Throughout the season, fans were critical of the Cavaliers for a lot of reasons. I’m not going to dive into all of the details but I’ll just mention a few. There were questions about LeBron James’ age showing in his offensive capabilities—but, as is custom, he finished fifth in the league for points per game (25.3). There were concerns that Tristan Thompson had a smaller role with the team, but he still managed to average one more rebound per game than last year. There were concerns about Kyrie Irving’s health, but he managed to play without any injuries after coming back from last year’s knee injury. If you look at the team on paper, it’s business as usual. But that doesn’t always tell the whole story.
This was an odd season if you go deeper than what the record shows. It was a season where we fired our coach midway through and heard numerous rumors about Kyrie, LeBron, and Kevin Love not getting along with each other or with the Cavaliers organization. Then there were questions about whether this team could compete with other contending squads, specifically the Golden State Warriors. This list goes on and you can write a novel about all of the tabloid news that occurred with the team. This Cavaliers team is pretty enigmatic and there are so many different opinions about just how good this team is. None of that matters at this time.
What matters right now is that we made it to the playoffs as the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. What matters now is that we have to play against a hungry Detroit Pistons team in the first round of the playoffs. It’s a Pistons team that has given us some problems this season, beating us in three out of four games. You can take that for what it’s worth. The last time we met, we benched our starters. The point is that while we should take each and every opponent seriously, the record that occurred during the regular season doesn’t matter. It’s a clean slate for all teams involved and we have the same record as the Pistons right now. And while it’s important to face every opponent with equal focus, it’s also important to ONLY focus on your current opponent. The Golden State Warriors that people have been stressing over? Forget about them. We will cross that bridge when we get there, if we get there (and if they get there).
Detroit is a worthy opponent. Led by center Andre Drummond, we can expect a powerful paint presence from him. Nobody on our team even comes close to the amount of rebounds this man gets. With some solid three-point shooting from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson, Detroit packs a diversified offensive punch. When I look at their team stats, no huge weakness jumps out at me besides Drummond’s putrid free throw percentage (expect hack-a-Drummond tactics when the games get tight). They’re a fairly capable middle of the road team on the up and up. I’m excited to play against them because it’s an old school Central Division rivalry and the Pistons are not a terribly dirty team—certainly not like last year’s first round opponent for us.