AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—One word kept coming up Saturday as Cleveland’s players and coaches discussed their first-round playoff opponent from Detroit.
After all, that’s really all the Pistons are playing for at this point.
The once-mighty team that reached at least the Eastern Conference finals the previous six seasons is in an 0-3 hole with very little reason to think it can win the series, even if it finds a way to prevail Sunday afternoon in Game 4 at The Palace.
“Guys are down,” Detroit coach Michael Curry said Saturday.
They should be.
Game 3 on Friday was the Pistons’ best showing in the series—and they still lost by 11. By the end of the game, some in the Palace crowd serenaded Cavs star LeBron James with chants of “M-V-P!”
“It’s killing me—just the simple fact … how great we were, being down 0-3, being the eighth seed and watching them celebrate shot after shot,” said Pistons guard Richard Hamilton. “It’s hard. It’s a terrible situation, but we just need to come back next game hoping to get a win.”
That might be easier said than done.
Not only did Cleveland post the best record in the NBA and have arguably the game’s greatest player in James, it’s also getting solid contributions from the bench, including an unexpected 19-point, 10-rebound effort from former Pistons forward Joe Smith on Friday.
Still, the Cavs say they’re wary of the Pistons.
“Game 4 is all about pride. It’ll be a grind-it-out game,” guard Mo Williams said.
Added Cavs coach Mike Brown: “They’ve got a lot of guys who have won NBA championships on that team. They’re not going to go away easily. They have a lot of pride.”
“He just hasn’t played great in the series yet, and we’re used to him playing great. We need him to play great,” Curry said of Wallace, who managed only five points in Game 3.
Prince has been hampered by a bad back and received treatment Saturday. Curry said he hoped the lanky forward would be feeling better by game time.
Curry took it easy on the team Saturday, ordering only a film session. Some players did shooting, including Wallace and guards Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum, who joked around while trying to bank in 3-point shots.
The Cavs, meanwhile, also were having a bit of fun.
At the conclusion of their team meeting at a suburban Detroit hotel, James headed toward a nearby conference room, where he stealthily tried to peek in at what appeared to be a wedding reception.
James and his Cavs teammates would love to be laughing come Sunday after sending Detroit home.
“The sooner you can get it over with, the more you can rest and scout the next team,” said Cleveland guard Delonte West, who also cautioned: “We haven’t gotten their best effort yet.”