CLEVELAND (AP) — Two-game winning streaks are rarely cause for a celebration. The Cleveland Cavaliers can’t be choosy these days.
LeBron James had 25 points, 14 assists and narrowly missed his second straight triple-double, and Cleveland beat the Detroit Pistons 121-104 on Sunday night.
The Cavaliers won consecutive games for the first time since a five-game winning streak Dec. 9-17.
“For the most part throughout 48 minutes, this is one of the best games we’ve had obviously as of late,” said James, who was 8 of 15 from the field, 8 of 9 from the foul line and had eight rebounds. “Every game is something to build on. I think tonight was another positive note to that.”
The Cavaliers beat Indiana on Friday following a tension-filled week that included a heated team meeting, starting lineup change and persistent trade rumors. A couple of wins could add some much-needed humor for a team that had 10 lost of 13 before beating the Pacers.
“What was it “Major League”, the skipper said we’ve won two games in a row, that’s a winning streak,” Kevin Love after scoring 20 points with 11 rebounds. “That’s what it feels like right now. We’ll take what we can get.”
Kyle Korver’s 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter broke a 95-all tie. James added two free throws and a three-point play, and J.R. Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers as Cleveland pulled away. Smith, with his second strong game in a row, had 15 points.
Detroit has lost eight straight, the longest current stretch in the league. Tobias Harris and Anthony Tolliver each scored 20 points for the Pistons, who continued to struggle despite several changes in the starting lineup by coach Stan Van Gundy.
“A loss is a loss,” Van Gundy said. “We fought hard, but in the last eight minutes we slowed down. We haven’t found a starting lineup that can hold their own. We’re just getting pummeled by good teams.”
Cleveland led by 10 points in the first quarter, but its inconsistent play surfaced again. Tolliver, added to Detroit’s starting lineup, hit five 3-pointers in the half. The Pistons led 61-58 at halftime.
Isaiah Thomas, who had 14 points, sparked a 10-0 run late in the third quarter that erased an 85-80 deficit with a free throw and two drives to the basket. The Pistons regained the lead but faded down the stretch after playing Saturday against Oklahoma City.
“No excuses,” Tolliver said. “If you can’t play back-to-backs, then you can’t be in this league. If you’re out there and you’re playing, you’re going to come out of the game.”
James recorded his 63rd career triple-double Friday but also had a career-high 11 turnovers. He had three turnovers in 38 minutes Sunday.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue expects Dwyane Wade will return for Tuesday’s game in Detroit. The veteran guard was excused from the team following the death of his longtime agent Henry Thomas. He also missed Friday’s game.
Pistons guard Avery Bradley was unavailable because of a strained right adductor. He previously missed seven games and aggravated the injury Saturday.
Andre Drummond had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Detroit.
Pistons: Harris went to the bench with his second foul at the four-minute mark of the first quarter and picked up his third midway through the second. …. Tolliver replaced Stanley Johnson at small forward. … Reggie Bullock started in place of Bradley, while Ish Smith replaced Langston Galloway at point guard.
Cavaliers: Lue said no decision has been made if Thomas will play in both ends of the team’s back-to-back set against Detroit on Tuesday and Miami on Wednesday. Thomas has yet to play on consecutive nights since returning from his hip injury. … Jeff Green’s cross-court pass in the fourth pass went directly to Van Gundy in front of Detroit’s bench.
BRINGING A SPARK
Channing Frye had seven points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. He also had a put-back dunk and a reverse layup, both causing his teammates to jump around on the bench.
“He lightened the mood just by that put-back dunk,” Love said with a laugh. “That was a very, very athletic play very seldom seen by a player like Channing Frye. When we were at shootaround he said he doesn’t dunk before noon. It will go on the career highlight reel.”
The Pistons and Cavaliers complete their back-to-back set Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena.