CLEVELAND: It wasn’t a slow start that doomed the Cavaliers this time, it was a terrible second half against a terrible opponent with a terrible road record.
All of that makes the Cavs pretty terrible these days.
The Cavaliers lost to the Detroit Pistons at home on Saturday 104-97. It’s the same Pistons team that began the night 1-10 on the road and winless away from the Palace since Nov. 14, and the same Pistons who are 2-0 against the Cavs this year and 5-15 against everyone else.
It was a difficult week for the Cavs, who crawl into an off day today as losers of five straight and nine of their last 10.
“Sound like a broken record,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “We just can’t afford to have some of the mistakes and breakdowns we’re having.”
The Cavs were burned badly by their transition defense, they failed to find Brandon Knight at the 3-point line in the second half and Scott was unhappy with the amount of fouls his players committed on defense. The Pistons went 25-of-33 from the free-throw line, compared to just 13-of-17 for the Cavaliers, but Scott wasn’t as upset with the officiating Saturday as he was Friday, when the Minnesota Timberwolves shot nearly four times as many free throws as the Cavs.
The Cavs led for a total of 63 seconds in their three previous games before Saturday, but a decent first quarter and a strong second, when they outscored the Pistons 24-7 at one point, sent the Cavs to the locker room with a slim 52-49 lead. It might not sound like much, but the Cavs hadn’t led a game that late since the previous Saturday’s double-overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, when Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle.
After spending the last week unsuccessfully trying to dig out of big deficits early in games, the Cavs couldn’t hold on to the lead this time.
Knight scored a career-high 30 points, including 23 in the second half. The Pistons took control of the game with a flurry of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including two each from Knight and Charlie Villanueva and one from Rodney Stuckey. Five of the Pistons’ first seven baskets in the fourth quarter were 3-pointers.
“He got pretty aggressive,” Daniel Gibson said of Knight. “He started pushing more and putting pressure on our defense. He did a good job in the second half of getting his team together.”
There hasn’t been much reason for optimism in the past week. Saturday’s loss dropped the Cavaliers a half-game behind idle Toronto, giving them sole possession of the league’s second-worst record.
All of that could change this week, however. Scott dropped a mild surprise before the game, saying there is a chance Kyrie Irving and Waiters could return for Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Monday marks three weeks since Irving was diagnosed with a fractured left index finger, and the original prognosis was for him to miss four weeks. Scott said Irving hasn’t been cleared yet by team doctors, and he’d want Irving to get a full practice in Monday before he’d consider playing him, so it’s still a long shot — but he wouldn’t rule it out.
“It would be a nice surprise to have one of those guys or both of them back,” Scott said.
The Cavs certainly could use the help.
Anderson Varejao had another double-double Saturday, finishing with 16 points and 13 rebounds one night after his streak of 10 consecutive double-doubles was snapped. Jeremy Pargo had 24 points and four assists, while C.J. Miles had a season-high 15 points off the bench and has scored 28 points in his last two games. Tyler Zeller had 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench, and Alonzo Gee had 12 points and nine rebounds. But the Cavs’ margin of error right now is minimal and forcing them to play flawlessly in order to win.
“You almost have to play near perfect,” Scott said, “and there’s no way you’re going to play near perfect. We’re going to make mistakes at both ends of the floor. But guys are competing and playing hard and that’s all I can ask.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.