Detroit looked like a team of the future this past week. They have fantastic young talent with Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and more. They have a coach in Stan Van Gundy that knows how to mold a winner. They showed a lot of fight this past week in the first playoff appearances of this core.
But Cleveland is a team of the present. And it showed.
All series long the Cavaliers made plays late in games when they needed to — that included some big threes from Kyrie Irving on Sunday night, including the dagger three, as the guard finished with 31. The result was a 100-98 win for the Cavaliers and a sweep of the Pistons in the first round.
Cleveland will now get about a week of rest while awaiting the winner of the Boston/Atlanta series, which is tied 2-2 after a Celtics overtime win Sunday.
If you’re a Pistons fan, there’s a lot to be optimistic about going forward. Andre Drummond is a beast and showed it Sunday with 17 points and 11 boards, a sweet driving layup, and he hit half his free throws for a night. Trade deadline addition Tobias Harris had 23 points and 13 rebounds. Marcus Morris had 24. A few more pieces and a little more seasoning, and this team will be a threat in the East.
But there are hard lessons to learn along the way. Including on the game’s final play — the Cavs were up by the eventual final score when Irving missed a shot, giving Reggie Jackson a chance (the Pistons were out of timeouts). Jackson drove the length of the court harassed by Irving (Jackson almost lost the rock at one point), he gets to the arc, then rather take another couple steps in and get closer for a game-tying shot Jackson leapt into Irving trying to draw a foul and in doing so missed an off-balance three. There was no call because there was no foul — Jackson initiated the contact, and nobody is going to make that call in that place anyway. Ballgame.
For LeBron James — 22 points on the night — this is his fourth straight first-round playoff sweep. J.R. Smith added 15 points, including one ridiculous deep three that had him silencing the Piston faithful.
The Cavaliers may not have looked invincible in this series, but they got the sweep against a team that pushed them. They stayed healthy (a step forward from last season) and Irving played well. It’s the first step on the way to the Finals, and that is all that matters. Just win baby.