Pistons stop 5-game skid, beat LeBron James, sloppy Cavaliers 96-88

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Pistons canceled a trade and then stopped LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Reggie Jackson scored 23 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 19 and Detroit withstood Cleveland’s late comeback for a 96-88 win Monday night to snap a five-game losing streak.

One day after allowing New Orleans center Anthony Davis to score 59 points with 20 rebounds, the Pistons beat the Eastern Conference’s top team for the second time this season and earned their first win since Feb. 4.

“It had been a long time since we got a win – coming up on three weeks – so we definitely needed it,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You’ve seen it all year: We’re capable of beating anybody and we’re capable of losing to anybody. The guys felt good about themselves tonight, and I think everyone played well defensively the whole game.”

Andre Drummond added 15 rebounds for the Pistons, who let an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter dwindle to six before putting away the Cavs and ending their five-game winning streak.

Kyrie Irving scored 30 and Kevin Love 24 for Cleveland, which had an off night after looking so impressive in a win at Oklahoma City on Sunday. James scored just 12 points – 13 below his average – and went 5 of 18 from the floor, missing all four 3-point tries and committing six turnovers.

“I probably should have had about 12 of them,” said James, who acknowledged lacking energy on the back end of a back-to-back.

Following the game, Irving revealed he played only 9 minutes Sunday against the Thunder after being bitten by bed bugs in his Oklahoma City hotel.

“I was freaked out,” he said.

Tobias Harris, acquired from Orlando in a trade last week, scored 14 in his first start for the Pistons, who before the game rescinded their three-team trade last week with Houston and Philadelphia because not all the players involved were cleared medically.

Then, the Pistons went out and rejected the Cavs.

“It feels great to get the win,” Harris said. “The best thing was the effort, the energy level we showed against one of the very best teams. We didn’t get discouraged when they made some tough shots. We just kept telling each other, `Let’s keep our pace, let’s keep running.’ We just kept playing our pace.”

Detroit opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run to take an 18-point lead on Caldwell-Pope’s short jumper with 6:31 remaining.

After going through the motions most of the night, the Cavs finally awakened and reeled off 10 straight points to get to 88-82. But Jackson responded by dropping a floater in the lane, and Caldwell-Pope made the game’s biggest play, stripping a driving James and then taking the ball the length of the floor for a layup, a bucket that brought Pistons radio commentator Rick Mahorn – one of Detroit’s original Bad Boys – out of his seat.

Jackson credited the Pistons with digging deep to get the win.

“We’re desperate, man,” he said. “We’ve got to be hungry for every last win after dropping the last five. We’ve been trying to find a way to battle and be resilient, and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys for stepping up with us so short-handed.”

LEBRON’S REST

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he considered resting James on the second game of a back-to-back.

“I should have,” he said.

James has only missed one game this season, and Lue plans to sit his superstar if and when the Cavs lock up the conference title.

TURNOVER CITY

The Cavs were their own worst enemies in the first half, committing 12 turnovers that the Pistons converted into 16 points, enabling Detroit to open a 56-49 halftime lead. Cleveland finished with 18 turnovers.

ROOKIE INJURY

Detroit’s Stanley Johnson strained his right shoulder in the second half. Van Gundy said the forward will be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Reggie Bullock will take Johnson’s spot in the rotation.

TIP-INS

Pistons: F Anthony Tolliver (right knee) was diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain and will miss two to four weeks. He was hurt Sunday against New Orleans. . Van Gundy said there are no immediate plans to fill the team’s one open roster spot. . Detroit came in holding ninth place in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games behind Chicago for the final playoff spot.

Cavaliers: F Channing Frye scored two points in 9 minutes of his debut for Cleveland. … G Iman Shumpert missed his second straight game with a sprained left shoulder. It’s the same one he injured last season, when he missed six weeks. … G Mo Williams plans to have his sore left knee examined by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Tuesday. Williams has been bothered by the knee for two months. He hasn’t played since Feb. 10, when he missed all four shots in a win over the Lakers.

 

This story has been corrected to show that Irving played 9 minutes Sunday.

Watch Jamal Murray, Kawhi Leonard score first buckets in returns

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It’s only preseason. But if you’ve sat out an entire season with an ACL injury,  just getting on the court feels like a milestone.

And getting your first bucket back feels memorable.

That happened for the Nuggets Jamal Murray and the Clippers Kawhi Leonard on Monday night.

For Murray, the bucket came on a corner 3 in transition.

Murray also showed flashes he’s getting his handle and wiggle back, something that made him a great fit with Nikola Jokic.

Leonard wasted no time, scoring the Clippers’ first bucket by lulling his defender to sleep and then shooting the pull-up 3.

I feel we’re going to see a lot more of that this season.

The NBA is just better with these two back on the court.

 

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

Karl-Anthony Towns Offseaon Workout
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.