Cleveland — If the Pistons can hold on to the ball, they would exponentially increase their chances of winning a game.
When they don’t take care of the ball, they have games like Friday’s performance.
For much of the third quarter, the Pistons had more turnovers than field goals.
That was enough to spell doom for the Pistons in a sloppy 98-78 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Jerami Grant had 16 points, Josh Jackson 11 points and Cade Cunningham nine points and six rebounds for the Pistons (2-9), who finish a back-to-back on Saturday night at Toronto.
The turnovers continued to pile up throughout the game, with eight in the first quarter, five more in the second and six in the third. The final total was 23, which led to 27 points by the Cavaliers (8-5). Cunningham led the Pistons with seven turnovers.
“Any time you turn the ball over 23 times and give up 27 points, you’re not going to win a game in this league,” coach Dwane Casey said. “The most important thing is you have to take care of the ball with our guards.”
With so many transition opportunities, the Cavs were able to get out and run, which helped the push the lead from 52-41 at halftime to 21 in the first six-plus minutes of the third quarter. The Pistons managed just 11 points in the third period, four from Grant, as they shot 5-of-20 from the field and 0-of-6 from 3-point range.
The Cavs only scored 22 points, but the turnovers proved to be the Pistons’ undoing. The Cavs ended the third quarter on an 8-1 run, capped by a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Darius Garland (21 points and seven rebounds).
Cleveland opened the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer by Cedi Osman (17 points) and the Pistons answered with a three-point play by rookie Luka Garza, but Garland hit another lay-in and the Pistons traded baskets — as well as turnovers.
The start of the game was poor as well.
The Cavs got out to a 6-0 start, with a jumper and 3-pointer by Garland, and rookie Evan Mobley (16 points, seven rebounds and three blocks) split a pair of free throws.
Mobley, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, was active inside and got the Pistons’ starter, Isaiah Stewart, in early foul trouble. Stewart drew his first foul on the first possession of the game, then his second at the 10:38 mark, sending him to the bench, with Garza getting some early playing time because of the injury to Kelly Olynyk.
Grant also got his second foul, at the 7:49 mark, which sent the reserve group in much earlier than normal. The second unit got going with a dunk by Garza, then a 3-pointer by Cunningham and a putback by Josh Jackson, which got the Pistons within 12-11 with 6:04 left in the quarter.
“(Foul trouble) definitely changes the game, but every once in a while, you know it’s going to happen,” Grant said. “We have to do a better job of adjusting and figuring things out when that happens.”
The Pistons pulled ahead with back-to-back baskets by Cunningham and Josh Jackson for an 18-17 lead, but the Cavs scored the last three baskets of the period, with two lay-ins by Osman and a 3-pointer by Garland, to lead, 24-18, after the first.
The Cavs extended the run to 12-0 with another basket by Garland and a 3-pointer by Dylan Windler, and the margin was up to 29-18 before Cory Joseph’s jumper broke the streak.
Grant helped keep things close, scoring eight straight Pistons points toward the end of the second quarter. But Jarrett Allen, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, had a three-point play and finished with an alley-oop that helped push the lead to nine at halftime.
Grant and Cunningham combined to score 16 straight Pistons points, but the turnovers and sloppy play prevented the Pistons from getting back within striking distance the rest of the way.