Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Pistons: ‘I didn’t think we had enough players who were locked into doing what we needed to do to win’

Fresh off the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers came into Detroit to battle the Pistons, missing some serious firepower. Darius Garland(back) and Caris LeVert(foot) were out. LeVert is expected to miss 1-2 weeks, and Garland will undergo treatment and rehabilitation over the next couple of days and his return to basketball activities will be updated as appropriate, according to the team.

Without Garland and LeVert, others had to step up, which unfortunately did not happen. After four Cade Cunningham free throws gave the Pistons a 106-103 lead, Cleveland had three chances to tie the game, but Lauri Markkanen, Brandon Goodwin, and Evan Mobley all missed threes on the final possession, and the Pistons would hold on to defeat the Cavs 106-103 at Little Caesars Arena Thursday night.

The Cavs(35-24) have lost three straight, while the Pistons(14-45) have won two in a row.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Pistons.

The Great for the Cavs:

Lauri Markkanen returned after missing 11 games with an ankle injury and was solid. While he did not shoot it well(6-16 FG), he scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth and gave Cleveland the lead late with a free throw. He also had six rebounds.

-Brandon Goodwin gave the Cavs a lift off the bench. He had 15 points, four rebounds, and five assists. In the last five games, Goodwin had a combined 19 points. Without Garland, the Cavs needed Goodwin to shine, and he did just that.

-Fight in the fourth: The Cavs got down by as many as 11 points in the fourth but went on a 17-5 run to take a 103-102 lead. During that run, Markkanen scored eight of the 17 points. 

First Quarter: Cleveland got the start they wanted against the Pistons. The Cavs shot 53% from the floor, including 56% from three-point range. Cedi Osman led the way with nine points in the first, and Cleveland had a 33-27 lead after one. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Free throw line:  The Cavs had issues at the line Thursday night. They missed 11 free throws(23/34), and when you’re down two quality players in Garland and LeVert, you need to make your free throws.

Kevin Love/Cedi Osman: Cleveland needed Love to be what he’s been all season long, and unfortunately, that was not the case Thursday night. Love was 1/5 from the floor and finished with four points and five rebounds off the bench. In addition, Osman was scoreless in the final three quarters after scoring nine points in the first. Combined, Osman and Love were 3/12 from the field.

Fourth Quarter:  The Cavs took an 82-80 lead into the fourth, but Cleveland went cold. They were 7/20(35%) from the floor, including 3/10 from deep. Detroit led by as many as 11 in the quarter, which was their largest lead of the game. Cleveland took a 103-102 lead with just over a minute to go. However, the Pistons closed out the game on a 4-0 run. 

Bottom Line:

Cleveland had struggled before the break, and they struggled Thursday night. The Cavs usually handle their business against bad teams, and coming into this game; they were 19-9 against sub .500 teams. 

However, this is Cleveland’s second straight loss to the Pistons. 

While the loss is understandable, it’s not acceptable, especially with the Cavs in the middle of a tight playoff race.

As for the Eastern Conference standings, the fifth-seeded Cavs are now tied with the fourth-seeded Bucks(35-24). They are one game ahead of the sixth-seeded Celtics(35-26) and two games ahead of the seventh-seed, the Toronto Raptors(32-25).

We all know this team is young, and we know they don’t have their best scorers, but the goals and objectives of this season have now changed, and at this point, every game matters.

We know LeVert could be out 1-2 weeks, but Garland seems as if he will be in and out of the lineup the rest of the way. According to Bickerstaff, the All-Star Game did not impact Garland’s availability, but in hindsight, maybe they could have reduced his minutes. Garland played 24 minutes in that contest. However, he did earn that opportunity, so it’s understandable.

“I didn’t think we had enough players who were locked into doing what we needed to do to win the game,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said postgame. “What’s disappointing is that I felt like that’s how we went into the break and now how we are coming out of it.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland will return home Saturday night to play the Wizards as they begin a three-game homestand at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Best of the Rest:

-Detroit had six players in double figures led by Hamidou Diallo 21 points; Cade Cunningham added 17 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Jerami Grant and Marvin Bagley III chipped in with 16 points apiece.

-Cleveland also had six players in double figures, including all five starters. Evan Mobley and Rajon Rondo had 12 points apiece. Rondo added nine assists and Mobley chipped in with eight rebounds and three blocks. 

Listen below as Markkanen reacts to the loss to the Pistons:

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