CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 31 points before taking a seat on the bench, Larry Nance Jr. reached career highs with 22 points and 15 rebounds in his first start for Cleveland, and the Cavaliers closed a disappointing five-game homestand on a positive note with a 112-90 win Monday night over the Detroit Pistons, who haven’t won on the road in nearly two months.
With Cleveland missing three big men — All-Star Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Jeff Green — because of injuries, the Cavs needed someone to step up and Nance came through. Wearing the same No. 22 his father had retired by Cleveland, the 25-year-old Nance had the best game of his young career.
James was his usual brilliant self, making 5 of 7 3-pointers and adding seven rebounds and seven assists. With the Cavs comfortably ahead, James sat the entire fourth quarter, a rarity in this odd season.
Blake Griffin scored 25 to lead Detroit, which has lost nine straight away from home. The Pistons haven’t won on the road since Jan. 10. Andre Drummond scored 15 but didn’t reach double-digit rebounds for the first time in 19 games.
Cleveland’s frontcourt injuries forced Cavs coach Tyronn Lue to change his starting lineup yet again. Lue moved Nance into Thompson’s spot and started Rodney Hood over rookie Cedi Osman, whose energy had given Cleveland’s first unit a needed lift.
It was only one game, but Cleveland’s latest look was encouraging. The Cavs have been in a funk lately as they try to integrate four new players, but they got a win before embarking on a two-week, six-game trip.
James led the way, but it was Nance who helped negate Detroit’s size advantage and made several big plays. By halftime, Nance had matched his career best with 18 points.
And for the second straight game, Nance upstaged James with a sensational dunk.
J.R. Smith scooped a pass toward the rim that Nance grabbed with one hand and slammed home, triggering another eruption from the crowd and his teammates on the bench.
Pistons: Coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t have a timetable for G Reggie Jackson’s return. He’s been out since Dec. 26 with a sprained right ankle. The Pistons are 10-20 since his injury. “There’s nothing imminent with him,” Van Gundy said. “He did a little bit of one-on-one against one of the video guys today, but that’s as far along as he is. We’ll just keep progressing. We’re not putting a date on it.” … Detroit dropped to 6-9 since acquiring Griffin after a 4-0 start with him. … Drummond and Griffin were both assessed technicals.
Cavaliers: J.R. Smith had another head-scratching game, failing to score in 22 minutes. He scored 19 in the second half Saturday after not attempting a shot in the first half. … Thompson’s right ankle remains swollen and he anticipates wearing a walking boot the next few days. … Green (sore lower back) moved with ease while doing drills following the morning shootaround. He felt good enough on Sunday to go roller skating along with Smith and James, who posted video of the outing on Instagram. … James said he still intends to meet with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at some point in the offseason to discuss ways the league can help young players get ready for the pro game.
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