AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — LeBron James had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving made a pair of big 3-pointers down the stretch to help the Cleveland Cavaliers move within a game of a first-round sweep with a 101-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.
Irving scored 26 points for Cleveland, which overcame a gritty effort by the Pistons in Detroit’s first home playoff game since 2009. Andre Drummond scored 17 points for the Pistons, but Detroit fell behind toward the end of the third quarter, and a late rally came up short.
The Cavs lead the series 3-0, with Game 4 coming up Sunday night.
The Pistons have now lost 11 straight playoff games against Cleveland, and they’ve lost nine in a row overall in the postseason.
Down by nine in the fourth, Detroit went on an 8-0 run, forcing the Cavs to call a timeout. Irving responded with a 3-pointer, and J.R. Smith added one of his own to make it 95-90. Irving made it an eight-point game with a 3-pointer in the final minute.
A raucous, towel-waving crowd tried to give Detroit a boost. Pistons fans booed James early and often, although the Cleveland star threw down a two-handed dunk on his team’s first offensive possession.
Detroit rookie Stanley Johnson, who seemed eager to get into a verbal battle with James and the Cavs after Game 2, scored nine points in a fearless first half Friday, but James had the final word before halftime, making a jumper with less than a second left in the second quarter to give Cleveland a 54-53 lead.
Cleveland methodically built a 79-73 lead after three quarters, and after a three-point play and a 3-pointer by James early in the fourth, the Cavs were up by nine. It was 87-86 after Detroit’s run, but the 3s by Irving and Smith helped Cleveland hold on.
With 1:34 remaining, the public address announcer at the Palace announced the results of a replay review with his popular “Deeeeeeeeeetroit Basketball” call, but it turned out he was mistaken and had to correct himself. Officials were giving the ball to the Cavs.
Detroit’s chances were all but extinguished when Irving sank a 3-pointer from the right corner with 43 seconds remaining, and James ran back to midcourt for a celebratory chest bump.