LeBron James has had some outstanding games in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform at the Palace of Auburn Hills at the expense of the Detroit Pistons. Friday night was not one of them, but James’ teammates stepped up and handed the Pistons their ninth straight playoff loss and the tenth straight playoff loss against Cleveland.
Kyrie Irving finished with a game high 26 points including a rainbow baseline three pointer in final minute to secure the 101-91 win to take a commanding three games to none series lead. With 44 second left and just seven tenths of a second on the shot clock and the Cavaliers up by five at 95-90, Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue drew up an excellent out of bounds play. Matthew Dellavedova inbounded the ball to the right of the Pistons basket on the baseline. Irving was able to get wide open on the opposite side. Dellavedova threw a terrific pass to Irving who threw up a high arching three point attempt that went in and put away any chances that the Pistons could come back to force overtime or steal a game three win.
“Kyrie is just being Kyrie,” Lue said following the game. “We’ve seen it before, we see it all the time. I thought defensively he was great. He was locked in. Offensively, I thought he was very precise with what he wanted to do, where he wanted to go on the court and get with the basketball. He made some great passes and great plays too. Outside of that big three he made with the shot clock running down, I thought he played in control. He was aggressive attacking the basket and also making the right play”
“He knows how to play the game,” James said. “He goes out there and commands double teams. He makes big shots and obviously the biggest shot of the night with point seven on the clock. Coach Lue drew up a hell of a play and Delly found him in the corner and he knocked it down, huge play for us.”
“It was a great play drawn by T Lue,” Irving said. “In the time, in the moment I believe we had a minute to draw up that play. You know point seven I think that when you have the talent we do on this team we don’t necessarily panic in these situations. Execution is all that matters and we go out and we set the hardest screens in that moment. That moment is the only thing that matters and whoever gets the shot we want them to shoot confidently, and we all believe in it. Luckily I got the shot off and it went in.”
Irving was eleven of 20 shooting the basketball and connected on three of his six three point attempts. James struggled shooting the basketball at eight of 24 but finished with a double double 20 points and 13 rebounds and seven assists.
James was one of two Cavaliers to record a double double in game three. Kevin Love recorded his third straight double double. Love matched James with 20 points and finished one rebound behind LeBron with 12. Love shot the ball better in game three point seven of ten. The Cavaliers ‘Big 3’ combined to score 66 points in the game three victory.
Tristan Thompson played a huge role in game three after being a non factor in games one and two in Cleveland. Thompson was just two points short of his first double double in this series. Thompson had eight points and ten rebounds. What was even more important, Thompson logged 31 minutes and only picked up three fouls. Thompson got in foul trouble in each of the first two games of the series and on recorded two points combined.
J.R. Smith didn’t shoot the three ball as well in game three as he did in game two. Smith went just three of eight from long distance, but each three point make came at a good time. Smith sparked a rally in the first quarter when the Cavaliers trailed by six points. Smith’s final three point make was the second biggest shot of the game for the Cavaliers. Detroit had just made a dunk in transition by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to cut the Cavaliers lead down to just two at 92-90. Smith would knock down a three point for nearly the same spot that Irving nailed his three pointer a couple minutes later to seal the victory. Smith ‘s three pointer gave the Cavaliers a five point lead back. The Pistons would not make another field goal the rest of the game.
Iman Shumpert and Dellavedova outscored the Pistons bench 18-14. Shumpert knocked down a pair of three pointers in the second quarter for his six points. Dellavedova went four of five from the field including two of three from three point territory to finish 12 points to go along with five assists.
Detroit’s bench was lead by rookie Stanley Johnson with nine points. Johnson made headlines following game two with his comments about James and the Cavaliers team. Johnson said that he was in the head of James. LeBron may have shot just 33 percent from the field in game three but a 19-year old rookie is not going to get in the head of a 13-year NBA veteran or the Cavaliers team in general.
All five Pistons starters scored in double figures for a second straight game. Pope lead Detroit with 18 points. Andre Drummond had 17 points but only seven rebounds and two blocks. Drummond was just one of six from the free throw line and sat on the bench for the last five plus minutes of the game after the Cavaliers intentionally fouled him, Drummond missed both free throw attempts during that key stretch of the game.
Marcus Morris finished with 16 points. Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson each finished with 13 points. Jackson added a game high 12 assists.
Cleveland dominated Detroit on the glass. The Cavaliers out rebounded the Pistons 46 to 32. Cleveland also dished out two more assists than Detroit, 24 to 22. The Cavaliers doubled up the Pistons in made three pointers, 12 to six. Cleveland shot 41 percent from three point territory. Detroit shot just 26 percent from behind the arc.
The Cavaliers can close out the series on Sunday night in game four at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Game time is at 8:30 p.m. This is the tenth time that a James lead team has taken a three games to none series lead in a playoff series. James’ teams have gone on to sweep those series seven of the previous nine times.