Cleveland — Forget it, Pistons.
That playoff sweep last spring, when a team from Cleveland rubbed out its cross-lake NBA competition in four neat games, on its way to delivering a Cavaliers championship?
If the Pistons had notions of making amends on Friday, or issuing a payback, or simply showing the world champions the guys from Detroit weren’t going as peacefully now that a new NBA season has begun, well, uh-uh.
The Pistons instead served up a frightful night of alleged shooting that destroyed any fantasies and ended in a 104-81 Pistons crushing by the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.
“No takeaway — we got crushed,” said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who no doubt wished his team had shown half the steam and fire that poured from him afterward. “We were just awful.”
The Pistons’ problems seemed simple. As if that 31-percent shooting percentage for the evening was some kind of mishap. A fluke, of sorts.
Van Gundy was having none of it.
“Those guys play really, really hard,” he said of the Cavaliers, whose heavy laborers included LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and the combined 46 points they hung on Detroit. “We need some guys like that.”
Oh, dear. The Pistons are only 13 games into a new season, but after road tumbles at New York and again on Friday, Van Gundy hinted that lineup changes might be brewing.
The Cavaliers chopped into their visitors steadily Friday and seemed to enjoy the carnage.
They led 30-19 after the first quarter, 56-39 at the half, then, with James and Irving staging a sharpshooting contest in the third quarter, they tore into Van Gundy’s guys, eventually leading by 33.
It was, at the worst of moments, as if the Pistons were hoping to simply get a shot within a meter or so of the basket.
But the coach understood. And so did his players. Much of Friday night’s misery was part of Cleveland’s doing. Defending, leaping, bothering, altering, and harassing the Pistons on possession after possession. Tristan Thompson’s four blocked shots were a measure of what a skilled, driven team did to the team from Detroit.
“We didn’t get enough good looks,” said Van Gundy, who didn’t forget that Jon Leuer missed a dunk and Ish Smith missed an easy reverse layup as part of a team’s shooting gaffes. “But I give them (the Cavaliers) all the credit.”
Leuer was the only Pistons player to score in double digits. He scrounged for 15 points and might have moved closer to a spot in Van Gundy’s starting lineup.
“Too much one-on-one ball,” said Tobias Harris, critiquing his and his cohorts’ work on a night he had only nine points. “It’s tough to win when you shoot like that and don’t get into a flow, offensively.”
There were moments and exceptions. Early, anyway. The Pistons opened with a 6-0 lead, thanks to 3-point bombs from Harris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
But very quickly Pistons shots began spilling into areas other than the basket. And that was no way to hang with folks such as James and Irving, to say nothing of Kevin Love, who added 12 more Cavaliers points.
The final stat sheet looked like a crime scene:
Smith, 1-for-9. Andre Drummond, 4-for-12, as was Caldwell-Pope. Harris and Marcus Morris were a combined 6-for-21.
Harris was inclined to agree with Van Gundy. The Pistons’ effort had been wall-to-wall ugly.
“We didn’t show intensity from the start,” said Harris, who couldn’t quite pinpoint a reason his team performed so meekly. “They played a lot harder than we did.”
That, of course, was Van Gundy’s major complaint. He is pondering remedies, which, for the moment, are known only to a man who isn’t inclined to find upside in a 6-7 start.