Cavaliers squeak past Pistons 128-121    
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - On Wednesday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse the Cleveland Cavaliers (28-16, 16-8 home) who had won 10 of their last 11 games welcomed pack their all-star point guard Darius Garland. Garland who had been out since December 14th when he left the game in Boston with the Celtics after being struck in the jaw, which was fractured. The Cavs welcomed the struggling Detroit Pistons (6-40, 2-19 road).

The matchup was the third meeting between the two teams this season. The Cavs had won the first two, it was the second meeting at RMFH, and the Pistons came to fight for respect as they played the Cavs hard to the end, but Cleveland came out on top 128-121.

Garland didn’t waste any time doing what a point guard does when he hit Evan Mobley in the paint with a pass and Mobley dropped it in the basket giving Cleveland an early 4-2 lead with 11:09 left on the first quarter clock. He then gave the Cavs a 6-3 lead on a jumper in the paint with 9:08 left on the clock. The Pistons then tied the game 6-6 after Garland fouled Jaden Ivey, he hit the shot and converted the free throw. The Pistons took a 12-8 lead when Bojan Bogdanovic drained a with 8:06 left. The Cavs then went on a 9-3 run to take a 17-15 lead on layup by Garland after he stole the ball from Jalen Duren with 7:11 left in the quarter. Run continued after Donovan Mitchell was fouled and hit one of two free throws on the next possession LeVert found Mitchell and he drained a three from the top of the three-point arc giving the Cavs a 21-15 lead with 5:50 left in the opening quarter. The Pistons closed the gap to 23-21 with 2:07 left Danilo Gallinari dropped in a layup. As the quarter ended the Cavs went on a spurt and took a 30-23 lead to the second period. Mitchell led all scorers with nine first quarter points. Ivey led the Pistons with six points. The Cavs outrebounded Detroit 14-11, including six by Jarrett Allen. The Cavs bench also outscored the Pistons 7-6.

The second quarter started with a Cavs five of Garland, Mobley, Sam Merrill, Caris LeVert and Georges Niang. It did not work out well early as the Pistons cut the Cavs lead to 34-32 with 9:27 left on an Ausar Thompson layup. Things got worse as the Pistons took a 40-39 lead when Marcus Sasser drained a three pointer with 7:42 left in the opening half. The Detroit lead grew to 43-41 with 7:04 left on a three by Gallinari. After Mobley was fouled Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff called a timeout to get things back in order. When action resumed Mitchell replaced Garland and Isaac Okoro replaced LeVert. Mobley hit both free throws to tie the game 43-43 with 6:55 left. After the Pistons took a two point lead the Cavs regained the advantage 46-45 when Merrill hit his second three of the game in two attempts with 6:10 remaining. Merrill was on fire as he drained another three with 5:01 left to give the Cavs a 51-45 advantage. The Pistons were starting to make mistakes turning the ball over nine times to that point resulting in 13 Cavs points. The ninth came with 3:49 left when Niang poked the ball away from Ivey and he hit Okoro at the other end to give the Cavs a 55-47 lead. The Cavs lead grew to nine at 60-51 when Mitchell hit a three from the top of the arc with 2:31 left. The Pistons were not going away as they cut the lead to 60-55 on fastbreak by Ivey with 1:31 left in the second quarter. The Cavs responded to take a 64-57 lead into the locker room at halftime. Mitchell led all scorers at the break with 16 points. Garland had 12 points and Merrill had 11 in 12 minutes. Gallinari led the Piston first half effort with 11 points. The big story was the turnovers as the Pistons turned it over 10 times resulting in 17 Cavs points. The Cavs made their share of mistakes turning it over seven times, but the Pistons only managed to score five points off the Cavs errors. The Cavs led on the boards 20-15 with nine of the Cavs rebounds belonging to Allen who went into the break with six points and nine boards just four points and one rebound away from his franchise record 16th straight double double.

The Pistons came out firing cutting the Cavs lead to 64-62 on a layup from Duren with 11:03 left on the third quarter clock. With 10:49 left Allen gave the Cavs a 66-62 lead bringing his point total to eight. The Pistons, who have been the league’s doormat this season with a record losing streak but had played better recently were not going away and took a 71-70 lead with 8:41 left in the third on a Cad Cunningham three pointer. With 7:31 left Allan gave the Cavs a 77-73 lead reaching double figures in points with 10, just seconds later he pulled won his tenth rebound to record his 16th straight double double. Detroit refused to give in to the more talented Cavaliers squad with 4:28 left in the third Bogdanovic hit a three to cut the Cavs lead to 83-82. However the Cavs continued to respond to the Pistons after Okoro stole the ball from Bogdanovic. He took it the length of the court giving the Cavs a 90-83 lead with 3;23 left in the quarter. With 2:09 remaining in the third Okoro got into double figures after a LeVert steal and Mitchell pass to Okoro he dropped the ball in giving the Cavs a 94-85 lead matching their biggest lead of the game to that point. With :14.5 left in the third the Pistons cut the Cavs lead to 94-91, but LeVert responded at the other end and the Cavs lead was five at 96-91 with 12 minutes to play. Mitchell led everyone with 25 points through three quarters. Gallinari led Detroit with 16 points. The Pistons took the lead on the glass outrebounding the Cavs 25-24 through three quarters. Turnovers remained a problem for Detroit as they had turned the ball over 15 times through 36 minutes resulting in 25 Cavs points. Detroit’s bench was also outplaying Cleveland’s bench, outscoring them 40-34.

If it wasn’t apparent through the first three quarters the Cavs were in for a battle in the final 12 minutes. With 9:52 left in regulation Kevin Knox hit a three for Detroit to tie the game 98-98. With 9:20 remaining the Pistons took the lead 100-98 when Gallinari hit two free throws after being fouled by Strus. Detroit increased their lead to 105-100 when Alec Burks hit a three pointer with 7:45 left on the game clock. Several times the Cavs cut the Pistons lead to three points, but every time Detroit responded at the other end to get the lead back up to five points. Things began to turn when Mitchell hit a three to cut the Detroit lead to 111-109 with 5:52 left and a Detroit turnover with 5:02 left and then a personal foul by Cunningham sending LeVert to the line where he drained both to tie the game 111-111 with 4:50 left in regulation. After a ticky tack foul on Strus with 4:36 left Burks hit both free throws giving Detroit a 113-111 lead. The Cavs quickly tied it up on a Mitchell jumper, but at the other end Bogdanovic hit a three to give the Pistons a 116-113 lead. It was then the Cavs turn to respond as Mitchell, who now had 39 points drained a three tying the game 116-116 and forcing Piston’s floor boss Monte Williams to call a timeout. Detroit retook the lead with 3;18 left when Duren, surrounded by Cavs managed to put the ball in the basket giving Detroit a 118-116 lead. Okoro responded at the other end hitting a putback jumper tying the game 118-118 with 2:48 left. After the Pistons missed a shot, the Cavs got the ball and Ivey fouled LeVert sending the Cavs swingman to the foul line to shoot two shots with 2:18 left. After a 30 second infection timeout LeVert hit both free throws giving the Cavs a 120-118 lead. After another missed shot by the Pistons and a Mitchell board, he hit Allen at the other end in the paint and on a nice move put the ball in giving the Cavs a 122-118 lead with 1:57 left on the clock. With 1:10 with Pistons having possession Williams called a timeout with 12 seconds left on the shot clock to presumably draw up a play. Whatever Williams called did not work as the Pistons could not. t a shot off and were charged with a 24 second shot clock violation. With :44.5 left Ivey fouled Mitchell, his fifth. Mitchell drained both free throws and now had 41 points giving the Cavs a 124-118 lead. With :28.1 left Mitchell was fouled again going to the line with the chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP” from the Cavaliers faithful he drained them both giving the Cavs a 126-118 lead. The Cavs stifling defense finally showed up in the final 2:48, holding the Pistons to only three points. As the Cavs secured the win.

Mitchell finished with 45 points, leading everyone in the game in scoring. Cavs had five other players in double figures in scoring and needed every bit of it. Garland in his return had 19 points, Okoro and Allen each had 14 points and LeVert and Merrill had 11 each. Gallinari led the Pistons with 20 in a losing effort. The Cavs continued to dominate in the paint as they outscored the Pistons 66-44 inside. Detroit did outrebound the Cavs 35-33. It was the first time the Cavs were outrebounded since the loss the Bucks one week ago and only the second time in 2024, the only other time was on January 1st when they were outrebounded by the Raptors 47-43. They had lost the other two prior to tonight.

The Cavs will be in action next when they travel to Memphis to play the Grizzlies (18-29, 5-16 home) at the FedEx Center on Thursday at 8 pm. 
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​POSTED 01/31/2024 21:58
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Lake County Sentinel
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Donovan Mitchell scoring one of his 45 points.              Photo by Tommy Shirer