Plummeting Pistons can't contain James, Cavs

Associated Press • Mar 5, 2018 at 11:31 PM

CLEVELAND — The Pistons are in a freefall now.

And it's going to take some kind of a turnaround for them to change the momentum.

The Pistons stayed close in the first half but the third quarter was the undoing, turning a five-point deficit into a 20-point blowout in a 112-90 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

The loss is the third straight — all on the road — and ninth in the last 11 games. The Pistons fell to 4.5 games behind the Miami Heat for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, with 18 games left.

Blake Griffin had 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Andre Drummond had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Pistons (29-35), who return home to play the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

The Raptors have won all three meetings this season against the Pistons.

After the recent skid, the playoffs are becoming a distant hope and the play on the court doesn't look to be that of a postseason hopeful, despite the addition of Griffin, who is starting to blossom.

He just needs more help.

Griffin went 10-of-22 from the field and 3-for-5 on 3-pointers but the rest of the team went 24-of-65 (37 percent) and couldn't generate much offense with him off the court. The bench was outscored 43-30, but most of that production came in the later stages.

The Cavs (37-26) had a 54-49 halftime lead but came out of the locker room hot, using a 17-5 run to pull away. LeBron James (31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) stoked the run with 12 straight points after Larry Nance Jr. (22 points and 15 rebounds) opened with a jumper and Rodney Hood (13 points) added a basket.

The only Pistons points during that stretch were a drive and 3-pointer by Griffin, who also stopped the run with a jumper, to cut it to 71-56.

Drummond hit a lay-in off a pass from Ish Smith and added a hook to get the lead down to 11, but after a technical foul on Drummond, George Hill scored his only points with the free throw and a jumper on the ensuing possession.

The Pistons got within 14 on a 3-pointer by Reggie Bullock (11 points) with 2:17 left, but the Cavs finished the period on an 8-2 spurt, with a basket and two free throws by Hood.

Here are some other observations from the matchup:

■ The Cavs were missing two of their top frontcourt players in Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, but still outrebounded the Pistons, 53-40, including 41-27 through three quarters. Nance got off to a good start on the boards, with seven of his 15 in the first quarter.

■ Drummond had a perfect night going midway through the fourth quarter: He was 5-for-5 from the field and 5-for-5 on free throws for 15 points. He also picked up his fifth foul at the 6:18 mark, but stayed in the game.

■ Drummond entered Monday's game with 18 straight double-doubles, but fell just one rebound short of extending it. The matchup with Nance at center seemed to favor Drummond, the league's leading rebounder, but moved into the starting lineup for the Cavs and brought a renewed energy.

■ James Ennis III played 29 minutes but managed only 1-of-8 shooting from the field and finished with three points and three fouls. He never got into an offensive rhythm and struggled to find his shot, with some easy misses.

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