The Detroit Pistons made the most of LeBron James’s absence, snapping a five-game skid with a 106-90 victory over NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers.
A day after their 109-108 triumph over the Golden State Warriors in a Christmas Day thriller, the short-handed Cavs had no answer for the Pistons. Tobias Harris came off the bench to lead Detroit with 21 points. The hosts shot a modest 44.6% overall, but they connected on 16 of 28 (57.1%) from three-point range.
Six Pistons scored in double figures, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contributing 18 points, Marcus Morris 15 and Jon Leuer and Reggie Jackson 13 apiece. With James watching from the sideline in street clothes, the Pistons seized a 50-44 halftime lead. They held the Cavaliers to 38% shooting and forced 22 turnovers, leading to 29 Detroit points.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 18 points and eight assists. Kevin Love added 17 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, who saw a five-game winning streak end as they fell to 23-7 — still the best in the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland are 23-4 when James is in uniform and 0-3 without him this season.
“He’s probably the best player in the world,” Pistons forward Jon Leuer said. “When he’s not in there, it’s a different feel, for sure. They still have some talented guys with Kyrie (Irving) and Kevin (Love), their shooters and how they space the floor. It still makes it difficult, but LeBron kind of facilitates everything.”
James Harden and the Houston Rockets, left out of the NBA’s five-game Christmas party, showed the league what it missed in a 131-115 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Harden notched his 24th double-double with 32 points and 12 assists in the Rockets’ second victory over the Suns in less than a week. This one was decisive. The Rockets scored 39 points in the first quarter and led by as many as 34 in the second half, making 15 three-pointers along the way.
Harden’s performance was his ninth game of the season with at least 30 points and 10 assists. Forward Ryan Anderson added 15 points — 10 of them in the first quarter when the Rockets took the game by the throat.
In Orlando, the Magic also led wire-to-wire in a 112-102 triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies. Forward Aaron Gordon scored 30 points and was a perfect four for four from three-point range. His 12 consecutive points in the third period helped turn back a Grizzlies rally.
“We are a very, very talented team, and when you add hard work to that, there’s no limit for us,” Gordon said.
“Just playing our game, going to work, and doing the things we know how to do.”
In Chicago, the Bulls halted a three-game losing streak with a 90-85 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Dwyane Wade scored 21 points and handed out five assists for the Bulls, who led by as many as 16 in the first half but saw the Pacers pull even early in the fourth quarter after Chicago managed just 12 points in the third period.
The teams traded big shots in the final minute. Indiana forward Paul George drained a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 86-85 with 45.3 seconds remaining. Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic answered with a jump shot that made it 88-85 with 21.2 seconds to play.
Wade stole a pass from Aaron Brooks and sprinted end to end for a dunk to finish the scoring with 1.2 seconds left.
It was close in Brooklyn, where Randy Foye hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Nets to a 120-118 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
The Nets, who saw point guard Jeremy Lin exit with a hamstring strain in the third quarter, halted a five-game losing streak.
The Washington Wizards erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 107-102. Otto Porter scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and John Wall added 18 points and 16 assists for the Wizards,
who avenged their 123-96 loss to the Bucks.
League notes officiating errors in Cavs’ narrow win over Warriors
The Cavs received a couple of Christmas gifts from game officials in their thrilling 109-108 holiday triumph over the Golden State Warriors, the NBA said yesterday.
In their latest “Last Two Minutes Report” detailing officiating errors late in games, the league said Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson should have been called for a foul with 3.1 seconds remaining after his foot made contact with that of Kevin Durant, affecting the Golden State star’s speed, quickness, balance and rhythm. Durant ended up sprawled on the court, unable to connect on a potential game-winner. “I fell,” Durant said, “and I didn’t fall on my own.”
Jefferson, however, said the officials made the right call. “We all think we’re fouled on every play in every single game,” Jefferson said.
The NBA Finals rematch between the league powerhouses was the most-streamed NBA Christmas Day game ever, generating 359,000 unique viewers, according to Nielsen Company figures released by ABC sister network ESPN. The game averaged a hefty 10.163 mn viewers via the ABC broadcast and streaming combined.
NBA champions Cavaliers rallied in the fourth quarter, courtesy of such Cleveland crowd-pleasing plays as LeBron James’s monster dunk with 1:43 remaining which put the Cavs up 105-103 — their first lead since the first quarter.
“King” James hung on the rim and flexed his arms — a move that the league acknowledged Monday in the officiating report should have seen him handed a technical foul for “deliberately hanging on the rim” after the dunk was completed.
Results (Home team in CAPS)
Denver 106 LA CLIPPERS 102
SACRAMENTO 102 Philadelphia 100
Toronto 95 PORTLAND 91
CHICAGO 90 Indiana 85
NEW ORLEANS 111 Dallas 104
HOUSTON 131 Phoenix 115
MINNESOTA 104 Atlanta 90
BROOKLYN 120 Charlotte 118
DETROIT 106 Cleveland 90
WASHINGTON 107 Milwaukee 102
ORLANDO 112 Memphis 102
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (left) tries to dribble past Detroit Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)