CLEVELAND (AP) – One struggling team was bound to get some good news Wednesday night.
Detroit coach Lawrence Frank was happy to have something positive to talk about following the Pistons’ 111-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“These are the guys we’re building around, and we’ve got to fight for them,” Frank said. “I have confidence in them, which is why I felt comfortable leaving them out there.”
Andre Drummond scored a career-high 29 points and the Pistons won a second straight game for the first time in two months.
Greg Monroe’s basket with 38.8 seconds remaining gave Detroit a 105-103 lead and the Pistons, who hadn’t won consecutive games since Feb. 8-9, swept the four-game season series from the Cavaliers. Detroit has beaten Cleveland six straight times.
Drummond, who spent most of the fourth quarter at the free throw line after Cleveland coach Byron Scott chose to intentionally foul the 34 percent shooter, also grabbed 11 rebounds. Monroe scored 23 points and Rodney Stuckey added 18.
Kyrie Irving scored 27 points, including 21 in the second half, but missed a 3-pointer that would have given the Cavaliers the lead with 21 seconds left. The All-Star guard was playing on the second night of back-to-back games for the first time since returning from a shoulder injury. Irving committed two turnovers in the final 2:12 and missed a free throw with 16 seconds remaining.
“I was obviously a little fatigued just like everyone else on the floor, but that’s no excuse for not executing,” he said.
Both teams have been in recent tailspins, leading to speculation that the two coaches could be replaced at the end of the season. The Pistons have just four wins in their last 19 games and are 6-19 since the All-Star break. The Cavaliers have lost 12 of 14.
Drummond was 8 of 14 at the line in the fourth quarter and made two free throws to give Detroit a 101-99 lead with 2:06 to play. His tip-in put Detroit up by four, but Tristan Thompson scored on a drive and Irving’s basket with 44 seconds remaining tied the game.
Drummond, who was 9 of 17 from the line for the game, wasn’t surprised at the Cavaliers’ strategy.
“I knew I needed to make them for us to win, so I just focused at the line,” he said. “Some went in, some went out, but all of them were on line. It gives me more points. That’s the way you’ve got to look at it. It gave me a chance to work on my free throws.”
Monroe’s basket gave Detroit the lead for good. Following Irving’s missed 3-pointer, Cleveland’s strategy backfired a bit when Drummond grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Thompson after passing the ball. Since the foul away from the ball occurred under the two-minute mark, the Pistons got two free throws and possession. Stuckey made a foul shot and Jonas Jerebko split a pair after another foul.
“I tried to foul him right away, but they called it after he passed the ball,” said Thompson. “I guess it’s my fault, but I have to keep playing.”
Scott would like to have seen the foul occur when Drummond grabbed the rebound.
“I didn’t think (Drummond) had the ball,” Scott said. “I thought they were trying to take the ball up the floor. It was a young, second-year player mistake. Tristan was thinking right. It was just way too late.”
Irving was injured March 10 and missed eight games. He returned March 31, but sat out the following night as part of the team’s recovery protocol.
Dion Waiters came off the bench and scored 11 points in 15 minutes in his first action since injuring his left knee March 20. Waiters, the team’s second-leading scorer, missed 10 games. Thompson added 19 points.
Will Bynum scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter for the Pistons.
Pistons point guard Jose Calderon, the league’s leading three-point shooter, missed his second straight game with a strained triceps. He’s averaging 11.6 points a game since being acquired from Toronto.
The Cavaliers blew a 20-point, fourth-quarter lead Tuesday in a 99-94 loss at Indiana. Trailing by two in the closing seconds, Irving drove to the basket for an apparent game-tying layup but was whistled for charging. Scott thought Indiana’s Jeff Pendgergraph should have been called for a blocking foul, but the call was upheld after a video review.
NOTES: Frank said C Jason Maxiell is still recovering from season-ending surgery for a detached retina and isn’t traveling with the team. … Cavaliers G C.J. Miles (concussion) missed his second straight game. Miles was inadvertently elbowed in the forehead by Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic on Sunday. … F Luke Walton (sprained ankle) missed his third straight game.
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