A series that seemed closer than anticipated finally turned the Cleveland Cavaliers' way in Game 2 as the team rolled to a 107-90 win over the Detroit Pistons. After the Cavaliers had trouble pulling away in the series opener, they avoided those troubles Wednesday night to push their series lead to 2-0.
Cleveland tied an NBA playoff record by hitting 20 three-pointers in the win, committing to a heavy dose of threes early on and sticking with it. Nearly half of the team's 80 shot attempts were from beyond the arc and eight different players hit at least one three.
That's usually a winning formula in the modern NBA, and so there was little surprise when the Pistons struggled to keep up. Detroit only hit 4-of-17 three-point attempts and failed to capitalize on its advantage at the charity stripe by shooting just 18-of-32 there. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, shot 50 percent from the field even with a high volume of threes. LeBron James in particular looks like he's settling into playoff mode, which is going to be dangerous for anyone who tries to get in his way over the next few weeks:
LeBron finished Game 2 with 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting, and six rebounds in 40 minutes. He was all over the place and, even at age 31, seems to be able to push his game a little further come playoff time like we've seen in the past. Stanley Johnson -- yes, the 19-year-old rookie -- might think he's in LeBron's head, but the former MVP was in control all night.
One of the big reasons the Pistons were able to give the Cavaliers issues for the first five periods of this series was their shooting. Stan Van Gundy's team shot 50 percent from the field and hit 15 three-pointers in Game 1. Without that, Cleveland's talent advantage begins to become painfully obvious.
Detroit led 17-7 roughly six minutes into Game 2. After that, the Cavaliers went on a 100-73 run over the remainder of the game. That seems like a more accurate reflection of the teams' talent levels than the closely fought action we saw over the first five quarters.
It took a little bit for Cleveland to find its footing in this series, but LeBron looks spry, Kyrie Irving is hitting shots and the defense just played a stellar second half. Even Matthew Dellavedova managed to put up nine assists in 22 minutes.
For a very brief moment there, it seemed like we might be witnessing SVG's greatest masterpiece. Now it's just looking like the Cavaliers might sweep on their way to the next challenge.
2 other things
The Hornets' defense needs to get on track fast
Charlotte's balance was supposed to help carry the team through the postseason. The Hornets were solid on both sides of the court during the regular season, including top 10 finishes in both offensive and defensive efficiency. However, the team's defense has been in shambles most of its first-round series against the Heat and now its heading home in a 2-0 hole.
The Heat shot 29-of-39 (74 percent) en route to 72 points in the first half of Game 2, extending a lead that they would never give up. In the second quarter alone, they shot 16-of-19 (84 percent), which seems almost impossible. After scoring 123 points in Game 1, it's become clear that Miami's pick-and-roll attack has left the Hornets' defense without answers. Hassan Whiteside is peerless in this series and Dwyane Wade is showing his championship experience in orchestrating the team's attack, especially in finishing out games.
The uncertainty around Nicolas Batum, who suffered a left ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of Game 2, adds further reason for concern. Batum is one of the Hornets' key perimeter defenders and his ability to help run the offense allows the team's other perimeter players to help save some energy on that end.
If there's any reason for hope, it comes from the fact that the Hornets are heading back to Charlotte, where they played significantly better during the season. At home, the Hornets posted a 30-11 record and allowed just 99 points per 100 possessions. In 41 road games, that number increased to 104. The team will need to show some of that improvement in Game 3 on Saturday or it'll be even closer to the end of its season.
The Blazers are no match for the Clippers
Unless this series starts looking very different in a hurry, the Clippers appear to have neutralized the threat that is the Trail Blazers. Coming into the series, you figured that Portland's stellar backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum would have to play out of its mind to lead the upset. Instead, those two have largely struggled in the matchup against Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, leaving Portland otherwise outclassed by a superior team.
In Game 2 on Wednesday, Lillard shot just 6-of-22 from the field and McCollum shot 6-of-17. They were a combined 2-of-13 from three. For a team that depends so heavily on those two to shoulder the scoring load, the Clippers have managed to limit them while leaving guys like Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless to try to beat them. Unsurprisingly, that's been a formula favoring LA so far in this series.
With Blake Griffin rounding into form after all that missed time and Portland struggling in the one area where it typically had an advantage during the season, this is looking like the Clippers' series to run away with.
Play of the night
That's the Griffin we missed all these months. If Los Angeles is going to make a run, he's going to need to show he's back at the height of his powers soon.
2 fun things
LeBron didn't like when the Pistons disrespected his jump shot.
Miss this many shots on one possession and you get the Yakety Sax treatment.
Heat 115, Hornets 103 (Hot Hot Hoops recap | At The Hive recap)
Cavaliers 107, Pistons 90 (Fear The Sword recap | Detroit Bad Boys recap)
Clippers 102, Trail Blazers 81 (Clips Nation recap | Blazer's Edge recap)
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