April 19, 2014

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Cavaliers 104, Pistons 79: Powe’s big game sinks Pistons

CLEVELAND — Leon Powe outscored LeBron James and the Cavaliers won by 25 points.

That’s how Sunday night went at Quicken Loans Arena, where Cleveland cruised to a 104-79 victory over the hapless Detroit Pistons.

Appearing in just his 11th game of the season, Powe posted, literally, a game- and season-high 16 points as Cleveland (56-15) won its seventh straight and 13th in its last 14.

James, who had his string of 20-point games snapped at 20, had 15 points and seven assists on a night where he attempted just nine shots and didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter.

“Did he play?” Powe joked when asked about outscoring the NBA’s top point producer. “It was a team effort.”

Powe, who is coming off serious knee surgery, led the effort by making five of eight shots from the field and six of 10 free throws in 21 minutes off the bench.

“I’ve worked so hard just to get back to this point,” the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder said. “Things are going a little faster than I thought they would.”

Still dragging around his surgically repaired left knee, Powe is old school in every way. He can’t really run or jump — it’s almost painful to watch him try to sprint down the floor — but he’s developed a serious spin move that repeatedly gets him a basket or a trip to the foul line.

“He’s just aggressive,” James said. “Most of the time, the aggressive guy is going to get the call. His game is all aggression.”

Powe, who graduated from high school the same year as James (2003), also provided seven rebounds and took a pair of charges — one from Rodney Stuckey and the other from Kwame Brown.

“It’s amazing that he is giving us what he is right now, so soon (after returning),” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “He’s one of those guys … that you learn something new about every single game.

“It’s good to see him on our side having that physical toughness, playing that grinding basketball and being a presence on both ends of the floor.”

One thing Powe doesn’t do much of is pass. The fourth-year pro does not have an assist in 136 minutes played this season and has just 71 in his 200-game, 2,900-minute career. That’s an average of 0.36 assists per game, or one every 138 minutes played.

The Cavaliers don’t mind, however, because Powe is averaging 15.5 free throw attempts per 48 minutes played — or three more than James.

“I’ve got to be a smarter basketball player,” the University of California product said. “I’ve got to take up space down there (in the low post) and not try to outjump guys too much. I’ve just got to be fundamentally sound.”

Though he never threw a pass out of the post against the Pistons, Powe did record one first in the fourth quarter when he dunked off a baseline pick-and-roll.

“My family keeps asking me to get them a dunk, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it,” Powe said. “When I saw the opportunity, I went in and tried it and I dunked it. I was happy about it.”

Mike Brown was happy with everything after the Cavaliers beat the Pistons (23-47) for the seventh straight time.

J.J. Hickson had 13 points and eight rebounds, Delonte West had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists, Mo Williams had 12 points, four boards and eight assists, Anthony Parker had 11 points and five assists and Anderson Varejao had six points and nine rebounds in a game where nearly everyone played well.

“We had a competitive edge tonight,” Mike Brown said. “We have to keep building on it. That’s what is going to help this team win.”

The Pistons had no edge of any kind, as only two players — Jason Maxiell with 16 and garbage-time man Charlie Villanueva with 11 — scored in double figures.

Powe, whose minutes will be greatly reduced when Zydrunas Ilgauskas re-signs with the team this week, had eight in each half.

“I’m just getting back into things with my leg and where my game is,” Powe said. “In three weeks or a month, I’ll be able to do a little more.

“Before the injury, I could pretty much jump from anywhere. Now, I’m just working on my jumping ability off my left leg and off two feet. I’m just getting my timing and rhythm back.”

Next up

  • Who: Cleveland at New Orleans
  • When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: New Orleans Arena
  • TV/radio: FS Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or medinagazettesports@yahoo.com.