conclude that the refs have a horrible bias against the fair city of Detroit.

Or you can watch the games.

There are two conventional ways to get to the free-throw line: drive to the basket and draw a foul, or make a post move and draw a foul. The Pistons don’t have anybody who does either consistently.

"Pistons a game away from playoff elimination," by Vince Ellis

After questions about their heart since putting up little resistance in Games 1 and 2, the Pistons fought to try and get back in the series. For three quarters, a Piston victory looked like a possibility, but those hopes were dashed after the Cavs’ 18-2 run in the fourth quarter.

"Prince, Wallace control fate of team," by Vince Ellis

When asked before the game if he would go to the bench earlier, Curry said: "Our bench has been playing really good, but let’s make no mistake about it. If Tayshaun and ‘Sheed can’t play really good in this series we don’t have a chance."

"Instant replay," by Vince Ellis

Cavs coach Mike Brown, on James: "Once he decided to say, ‘Hey, I’m not getting calls. I’m going to will this team to a win,’ our whole team changed."

Booth Newspapers

"It’s LeBron’s world, Pistons are just losing in it," by Greg Johnson

It also means we can rush to judgment here. It has been relatively clear the past few years that whenever James was ready, this team would be championship bound.

He is so ready.

It was just three years ago that the Pistons fought off the younger James, 79-61 in a brutish Game 7 of a playoff series, and showed him exactly what he needed to learn.

"They trapped me, they went under screens, they went over screens," he said that day in 2006. "I’ve seen almost every defense that I could possibly see for the rest of my career in this series."

And so it was, he saw it, learned from it, and now brushes the Pistons aside. Three years later, he simply flips the switch when and if he needs it.

"Pistons fall into 3-0 hole after losing to Cavaliers," by A. Sherrod Blakely

The 68 points scored by Detroit tied the franchise record for fewest points score in a playoff game.

"Detroit, nor ourselves thought we played our best basketball," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "But somehow, someway, especially in the fourth quarter defensively, we found a way."

"Ben Wallace: Pistons definitely a ‘different team’," by A. Sherrod Blakely

"It’s definitely a different team," Wallace said. "I don’t know what’s going on the floor because I’m not here anymore. I know when I was here, we had a lot of passion for the game. We took pride in being able to come out here every night and get it done. It’s definitely a different team."

The Plain Dealer

"With one mighty dunk, James leaves demoralized Pistons thoroughly dashed," by Bill Livingston

Afterward, coach Mike Brown kissed James on the head before the dehydrated, spent player tottered to the locker room to receive intravenous fluids.

In the fourth quarter Friday, James scored 11 points and everything he did then came with serious complications and drama. He hit a 20-foot turnaround jumper with the shot clock at zero. He drove from the arc to the rim, through everybody on the Pistons except maybe Bill Laimbeer, feathering a left-handed layup into the net and following with a free throw. He ran the ball down on three rebounds, passed off for four assists, blocked two shots. He made the blacksmith’s dunk.

Finally, with the Pistons’ resistance as limp as a windsock in the eye of a hurricane, he made another three-point play on a layup down the lane.

"Joe’s a Beast (and LeBron’s pretty good, too) as Cavaliers take 3-0 series lead, 79-68," by Brian Windhorst

The nature in which Smith delivered was as important as the overall numbers. With the Cavs’ offense wheezing in the second half, Smith came up with several giant baskets including a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that gave the Cavs the lead for good. The long-range shot being a new weapon in his game, he’s made as many in the series (two) as he did in the entire regular season.

In general, Smith has been a vital piece in the series, averaging 12.3 points and six rebounds on 55 percent shooting. Another reminder why landing him after the trade deadline after he was bought out by the Thunder so important.

"He’s been here and done that for many teams before," coach Mike Brown said. "We were excited as heck when got him, stuff he’s doing now is no surprise to us."

"The Courtside View: Williams’ rough night brightened by assist to high-flying James," by Mary Schmitt Boyer

As a kid growing up in Lithuania, Ilgauskas played point guard before a growth spurt turned him into a center.

Every once in a while, though, the big fellow shows flashes of his ball-handling ability, as he did in the second quarter on Friday, when he led a fast break, went airborne, used a head-fake as he approached the lane and then fired a high pass to LeBron James for a layup that gave the Cavs a 44-35 lead with 34.7 seconds left in the half.

It was an accident.

"I just took off with the ball and then I got into trouble," Ilgauskas admitted. "So when I was in the air, thankfully I saw LeBron to my left and just lobbed the ball to him. If I would have turned the ball over, I’m sure I would have gotten an interesting look from coach Brown. Thankfully, it all worked out."

Said West, "I’m nervous. The way me and Mo played, he might take one of our positions."

Akron Beacon Journal

"LeBron switches it on," by Patrick McManamon

The Pistons could only watch as James roared.

”This is killing me,” Hamilton said.

He meant emotionally, of course. But he could have been talking about the Pistons themselves. James is doing away with the Pistons — because really it’s anyone’s guess what that team will look like next season.

Detroit’s only solace? James is making it happen fast.

"Cavs push it to brink," by George M. Thomas

James might have thought he was playing at home instead of the Palace. On more than one occasion, chants of MVP could be heard from a substantial number of people in the crowd. Did he ever think he’d hear that in Auburn Hills of all places?

”No,” he said. ”But I didn’t ever think that I’d play the Pistons without Chauncey Billups. I didn’t think that would happen either, but it happened.

Cavs the Blog

"Recap: (14) Really? Is this all we have to be concerned with?," by John Krolik

When everything breaks down, we always have our defense. Two Pistons in double figures tonight, and neither managed a TS >50%. It’s hard to lose when you do that. And LeBron, our best defender and the #2 in the DPOY race, had an off-game on the defensive end of the floor, over-helping and getting beat baseline occasionally, although he did manage two blocks and three steals. That’s like the Lakers hanging 120 with Kobe going 6-17.

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