Especially when Cleveland guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are hurt and watching from the bench.
The Pistons recorded their second victory over the Cavs in six days, this one an up-and-down but entertaining 104-97 win Saturday in front of 16,062 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing as far as competing,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said after his team lost for the 15th time in its last 17 games to fall to 4-17. “If we keep playing hard, good things will happen. I don’t know when, but good things will happen.”
Second-year guard Brandon Knight led Detroit (7-15), which won for just the second time in 11 road games, with a career-high 30 points, plus seven rebounds and five assists. For what it’s worth, Knight’s previous career high of 28 also came against the Cavs, on April 17 of last season.
Knight scored 23 of his points in the second half Saturday, when he was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.
“Three of those four were just wide open,” Scott said. “Guys didn’t communicate.”
The Cavs got 24 points from Jeremy Pargo; 16 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks from Anderson Varejao; a season-high 15 points from C.J. Miles; 13 points and eight boards from Tyler Zeller; and 12 points and nine rebounds from Alonzo Gee.
All that and a 46-35 edge on the boards weren’t enough, largely because Cleveland bricked away to the tune of 6-for-27 (.222) from beyond the arc.
Daniel Gibson, who started in place of Waiters, was 2-for-11 from the field, including 2-for-9 from long range, while Gee was 4-for-12 overall and 1-for-6 on threes.
“We had a lot of wide-open ones,” Scott said. “Boobie had nine of them.”
Gibson didn’t disagree.
“Five of ’em did a little dance, touched the rim three or four times,” he said. “I was telling Kyrie you can’t have any better misses than those. It was just one of those nights where they didn’t go down.”
In a game where neither team was good enough to get away from the other, there was one run after another and Cleveland’s last one was too little, too late.
The Pistons led by 14 with six minutes to play and seemed to be in control, but Cleveland scored nine straight points — though not very fast — to get within five on a Gibson 3-pointer with 3:18 left.
Knight answered with a wide-open three for Detroit, but the Cavs made one last push, getting within 99-95 on a Varejao free throw with 41.5 seconds to go.
Rodney Stuckey (10 points, six assists) then hit a jumper for Detroit with 18.3 ticks on the clock and the Cavs were headed for yet another loss.
One night after Minnesota attempted 35 free throws to Cleveland’s nine, Detroit went 25-for-33 to the Cavs’ 13-for-17, but Scott didn’t complain like he did after the loss to the Timberwolves.
“They probably should have shot 40, to be honest,” he said of the Pistons.
Scott wanted the Cavs to foul 6-foot-10, 270-pound rookie Andre Drummond, a .391 shooter at the line, every time he got the ball inside. Drummond was 1-for-3 at the stripe against the Cavs, but was able to make four of his six shots because Cleveland players did not follow instructions.
“It’s just little areas we’ve got to do a better job on,” Scott said.
Like finishing quarters, for instance.
The Cavs played very well for most of the second period, but undid a lot of solid work in the final couple minutes.
Down 29-22 early in the second, Cleveland put together a 24-7 spurt behind Miles, Zeller and Varejao to go up 46-36. A couple turnovers and defensive lapses cost the Cavs down the stretch, however, and they led just 52-49 at halftime.
Moments into the third period, Cleveland was behind and climbing uphill again, but continued to play hard even when it got down 14.
“It’s what we get paid to do,” Gibson said. “It’s our job to go out there every night and put forth maximum effort.”
Scott said Irving and Waiters will have to be cleared by doctors and participate in at least one practice before they play, but didn’t rule them out for a Tuesday home game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Cavs are 2-8 with Irving and 2-9 without him. They are 0-4 minus Waiters (and Irving).
“It would be a nice surprise to have one of those guys or both of them back,” Scott said.
Monday will mark three weeks since Irving was diagnosed with a fractured left index finger. At that time, the Cavs said he would miss four weeks. Waiters has a sprained left ankle.
When Scott answered a reporter’s iPhone during his pregame session with the media Wednesday and carried on a full-blown conversation, the caller was former Cavs and Lakers coach Mike Brown.
• Scott said if Varejao begins to show signs of fatigue, he will hold him out of practice rather than cut his minutes. The 29-year-old is averaging 36.2 minutes.
• Varejao bruised his left elbow in the second period and played the second half with a sleeve on his arm. X-rays were negative.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pistons 104, Cavaliers 97
DETROIT (104): Prince 5-11 4-4 14, Maxiell 4-7 2-4 10, Monroe 2-8 7-9 11, Knight 10-20 5-6 30, Singler 2-4 5-5 9, Stuckey 4-10 0-0 10, Drummond 4-6 1-3 9, Maggette 2-4 1-2 5, Villanueva 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 35-75 25-33 104.
CLEVELAND (97): Gee 4-12 3-3 12, Thompson 4-6 1-2 9, Varejao 7-13 2-3 16, Pargo 10-18 2-3 24, Gibson 2-11 0-0 6, Zeller 6-11 1-2 13, Sloan 1-6 0-0 2, Miles 5-11 4-4 15, Casspi 0-3 0-0 0, Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 39-91 13-17 97.
Detroit 25 24 27 28 — 104
Cleveland 22 30 18 27 — 97
3-Point Goals—Detroit 9-15 (Knight 5-6, Villanueva 2-4, Stuckey 2-4, Singler 0-1), Cleveland 6-27 (Pargo 2-4, Gibson 2-9, Miles 1-4, Gee 1-6, Sloan 0-1, Zeller 0-1, Casspi 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Detroit 46 (Prince 8), Cleveland 58 (Varejao 13). Assists—Detroit 17 (Stuckey 6), Cleveland 19 (Gibson 6). Total Fouls—Detroit 22, Cleveland 27. A—16,062 (20,562).