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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Chauncey B-B-B-Billups' 4th Quarter Shooting Buries the Cavs

The only thing that Chauncey Billups missed in the fourth quarter was hearing Detroit Pistons' public address announcer Mason intone his trademark "B-B-B-Billups" call after each made field goal. While the Cleveland Cavaliers did not allow the Pistons to bring Mason into Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs certainly did everything else they could to make Billups feel like he was at home during the final period. Billups produced 12 points and four assists in the fourth quarter and the Pistons blew open a close game, winning 87-71. He ended up with 17 points and 10 assists in leading the Pistons to their third straight win while handing the Cavaliers their third consecutive loss. Tayshaun Prince also had a strong game, contributing 16 points (8-11 field goal shooting) and eight rebounds. LeBron James shot just 1-6 from the field in the fourth quarter, but still led the Cavaliers in scoring (26), rebounds (10) and assists (five); just like his performance in a loss to the Nets on Wednesday, James put up good numbers but was unable to have enough of an impact at the key moments in the game. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a solid game (16 points, six rebounds, 7-13 shooting from the field) and Larry Hughes chipped in with eight rebounds and four assists but he shot horribly from the field (5-17).

The Cavaliers took an early 10-6 lead and were ahead 24-22 at the end of the first period. James shot 6-7 from the field and scored 12 points, including Cleveland's last eight, punctuated by a buzzer beating jump shot. However, he shot just 3-13 for the rest of the game as the Pistons packed their defense into the paint and denied him driving lanes. Early in the game, TNT's Steve Kerr addressed a pet peeve of mine after Detroit's Richard Hamilton faked Hughes into the air, jumped into Hughes and was awarded two free throws. Kerr said that the defensive player should be entitled to his space, provided that he jumps straight into the air as Hughes did, and that offensive players should not be allowed to jump into the defender in that fashion. Marv Albert wryly commented that he is sure that the competition committee will get right on that but I think that Kerr is 100% right.

It was the Jason Maxiell show for the Pistons in the second quarter as he came off the bench to put in eight points and Detroit outscored Cleveland 20-17 to take a 42-41 halftime lead. James scored two points and shot 0-2 from the field in the period.

The pace slowed down even more in the third quarter, during which Detroit outscored Cleveland 15-14. A low scoring, close finish seemed to be inevitable but Billups--who shot just 1-9 from the field in the first three quarters--changed all of that with eight points and an assist in the first 3:03 of the fourth quarter. That outburst put Detroit up 69-58 and the Pistons never looked back. After Detroit scored the first five points of the quarter, Kerr noted "a 5-0 run in this game is like 25-8" in a higher scoring contest. He also praised Billups for the "supreme confidence" that enabled him to keep shooting even though he had shot so terribly in the first three quarters. Billups' heroics--coupled with the fact that Cleveland point guard Eric Snow shot 0-0 from the field and was a non-factor--prompted Kerr to say that Cleveland needs a point guard who can take pressure off of James by creating shots. The lack of such a player on the Cavs' roster is "a glaring weakness that is showing up tonight," Kerr concluded. Hughes is supposed to be the player who fills that role but he has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries, seemed to tweak his ankle at one point during the game, and was neither able to create enough shots for others nor make outside shots versus Detroit.

posted by David Friedman @ 11:45 PM



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