Game 73: Cavs at Pistons
The Palace of Auburn Hills
They are 3 1/2 games behind No. 8 Atlanta in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
We'll probably know if it's still possible in the next two games, as the Cavs travel to Brooklyn on Friday and host Indiana Sunday afternoon. If they win those next two, it's time to get excited. Don't count out the Cavs, who have won three in a row.
They were given up for dead on Wednesday, especially when they fell behind by 16 points at the end of the third quarter, 82-66.
They got a few stops, and then a few more, and all of a sudden, they were taking the ball out with 3.2 seconds left and trailing by one point. Forward Luol Deng inbounded the ball to guard Dion Waiters. There were no shenanigans tonight with the inbounds play.
Waiters received the ball and deposited the game-winning, 19-foot jumper. It was a thing of beauty. When it went through the hoop, I yelled. I know I'm supposed to stay objective and control my emotions, but it was such a big-time shot.
The Pistons had won five of the last six outings against the Cavs before last night. The Cavs have won the last two in dramatic fashion.
The Cavs are making their run. They shot just 43.5 percent from the field against the Pistons and dished out just 18 assists on 37 field goals.
I'm not going to suggest their success is because All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is out of the lineup. But I will say the ball is not sticking in one area as much as it did. Jarrett Jack is in the starting lineup to help move the ball. It doesn't hurt that he's averaged 20.3 points in his last three games, 16.7 in his last six.
Irving (strained left biceps tendon) seems to be inching closer to a return to the court. There's still no time table for his return. I think he's close to getting another medical evaluation, which will determine whether we see him again.
I'll maintain that he'll play again this year. I'm so far down that road now, I can't change.
Cavs center Anderson Varejao continues to amaze. He pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds against the Pistons' sometimes dominating frontcourt that includes center Andre Drummond and power forward Greg Monroe. Small forward Josh Smith has averaged 22.3 points against the Cavs this year.
I figured Smith and Cavs forward Luol Deng would cancel each other out. I was wrong. Deng has shot 3 of 23 against the Pistons in the last two games. Ouch. He finished with seven points, six rebounds and four assists.
Coach Mike Brown said Deng was very important in huddles and on the bench. Deng and Jack are both becoming real leaders on this team. And, it's about darn time someone stepped into that role.
UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Barclays Center.
C Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245) vs. Andre Drummond (6-11, 279)
Pistons - F/C Josh Harrellson, G Chauncey Billups