Cavaliers win 5th straight in 116-88 rout of Pistons
By NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — An emphatic win over a first-place opponent had LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers talking confidently again.
“We haven’t had a win like that in a very long time,” James said. “That’s what happens when we don’t let up.”
James scored 16 of his 18 points in the first quarter and the Cavaliers made 11 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 116-88 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Monday night. Cleveland led 73-46 at halftime thanks to an overwhelming shooting performance, an indication that Detroit’s stay atop the Central Division might not last much longer.
The Pistons still lead the Cavs by a game, but Cleveland has won five straight and scored at least 110 points in eight of its last nine.
“That was 48 minutes of game planning and execution right from the beginning,” James said. “They’ve been playing extremely good basketball. They were coming off a great win (Sunday) night in Minnesota, so we knew that they were going to come out here and try to give us their best shot, and had to be ready for that.”
The Cavaliers led 27-22 when James went to the bench late in the first quarter. By the time he came back in, it was 50-30. Cleveland’s reserves ended up outscoring Detroit’s 26-8 in the first half.
The Cavs shot 62 percent from the field in the first two quarters and 11 of 17 from 3-point range. They finished the game 16 of 33 from beyond the arc.
“I’m not upset at our guys. I didn’t see our guys quitting or anything like that,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We got a little bit shell shocked.”
This had the feel of a big game before it started. Although there were still some empty seats at Little Caesars Arena, the Pistons’ new home seemed closer to full than on previous nights, and the attendance was announced as a sellout. The team played well on offense at the start. A 3-pointer by Avery Bradley put Detroit ahead 18-17.
James, however, answered with two 3s and a turnaround jumper, and the Pistons weren’t able to keep up with Cleveland’s torrid shooting.
“He definitely did set the tone,” Detroit’s Tobias Harris said. “Made some really tough, contested shots — 3s. Got himself going, got his team going, and then they were able to just pretty much fuel off that.”
It was 36-23 after the first quarter, and the Cavs broke the game open at the start of the second. Channing Frye made back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 46-28.
Harris led Detroit with 11 points. Kevin Love had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland.
The previous matchup between these teams wasn’t much different. The Cavs beat Detroit 128-96 on March 14 in Cleveland. That was the largest margin of victory by the Cavs against the Pistons — although Cleveland nearly broke that mark Monday.
Cleveland led 101-62 after three, and the top players for both teams sat out the final period. James ended up playing only 27:17 after surpassing 40 minutes in three of his previous five games.
“I played with Michael Jordan when he was 39; he played 37 minutes a night. Karl Malone was 37 and played 38 minutes a night,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Everybody’s built different and if you’re one of the greats sometimes you’ve got to play and sometimes you get rest like tonight.”
Cavaliers: Cleveland still isn’t close to full strength. The Cavs were without Isaiah Thomas (right hip), Derrick Rose (left ankle sprain), Iman Shumpert (left knee effusion) and Tristan Thompson (left calf strain).
Pistons: Jon Leuer (left ankle sprain) did not play. … Detroit’s six-game home winning streak was snapped. This was also the first time all season the Pistons lost the latter half of a back-to-back. They had been 3-0. … Andre Drummond moved into fifth place on the Pistons’ career list with 5,205 rebounds. Larry Foust had 5,200.
Cavaliers: Host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.
Pistons: At the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister