The Detroit Pistons made the most of LeBron James’s absence, snapping a five-game skid with a 106-90 victory over the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
A day after their 109-108 triumph over the Golden State Warriors in a Christmas Day thriller, the short-handed Cavs had no answer for the Pistons.
Tobias Harris came off the bench to lead Detroit with 21 points. The hosts shot a modest 44.6 percent overall, but they connected on 16 of 28 (57.1 percent) from three-point range.
Six Pistons scored in double figures, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contributing 18 points, Marcus Morris 15 and Jon Leuer and Reggie Jackson 13 apiece.
With James watching from the sideline in street clothes, the Pistons seized a 50-44 halftime lead. They held the Cavaliers to 38 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers, leading to 29 Detroit points.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 18 points and eight assists. Kevin Love added 17 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, who saw a five-game winning streak end as they fell to 23-7 — still the best in the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland is 23-4 when James is in uniform and 0-3 without him this season.
“He’s probably the best player in the world,” Pistons forward Jon Leuer said. “When he’s not in there, it’s a different feel, for sure. They still have some talented guys with Kyrie (Irving) and Kevin (Love), their shooters and how they space the floor.
“It still makes it difficult, but LeBron kind of facilitates everything.”
James Harden and the Houston Rockets, left out of the NBA’s five-game Christmas party, showed the league what it missed in a 131-115 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Harden notched his 24th double-double with 32 points and 12 assists in the Rockets’ second victory over the Suns in less than a week.