After five days off, Cavaliers, Pistons set to play
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Due to a quirk in their schedules, the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers have enjoyed a mini-vacation by NBA standards.
Neither team has played since Wednesday, their longest stretch of inactivity this season outside of the All-Star break. They'll be back in action on Monday when they face each other at Detroit's Little Caesars Arena.
For both teams, it's been an opportunity to work on their issues before the games come in waves. The Pistons (7-6) play 13 games over the next 24 days; the Cavaliers (2-12) don't get more than one day off between games until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Before the layoff, Detroit collected one of its most exhilarating victories in recent years. The Pistons erased a 19-point, second-half deficit in Toronto and won 106-104 on Reggie Bullock's buzzer-beating bank shot. That was especially satisfying to coach Dwane Casey, who was fired by the Raptors after the playoffs despite winning Coach of the Year honors.
Casey now wants to see his team play with the same determination it showed in the second half on a regular basis.
"Somehow, some way, we've got to get that consistency to carry over starting Monday night, then Wednesday night and then our next game," he told Pistons.com. "That's our challenge. Playing defense and playing hard and playing together is not optional if we're serious about winning. If we're not, then we'll continue to be inconsistent and continue to get inconsistent wins. And I mean that in a positive way because I have all the faith in the world in our talent level, but our consistency has to be there for us to be successful."
Detroit's offense ranks last in both field-goal percentage (42.8) and 3-point percentage (31.3). It entered Sunday's action ranked 20th in defensive field-goal percentage (46.5).
"We've got to get better," Casey said. "We've got to get better in our pick-and-roll defense. We've got to get better at our guards pursuing the ball. Offensively, hopefully get a rhythm where we're comfortable with the shots and getting more comfortable shooting the analytical shots that we want. Continue to work and get better with this."
Following a woeful first month of the season in which they changed coaches and lost their top player (Kevin Love) for an extended stretch, the Cavaliers are just looking to build around their younger players. Lottery pick Collin Sexton tops that list and he's shown signs of progression since being inserted into the starting lineup.
Sexton has averaged 18.0 points in four games since replacing injured point guard George Hill, who is recovering from a shoulder injury. Sexton could remain in the starting five even when Hill is ready to return.
"There are just guys who feel more comfortable starting than coming off the bench," coach Larry Drew told Cleveland.com. "I think everybody wants to start, but everybody's production as a starter is not very good. As a coach, what I try to do, I try to look at what a guy does as a starter versus what he does off the bench. Certainly with G-Hill out, Collin has definitely stepped up to the plate and made his presence felt and has made a major impact to what we've been doing."
The teams have already faced each other in Detroit this season. The Pistons won 110-103 on Oct. 25 behind center Andre Drummond's 26 points and 22 rebounds.
Updated November 18, 2018