Pistons 87, Cavaliers 75
Kyrie Irving's first season in the NBA has been unlike any in his life. He's mostly gotten used to the travel and the crammed schedule and physical play. One thing, though, has been hard to handle.
Losing has hurt Cleveland's rookie.
''It's definitely a learning experience for me,'' he said.
Tayshaun Prince matched a season high with 29 points and rookie Brandon Knight added 16, leading the Detroit Pistons to an 87-75 win over Cleveland on Wednesday night, handing Irving and the Cavaliers their fifth straight loss and pushing them further from the playoff picture.
Prince made all four 3-pointers and added eight rebounds for the Pistons, who closed with an 11-4 outburst after the Cavs closed within five.
Irving scored 20 with nine rebounds and six assists for Cleveland, which has dropped eight of nine and fallen from contention for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs have gone 4-14 since beating Detroit on Feb. 21 to improve to 13-17.
''I'm still staying optimistic,'' said Irving, the league's presumptive rookie of the year who couldn't remember being on a losing team before. ''We still want to surprise people.''
Irving tried to bring the Cavs back in the fourth quarter and his jumper made it 76-71 with 4:08 left. But Knight hit a 3-pointer, Jason Maxiell grabbed a rebound and dunked and Prince backed Alonzo Gee down in the lane before dropping a short hook.
Greg Monroe added 10 rebounds for the Pistons, who scored more than 80 points for the first time in four games. Pistons starting guard Rodney Stuckey injured his left hamstring in the first quarter and did not return.
Prince is one of the few holdovers from the days when the Pistons and Cavaliers were among the NBA's best teams and battled for Eastern supremacy with epic playoff games.
The slender 6-foot-9 forward played with confidence and as if it was 2007 again as Detroit beat Cleveland for the first time in three tries this season. Prince made three 3-pointers and scored 13 points in the second quarter, when the Pistons outscored the Cavaliers 28-21 to take a five-point halftime lead.
''He looked like he did five or six years ago,'' Cavs coach Byron Scott said of Prince. ''He really won the game for them.''
It was a bounce-back performance against the Cavs for Prince, who went 2 for 15 against them on the Pistons' last visit to Cleveland.
''I've had some tough games here,'' Prince said. ''I had some games where I've had 25 points and games where I had four points. There's never an in between. I've had some games where I struggled in this arena. It's a good thing I had a couple of layups early to get me rolling.''
Prince's 3-pointer early in the third helped the Pistons begin to pull away, and Maxiell's jumper stretched Detroit's lead to 15.
Irving, who has been in a recent scoring and shooting slump, finally scored for the first time since the first quarter and the Cavs closed the third with a 10-2 run to pull within seven points.
Early in the fourth, Cleveland's Omri Casspi somehow flipped in a shot while falling backward in the lane to make it 72-67, giving the Cavs some life. But Prince responded, knocking down a 12-foot jumper and then ended a scoreless drought of nearly three minutes for the Pistons with a floater to make it 76-67.
Irving, who has been so strong in the fourth all season, scored four quick points, but Knight's 3 from the left wing was the dagger Detroit needed.
''It was a collective effort,'' Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. ''Guys stepped up with us being short-handed. Everyone who played contributed to the win.''
NOTES: The 75 points matched a season-low for the Cavs. ... Scott, who celebrated his 51st birthday, joked he now has a better connection for Dodgers tickets after close friend and former Lakers teammate Magic Johnson was part of group that agreed to pay $2 billion to buy the baseball team. Scott laughed when asked if Johnson asked him to kick in some money. ''I don't want to be part of that stuff,'' he said. ''That's all him. He wants to own LA. I don't even want a piece of it. I'm fine where I am.''... Pistons backup guard Ben Gordon sat out with a sore groin. He sustained the injury Saturday against New York and was limited to six minutes Monday against Washington. ... Cavs center Anderson Varejao, sidelined since Feb. 11 with a broken wrist, hopes to play again this season and intends to play for Brazil in the London Olympics this summer. ...