Thanks to a win by the Detroit Pistons, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff hopes remain alive – barely.
For the reeling Cavaliers to keep their slim chance of reaching the postseason intact, they will need to beat the Pistons in Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Detroit enters this game after a 102-95 win at Atlanta on Tuesday. The Hawks are currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, 3 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland, and would have eliminated the 10th-place Cavaliers with a victory in that contest.
To reach the playoffs, the Cavaliers (31-47) will need to win their final four games, have Atlanta lose its remaining five and ninth-place New York drop at least three of its final four.
"For us, it’s still the same. We want to get better every time we step out on the floor," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "With these last two losses, it makes the playoffs much slimmer, but our approach doesn’t change. We are playing to win."
The Cavaliers could use another big game from point guard Kyrie Irving, who has been the subject of a recent off-court rumors about his displeasure with the team. Irving scored a career-high 44 points Saturday while also adding eight assists and seven rebounds, but it was not enough as Cleveland lost to Charlotte 96-94 in overtime.
"As big of a game as that was, I would trade any of that in for a win, especially with the run we’re trying to make," Irving said. "(It) was a tough one and probably one of the biggest games of my career thus far; just the magnitude of it and how much it meant to all of us and how much it meant to me."
Irving missed the most recent meeting with the Pistons on March 26 because of a biceps injury. The Cavaliers won that game 97-96 on Dion Waiters’ buzzer-beater. Cleveland is 2-1 versus Detroit this season, with the road team winning all three games.
The Pistons (29-49) will be looking for just their third three-game win streak of the season. They defeated the Hawks without leading scorer Josh Smith, who missed his first game of the year because of patella tendinitis in his left knee.
His replacement in the lineup, Rodney Stuckey, filled in quite well, scoring a season-high 29 points.
The team’s defense was also strong, holding Atlanta to 18.2 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
"We just kept playing," said forward Greg Monroe, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds. "We did what we had to do to take back control of the game. Teams are always going to make runs in this league. We took our hit and we came back."
The Pistons have won four straight in Cleveland, the team’s longest road streak in the series since a five-game run between 1984-86.