Cleveland LeBrons given education by devastation

From the detnews.com, Bob Wojnowski writes:

Near as we could tell, there was one LeBron James on the floor Sunday. Unless something radically changes, that leaves Cleveland approximately three or four LeBrons short.

This was education disguised as devastation. This was the Pistons doing what they do better than any team in basketball. They make you look silly. They make you look weary. They make opposing superstars long for help.

Thanks to LeBron, the Pistons got to play the NBA’s big room Sunday, landing the prime mid-afternoon ABC slot. We’re not sure they’ll be invited back any time soon. Really, ABC should know better.

It almost was unfair how brutally efficient the Pistons played in their 113-86 blasting of the Cleveland LeBrons in their second-round playoff opener. It was nearly perfect in nearly every way, from the 15-for-22 three-point shooting to the unrelenting defense. And it was a reminder of how easily the Pistons can stoke their fury.

This was the day Chauncey Billups didn’t come close in the MVP voting, finishing fifth, ridiculously way behind Steve Nash. This was the day the nation was supposed to see what Playoff LeBron was all about, and instead saw what the Pistons are still about.

James, second in the MVP tally, does deserve acclaim, and did get all 22 of his points in the first half. But this became another day when the Pistons flexed their surliness. If LeBron wants to evolve into something greater, he better do it on his own time. If this 21-year-old wunderkind needs growing pains, the Pistons are quite happy to administer them.

Tayshaun Prince did a lot of it, getting 24 points while defending LeBron. Ben Wallace, again the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, took a turn on him too, when he wasn’t busy blocking Drew Gooden’s shots.

“The LeBron Rules? I don’t know,” Wallace said, smiling. “He still got to the basket and made some tough shots. That’s what we want to do — not let anyone get anything easy.”

Pistons’ five to Cavs’ one

Nothing easy, even for the superstar who makes it look easy. It’s funny, but to truly appreciate the Pistons, it’s sometimes best to view them in contrast, as backdrop in the glow of the Newest Great One. The Cleveland LeBrons looked bewildered from the start, almost offended they actually were being defended.

Defense. Hmm. Cute concept, one the LeBrons might want to dust off if they plan to do anything in this series.

Prince was spectacular, and has been for a while. Note to LeBrons: That guy hitting the big shots and playing smothering defense is the only Piston starter who didn’tmake the All-Star team.

At times, it truly looked like five-on-one. Perhaps for the next game, LeBron should bring along his relatives from the Sprite commercial, including Grandpa LeBron.

“It’s simple odds,” Rasheed Wallace said, in his standard blunt simplicity. “It’s simple mathematics, simple logic.”

Logic would suggest a one-superstar team is set up for phenomenal failure against a multiple-star team. And with the LeBrons surviving a six-game series Friday night against Washington, logic would suggest they’d be way too tired for the showcase ABC event two days later.

The Pistons made sure logic ruled, even if they knew they were sullying the main attraction.

“We know (national TV) wasn’t because of us!” Rasheed Wallace said. “We aren’t no crowd favorites outside the state of Michigan. That’s all right. It doesn’t affect us.”

Translation: It does affect them.

No lightweights here

The LeBrons learned quickly this wasn’t going to be a powder-puff affair like their little dance with Washington. In the first quarter, Gooden went up for a layup and Ben Wallace redirected the ball toward Cleveland’s bench. A few minutes later, Gooden tried to power in a rebound, ran into both Wallaces and was called for an offensive foul.

Later in the first half, Prince came swooping in for one of his classic catch-up blocks, just as LeBron was preparing to lay it in. Afterward, LeBrons coach Mike Brown admitted, “We got our (butts) kicked.” James sounded more frustrated by the Pistons’ amazing shooting than their amazing defense. If it really bothers him, he could play a little defense himself.

Education by devastation. Defense by committee.

“Ben is what we are defensively,” coach Flip Saunders said. “He’s what we stand for, how we play, how hard we play. He lets the other team know there’s always going to be a presence around the rim.”

When the LeBrons rest up, get their bearings and realize where they are, they might be able to keep it a little closer. If not, someone advise the TV networks to get their parental warnings ready.