CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James returned from a day off to record a triple-double as the Cleveland Cavaliers tuned up for the playoffs with a 109-97 win over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
James had 21 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds as the Cavs improved to 33-9 since Jan. 15.
J.R. Smith made eight 3-pointers and scored 28 and Timofey Mozgov had 13 rebounds for the Cavs, who sat James and three other starters in a 117-78 loss at Boston on Sunday.
Kyrie Irving scored 12 points in the first half, but Cleveland’s All-Star guard was kept out after halftime with tightness in his right hip. Irving has recently been bothered by an issue with his hip, and the Cavs said they were being cautious with him.
Andre Drummond scored 20 and Caron Butler 19 for the Pistons, who trailed by 26 in the first half.
The Cavs made 17 3-pointers and became just the 11th team in league history to drop 800 3s in a season. None of the other 10 won the NBA title.
James didn’t secure his 10th rebound until 8:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, and once he got it Cavs coach David Blatt substituted for his superstar.
Irving was favoring his hip on the final possessions of the first half and the Cavs announced at halftime he would not return. Irving remained in the locker room, presumably to get treatment.
After his team clinched the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference last week, Blatt and his staff devised a plan to get players rest. He sat James, Irving, Smith and Kevin Love on Sunday, and the Cavs were throttled by the Celtics, who are battling for one of the East’s final two playoff openings.
Blatt is trying to balance rest with rhythm, hoping to keep his club sharp for a run at a championship. Irving’s hip issue underscores that delicacy.
Back at full force, the Cavs took no pity on the Pistons.
Smith and Irving made 3-pointers as Cleveland reeled off 16 straight points in the first quarter to open a 23-5 lead. The Cavs made four 3s in the final five minutes for a 36-14 lead entering the second quarter.
Detroit battled back and closed within 49-35 before Blatt put his starters back in and the Cavs took off. Smith made three 3-pointers, giving Cleveland a 62-37 lead at the half.
Pistons: Coach Stan Van Gundy, who led Orlando past Cleveland in the 2009 East finals, doesn’t see many weaknesses with the current Cavaliers. “It will take a great performance to beat them,” he said. “If you’re going to play big, they’ve got three guys. If you downsize, LeBron can guard all five positions. There aren’t a lot of holes there.”… F Tayshaun Prince did not play his second straight game, and Van Gundy said he’ll likely sit again in the finale as the Pistons use younger players. … Reggie Jackson averaged 4.3 assists with Oklahoma City, but has been dishing them out at a rate of 9.2 in his first 25 games with Detroit.
Cavaliers: James has 39 career triple-doubles, two this season. … Blatt expects to limit his starters’ minutes in Wednesday’s season finale. … Cleveland is 41-5 when scoring at least 100 points. … Despite missing 12 games, James is one of only three players to score 1,700 points with 500 assists, 400 rebounds and 100 steals this season. Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook are the others.
Pistons: at New York on Wednesday to end season.
Cavaliers: host Washington on Wednesday in regular-season finale.