Cavs riding high, while Pistons sputter
Another offensive outburst lifted the Cleveland Cavaliers to a statement victory, even largely without Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile, the short-handed Detroit Pistons continued their freefall with another defensive lapse.
The Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers seek their sixth straight win Monday night while extending a losing streak of the same length for the visiting Pistons, whose season-high skid has them on the outside looking in on the postseason race.
If Sunday’s game at Oklahoma City was a benchmark for Cleveland (40-14), it passed with flying colors by logging its second five-game winning streak since Tyronn Lue stepped in as coach for the fired David Blatt on Jan. 22.
The Cavaliers shot 51.3 percent and scored 95 points through three quarters on the way to a 115-92 rout of the Thunder, a consensus championship contender in the West.
Kevin Love finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds, and LeBron James had 25 points, 11 assists and seven boards for Cleveland, which scored at least 115 for the third time in four games and made at least half its shots for the sixth time in Lue’s 13 in charge.
The Cavs were once thought of as a team that struggled against the NBA’s best, going 1-3 against Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City through the season’s opening three months, but wins over the Spurs on Jan. 30 and the Thunder give Lue hope his team is shedding that label.
"I would like to say that," he said. "I hope so. When we play teams that are great teams, we always seem to rise for the challenge."
They did it Sunday mostly without Irving, who started and played nine minutes in the first quarter but sat the rest of the game because of flu-like symptoms. The Cavs, who are 23-4 at Quicken Loans Arena, also played without Iman Shumpert (sprained left shoulder) and Mo Williams (sore left knee).
Cleveland is still trying to complete Channing Frye’s physical process after acquiring him in a trade with Orlando last week, and Shumpert and Williams are questionable for Monday.
Detroit (27-29) dressed only 11 players for Sunday’s 111-106 loss to New Orleans as Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton were unavailable due to complications from last week’s trade with Houston. Motiejunas still hasn’t been cleared after testing his back injury, but the deal has been given an extension until 6 p.m. on Monday.
The Pistons will be without another piece Monday after Anthony Tolliver sprained his knee in a collision against the Pelicans. Tolliver will have an MRI on Monday.
Sunday’s loss made it five in a row for the Pistons, who would miss the playoffs if they started today.
The latest defeat came while surrendering the NBA’s top individual performance this season to Anthony Davis. Detroit had no answer for the Pelicans’ All-Star, who made 24 of 34 shots while finishing with 59 points and 20 rebounds.
Davis surpassed James’ scoring record of 48 points at the Palace of Auburn Hills, set in an Eastern Conference finals game on June 1, 2007.
"That one is on me. That was terrible coaching – terrible," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "You’ve got to come up with something. You can’t let a guy get 59. That’s on me."
Detroit was tied with Indiana for ninth in the league after surrendering 100 points per game over 46 contests through Jan. 27, but opponents have exceeded that number in nine of 10 since while averaging 105.9.
Opponents are shooting 49.9 percent during the Pistons’ losing streak.
These two teams split the first two games in the season series, but both were at Detroit, which is 11-18 on the road.