The Cleveland Cavaliers came out flat after a long midseason layoff. The frontcourt of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond proved too much Larry Nance Jr. and Tristan Thompson, and the Cavs starters were basically ran off the court to start each half. The theme of the game was the Pistons running up huge leads only to surrender Cavs runs that left them with only sizeable leads. An 11-point loss on the road to a potential playoff team isn’t so bad. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t really that close.
The Detroit Pistons 113, your Cleveland Cavaliers 102.
The Pistons have trouble with spacing, so perhaps the Cavs thought if they doubled Blake Griffin they would take their chances on giving up some open threes when he passed out. Well, it didn’t really work. The Pistons attempted 38 three pointers in this game, and even though variance wasn’t their friend in that they made just 34 percent of them, the math still works out. Add that to Griffin and Drummond combining for 8-8 from the free throw line, and they were just fine. Larry Nance Jr. played just 20 minutes, and the Cavs were outscored by 28 points in that time. That’s less than ideal. Thompson and Nance combined for 12 rebounds; Drummond and Griffin combined for 28.
The bright spot for the Cavs came in some of the guys who came off the bench. David Nwaba isn’t a pretty offensive player, but he’s got real athleticism and changed the game with his energy. The Cavs actually outscored the Pistons by 16 points in his 22 minutes, and he brought a physicality that Larry Drew said after the game was missing from the starters.
Collin Sexton apparently hurt his hip in the first quarter, and played just 24 minutes. Defensively he’s struggling, which you’d expect, but his shooting numbers continue to look better than I’d have guessed. He finished with 18 points on 10 shots, and you’ll take that moving forward. He’s going to love the midrange shot more than we probably want, but you also want him taking shots he’s comfortable with. There’s time to bring his game into the 21st century.
I still think Ante Zizic looks like he can be a capable role player, and it’s good to see him get real minutes. Hopefully that’s a priority moving forward. The flip side of this is that Larry Nance looks lost, and the team has invested in him. I’m not sure what he needs to get back to effectiveness.
Up next for the Cavs is that LeBron James guy’s return to Cleveland on Wednesday.