It’s playoff time for a pair of Michigan sports teams as the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons have kicked off their respective post seasons.
The Wings emerged from the weekend trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning two games to one, with the all-important Game 4 at the Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday.
The Pistons are in what many are calling a “David vs. Goliath” matchup with the top-seeded Cavaliers, and dropped the first game of the series 106-101 in Cleveland.
Both teams have challenges in front of them. But can they advance?
Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon had that question posed to him during his regular segment on Stateside. He’s optimistic.
The Red Wings dropped the first two games of the series in Tampa, and were facing a crucial Game 3 back in Detroit. After swapping goaltenders (Jimmy Howard for Petr Mrazek) and shuffling the team’s lineup, they came away with a 2-0 win. Bacon says the brawl that erupted at the end of Game 2 (watch it below) carried some momentum into Game 3.
As you can see in the video, Michigan State alum Justin Abdelkader bloodied Tampa Bay’s Mike Blunden in Game 2, but when Blunden challenged him to a fight in Game 3, Abdelkader refused. Bacon said it was a combination of a hand injury from the first fight, and not wanting to give the Lightning momentum heading into Game 4.
“Abdelkader is not a wimp by any means, so [Blunden] makes the chicken dance on his way out the door. I am looking forward to Tuesday night’s game,” said Bacon gleefully. “Old school hockey’s back in town.”
On the hardwood, the Pistons, the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, have a tall task as they take on LeBron James and the defending conference champion Cavaliers. Many in the media are picking Cleveland to blow past the Pistons, who are making their first playoff appearance since 2009. This is all despite the fact that Detroit won three of the four meetings against the Cavs in the regular season.
Detroit had a late lead, but the Cavs hung on for a five-point win on their home floor. If the regular season and Game 1 are any indication, Bacon thinks there's reason for optimism for Detroit fans – and some of that comes from the their head coach.
“Give them credit, in Game 1, they had a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter at Cleveland against one of the world’s greatest players in LeBron James,” said Bacon. “So they’re not playing scared and Stan Van Gundy is one heck of a basketball coach. I’ve been very very impressed with what he’s done.”
Watch the highlights below from Pistons vs. Cavaliers: Game 1 below
Listen to the full interview below to hear Bacon’s analysis of both team’s playoff chances and whether Van Gundy was correct in saying that LeBron gets friendly treatment from the referees.