AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Cleveland Cavaliers continued to struggle without LeBron James, losing to the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, 106-90, as James rested for the third time this season.
Beyond James’ absence, there could have been any number of reasons to explain the Cavs’ five-game winning streak coming to an end.
They were playing the second game of a back-to-back and fifth in seven nights. They were also coming off an emotional, 48-minute slugfest against rival Golden State, a game that featured playoff intensity throughout and could have led to heavy legs. And because of the holiday, the Cavaliers left for Detroit on the team plane around 10 p.m. Sunday night.
A letdown looked probable as soon as the schedule was released. It became even more likely a little more than an hour before tipoff when head coach Tyronn Lue announced James would sit.
As per usual, the Cavs couldn’t overcome — undone by their own mistakes, a chilly shooting night and Detroit’s stellar performance at both ends.
The Pistons opened the game on an 8-0 run and never relinquished the lead.
Cavs guard Kyrie Irving tried to spearhead a late rally. It wasn’t enough this time. The Pistons responded to each surge, and Reggie Jackson’s 3-pointer with 5:39 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Detroit a 19-point lead and led to a Lue timeout.
That’s when he decided against inserting Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson — both waiting at the scorer’s table as Jackson’s triple sent the crowd into frenzy.
Lue cleared his bench instead, watching the Pistons’ lead balloon to a game-high 21 at one point.
One game after capping a come-from-behind win against Golden State with a late-game fadeaway, Irving struggled. He scored 18 points on 8-of-20 from the field, including 2-of-6 from beyond the arc in 29 minutes.
Love added 17 points on 6-of-14 from the field to go with a team-high 14 rebounds. He also committed five of the team’s 22 turnovers, which led to 29 points.
Entering the night as the fourth-highest scoring team in the NBA, the Cavs were held to 90 points, their second-lowest total this year, on 30-of-79 (38 percent) shooting.
Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye each added 11 points off the bench for the Cavs.
The Pistons, led by Tobias Harris’ 21 points, snapped a five-game losing skid. Five other players, all starters, reached double figures, as Detroit shot 41-of-93 (44.1 percent) from the floor and 16-of-28 (57.1 percent) from 3-point range.
The Cavs are 0-3 this season without James. They are 4-18 since October of 2014 on nights when James doesn’t play.
The Cavs have Tuesday off before returning to practice on Wednesday. They will host the Boston Celtics at 8 p.m. Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena in a game that will televised nationally on TNT.