TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Dion Waiters scored 22 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers played one of their best games this season, routing the Detroit Pistons 122-100 on Wednesday night before being eliminated from the playoff chase.
Tyler Zeller scored 18 and rookie Matthew Dellavedova had 14 points and 12 assists for Cleveland, which had its playoff hopes ended when Atlanta defeated Boston 105-97.
“It’s an empty feeling that you have,” said All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who has yet to make the playoffs in three NBA seasons. “You think about the things you could have done, should have done. It’s definitely going to be on my mind.”
As the Hawks were rallying to take down the Celtics, the Cavs played with passion and purpose — two things missing too often earlier this season.
Spencer Hawes added 15 points for the Cavs, who led by 32 at half and rolled to one of their best all-around performances in what has been an otherwise disappointing season.
Cleveland set a team record with 26 assists in the first half and finished with a season-high 41.
Brandon Jennings scored 17 after missing his first 10 shots for the Pistons, who played their second game in a row without forward Josh Smith, sidelined with knee tendinitis. Jonas Jerebko added 17 points for Detroit.
The unexpected blowout win capped a turbulent few days for the Cavs. Earlier this week, Irving got into a public spat with Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, an embarrassing squabble between two of the city’s biggest sports stars. Irving had told Gordon “to mind his own business” about commenting on his supposed rift with Waiters.
Following practice on Monday, Irving and Waiters presented a united front and said they worked through any differences and were only focused on winning.
Maybe the backcourt mates patching up their differences rubbed off on the rest of the Cavs, as coach Mike Brown spent most of the game sitting on the bench as opposed to standing and yelling.
The Cavs had 14 assists on 14 field goals in the first quarter, which ended with them up 31-18. They were nearly as efficient in the second quarter, outscoring the Pistons 38-19 on the way to a 69-37 halftime lead.
Cleveland shot 64 percent in the opening 24 minutes and broke the previous team record of 25 assists, set most recently on April 9, 1992, against Charlotte. It was the most assists by any NBA team in any half this season, and ironically, the sharing came in the same week that two of the Cavs’ top players were supposedly at odds.
At the break, one fan waiting in a concession line turned to his buddy and remarked, “What team was that?”
The Cavs pushed their lead to 34 early in the third and were still up by 28 entering the fourth.
For the Pistons, who somehow won at Atlanta on Tuesday night, the loss was yet another pothole in a rough season. Detroit dropped to 29-50 and the team is dealing with reports that general manager Joe Dumars may step down before the season ends.
NOTES: Irving is “proud” of friend and former high school teammate Derrick Gordon for coming “out” as the first openly gay player in Division I. “He’s a strong person. I think the way he did it is a true test of his character and it’s big time,” Irving said. “I’m happy for him.” Irving said he would not have any issue with a gay teammate. “To see guys in sports coming out now is part of life,” he said. “I’m not a judgmental guy, not one bit. But I’m proud of Derrick and I’m proud of Jason Collins. It’s a big step for everybody and every generation.” … Detroit has come to Cleveland with a different coach in each of its past three visits: Lawrence Frank last year, Maurice Cheeks earlier this season and now interim coach John Loyer.
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