AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (The Sports Xchange) – Desperate for a victory, the Detroit Pistons needed to catch a break. Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue delivered that gift a day after Christmas, resting the game’s biggest star.
LeBron James got the night off as the Pistons snapped a five-game losing streak by downing the Cavaliers 106-90 on Monday night at The Palace.
James, who played 40 minutes in Cleveland’s 109-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, sat in street clothes and watched his team’s offense disintegrate. The Cavs shot 38 percent from the field and committed a season-high 22 turnovers.
James was rested in two other games this season after playing a home game the previous night. Cleveland is 23-4 when he is in uniform and 0-3 without him.
“He’s probably the best player in the world,” Pistons forward Jon Leuer said. “When he’s not in there, it’s a different feel, for sure. They still have some talented guys with Kyrie (Irving) and Kevin (Love), their shooters and how they space the floor. It still makes it difficult, but LeBron kind of facilitates everything.”
Detroit hounded Golden State into 23 turnovers in its previous game, but Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy felt the Cavs’ giveaways were mainly due to James’ absence.
“I didn’t think we forced a lot,” he said. “Kyrie’s used to making plays, but nobody else on that team really ever has to make a play other than Kyrie or LeBron. Today, (others) had to try to make some plays. They’re in unfamiliar territory. These are guys that normally play off those two guys. When there’s only one of them, it’s a little bit harder.”
Pistons forward Tobias Harris scored 21 points while coming off the bench for the second straight game after starting the previous 31. That performance followed up a season-high, 26-point outing against the Warriors.
“It’s different,” he said. “Obviously, when you come off the bench, you have to use that time on the bench to evaluate the speed of the game, how we’re playing, what we’re doing well, what we’re not doing well. And when you get into the game, you have to try to make that impact from there.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 18 points, Marcus Morris supplied 15 and Leuer and Reggie Jackson chipped in 13 apiece for the Pistons. Andre Drummond added 11 points and a game-high 17 rebounds on a night when the last-place Pistons (15-18) never trailed.
Irving led the Cavaliers, who had their five-game winning streak snapped, with 18 points and eight assists. Love contributed 17 points and 14 rebounds. Iman Shumpert, Kay Felder and Channing Frye had 11 points apiece.
“Guys have to do more,” Lue said of playing without James. “We have specialists, guys who can make shots. That opens up the floor for Kyrie, LeBron and Kevin to go to work. When one of our key guys doesn’t play, that makes it tough on the other two and it makes it tough on the rest of the team, also.”
Irving sensed from the opening minutes the Cavs were in trouble.
“Those guys were ready for us,” he said. “They came out and jumped on us. Got out to an 8-0 start, and we were just climbing back the whole game and never really got the lead or the game in our possession.”
The Cavs pulled within one on a couple of occasions in the third quarter but couldn’t get over the hump. Leuer had an eight-point quarter, and Detroit finished it with an 11-3 spurt for a 76-64 advantage.
Harris and Caldwell-Pope tossed in 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, extending Detroit’s lead to 17. The margin remained in double digits the rest of the way.