Pistons beat writer Rod Beard and sports columnist John Niyo discuss the Pistons and their first-round opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Auburn Hills — All the preliminaries are over now — it’s time to start learning on the fly.
The Pistons started their preparations for the first-round playoff matchup against the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers with Friday’s practice and cramming for their first postseason since 2009.
Game 1 isn’t until Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, but the tedious process of getting more familiar with the Cavs and their tendencies already began, with the coaches formulating the game plan on Thursday.
“The first thing with our guys, they’re just going to need to learn how to prepare for a playoff series and go between games to make analysis and adjustments,” coach Stan Van Gundy said on WMGC 105.1 FM Thursday afternoon. “This is something a lot these guys have never been through.”
Van Gundy said the preparation process includes film sessions, meetings and more focused practice sessions, spending more time on the Cavaliers’ tendencies.
At the top of the list will be defending LeBron James and trying to neutralize his all-around effectiveness. In the meeting, the Pistons held him to 12 points — tied for his lowest total of the season — and six turnovers.
Repeating that won’t be easy, though.
“He’s one of the leading scorers in the league but what he really is is a great playmaker and great passer and they put good players around him and shooting around him,” Van Gundy said. “Any time you have to commit a second defender to the ball on him, there’s people open and LeBron finds them.
“He has two other All-Stars there with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. There’s challenges for us but it all starts with LeBron.”
Reggie Jackson is the only Pistons starter with any playoff experience, so this will be a watershed series for the other four, including the longest-tenured Pistons, Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The Pistons will benefit from the more intense preparation and focus, but they might not realize the dividends until next year or beyond. James has more playoff experience than the combined Pistons roster, so just getting used to the pace, sights and sounds of the postseason will be a big step.
“It’s something our guys haven’t been through and they have to learn what this process is about and how prepared the other team is going to be and we’re going to be,” Van Gundy said. “The other thing they’re going to find out is the other team is really focused in on your strengths and weaknesses. They’re going to take away the things you like to do, so it’s a great education for what you need to do to get better.”