Despite a few flourishes, the Cleveland Cavaliers failed to stay in the game against the Detroit Pistons, losing 106-90. Cleveland rested LeBron James following a thrilling Christmas game in Cleveland the day before, and it looked like a few others could use a night off.
But don’t call it the ghost of Cavaliers future just yet. The day James hangs up his number 23 will be a scary, sad sight, but this is a Cavaliers squad that got 44 minutes from Irving the night before, and just a eight man rotation with serious bench minutes (29 minutes each) from Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye against the Warriors. Really, it’s been a busy holiday schedule for the Cavs, who had their third back-to-back in two weeks. The last came earlier this week in a home and home series (with overtime) against the Bucks. James has averaged 37.5 minutes per game over that time.
Caveats and back-to-backs aside, the Pistons were much improved in their second meeting with the Cavs this season. After going 6-19 on three-point field goals in a loss on November 18, seven of the nine players in rotation completed a three point field goal, combining for 16 three-pointers on 28 attempts. Tobias Harris had a game high 21 points off the bench, 7-14, six rebounds, and four assists. Andre Drummond had 11 points and 17 rebounds.
The Cavaliers looked to be making a turn for the better at the start of the third quarter, after a 12-4 run to close the first half that brought deficit to single digits, Irving led a 5-0 run to start the third and cut the lead to one. Sadly, the Cavs failed to maintain their momentum, especially with Irving off the court. A double digit Detroit lead in the fourth quarter proved insurmountable, and flurry of Pistons threes opened it up. Irving had a team high 18 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Love had yet another double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The loss ends a five game win streak for the Cavaliers, who at 23-7 hold a 1.5 game lead for first place in the East. The Cavaliers will can look forward to two days rest before a home game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday.
Also of note: It was the Cavaliers first matchup with a full Pistons roster, including Reggie Jackson, since their meeting in the opening round of the playoffs. Still, without LeBron or rest, this game isn’t saying much. Detroit is a talented team with a serious three-point thread.
(The 21 team turnovers, a season high for the Cavs, also did not help.)