HEADLINE

Cavaliers looking to finish season sweep of Pistons

Field Level Media

February 29, 2024 at 8:55 pm.

As a playoff contender seeking the best possible seed, the Cleveland Cavaliers always welcome a matchup with Central Division rival Detroit.

The Cavaliers have won the last eight meetings, including three this season. Cleveland will look to extend that streak and secure a four-game season series sweep when they visit Detroit on Friday night.

Both teams played at Chicago in their most recent outings but the results were somewhat surprising. The Pistons captured their ninth win of the season and snapped a six-game losing streak with a 105-95 victory over the Bulls on Tuesday. The Cavaliers lost a double-overtime thriller to Chicago, 132-123, the following evening.

Cleveland’s loss came one night after Max Strus’ game-winning, 59-foot heave against Dallas. Chicago overpowered the Cavs 74-39 on the boards and outscored them 31-11 at the free-throw line.

The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan hit three free throws with 12 seconds left in the first overtime to extend the game.

“We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Free throws kind of bit us in the butt, the rebounding disadvantage obviously bit us in the butt quite a bit, and then, unfortunately, Jarrett (Allen) just kind of got off balance and DeRozan was smart enough to create the contact and hit the three free throws. A multitude of things that we can improve on.”

The Cavs held an 11-point lead in the fourth.

“We had opportunities to seize it,” said forward Evan Mobley, who had 25 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. “We just got to capitalize. Sometimes, games don’t go your way so you’ve got to learn from them and try to do better for the next games.”

Cleveland is fighting Milwaukee for the Central Division lead and the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Boston.

In the Cavs’ last meeting with the Pistons on Jan. 31, Donovan Mitchell erupted for 45 points and eight assists in a 128-121 win.

Among the 11 players who saw action that night for the Pistons, six are no longer on the roster. Detroit rebuilt its lineup prior to the trade deadline and has continued to tinker with it.

The team’s top player, Cade Cunningham, has stepped up his production in four games since the All-Star break. He’s averaging 28.5 points, 6.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds during that span.

Cunningham posted 26 points and five assists against the Bulls. The Pistons outscored the Bulls 55-40 in the second half. It was the first time since Oct. 27 that Detroit held an opponent under 100 points.

“The defense (Tuesday) was unreal,” coach Monty Williams said. “To be able to hold a team to 95 points and 40 in the second half … When you have 20 turnovers, you have to have something extraordinary to complement the 20 turnovers. It was just a big-time program win for us and we want to build on it.”

It was just one night after Detroit’s most frustrating loss of the season, 113-111 on Monday at New York. Williams ripped the officials for a no-call in the closing seconds when Ausar Thompson was knocked to the floor after collecting a loose ball.

“This feels amazing, man. Emotional day (Monday),” Cunningham said. “(Tuesday) morning, still kind of felt it a little bit but put it behind us. This was a huge game for us.”