If the Pistons hope to create any drama in their series against the Cavaliers, tonight is likely their final chance.
So far, the Cavs have absolutely dominated (sans a meaningless six- or seven-minute stretch in the fourth quarter of Game 2), with LeBron James leading the way at 33.5 points per game. Not being able to contain James is nothing new in the NBA, but the Pistons are making it look like LeBron is merely toying with them. It almost seems as if he could score 60 every night, but he just doesn‘t have the heart to do that to his lesser opponent.
Perhaps James should start playing with one hand tied behind his back.
Another thing we've learned in this series: For as well as Tayshaun Prince defends Kobe Bryant, he simply cannot handle LeBron. Basically, Prince's length and focus on D don't seem to disrupt James like they do Bryant. James is simply too big, too strong and too fast to be bothered by Prince -- and interestingly, some of LeBron's most dominant performances have come with Prince trying to slow him down (think Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals).
Worse, Prince has allowed James to play a "free safety" role on defense, as Prince has taken just 12 shots in the two games combined, averaging a measly 3.0 points per game. That's down from his regular-season scoring average of 14.2 ppg -- and most of his scoring opportunities are taken when Wally Szczerbiak is in the game.
And not to get too far off track here, but does anyone else ever wonder why Wally can't get a call. The referees seem to pick on him and single him out like the smallest kid in a fifth-grade classroom.
Obviously, the Pistons' issues run deeper than just James. Cavs point guard Mo Williams erupted for 21 points (on 8-for-13 shooting) and seven assists in Game 2, and shooting guard Delonte West tossed in a quiet 20 points. West has also made Pistons' top scorer Richard Hamilton fight for every inch (and decent look at the basket) and forced the Pistons to look elsewhere for point production.
They say there's no place like home, and the Pistons hope there's some truth to that. Otherwise, they can start thinking about next season -- and the gutting of the team that is certain to precede it.
As for the Cavs, a win tonight will be a big step in saving their legs for the next round.
* Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas told reporters at Thursday's practice that, despite a 2-0 series lead, the Cavs shouldn't think the series is over. "When you think it's over, that's when you get in trouble," Ilgauskas said.
* Hey Z, nice of you to say. But this thing is over.
* Prince has been having lower back issues, and says he'll pull himself from tonight's game should it stiffen up. "I will give whatever I can give," he told reporters Thursday.
* Forward Antonio McDyess said his team has been "going through the motions," and that the Pistons aren't playing like "we got any type of energy." He added, "We have to play with some type of heart."
* Remember when the Cavs were in the running to sign McDyess after Denver waived him earlier this season? I like McDyess, but Joe Smith is a wonderful fit. Hard to believe McDyess being any better for the Cavs.
* For you techie types, yes, LeBron has joined the legion of NBA players with Twitter accounts. LeBron is listed (using his real name as his username) but has yet to post anything. Rumor is he will wait until after the season to start tweeting.
Sam Amico is the editor of Pro Basketball News and a frequent contributor to The Cleveland Fan and SportsTime Ohio.