Los Angeles (AFP) – Cleveland superstar LeBron James poured in 31 points and Larry Nance Jr. added 22 in his first start for the Cavaliers on Monday in a 112-90 triumph over the Detroit Pistons.
Nance, who arrived in Cleveland in a February 8 trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, started at center in place of Tristan Thompson, who sprained an ankle against Denver on Saturday.
He and James combined to score Cleveland’s first 20 points, and their combined 34 points in the first half helped stake the Cavs to a 54-49 halftime lead.
Cleveland kept the pressure on in the third quarter, out-scoring Detroit 36-21. That included 13 points from James in less than five minutes to open the second half.
He departed after three quarters having handed out seven assists and seven rebounds.
Nance pulled down 15 rebounds and helped limit Pistons center Andre Drummond to 15 points.
“It just kind of felt easy,” Nance said. “The guys were giving me all the opportunity in the world to make my shots, and I just happened to be making them.”
Blake Griffin led Detroit with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but the Pistons dropped their third straight and have now lost nine of their last 11.
They are ninth in the Eastern Conference, five games out of playoff position with the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks in seventh and eighth.
The Heat closed out a 4-1 homestand on Monday with a 125-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Center Hassan Whiteside scored 24 points with 14 rebounds in three quarters and point guard Goran Dragic added 17 points for a Heat team that saw seven players score in double figures.
The Bucks dropped to eighth in the East with a 92-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.
Bojan Bogdanovic equalled a career high with 29 points and came up with a crucial jump ball in the waning seconds as the Pacers thwarted the Bucks’ comeback bid.
The Pacers trailed the Bucks by two at halftime, but Bogdanovic scored 11 points in a third quarter as Indiana took a 92-89 lead.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive,” he said.
– No Irving, no problem –
The Boston Celtics didn’t feel the absence of star point guard Kyrie Irving in a 105-89 victory over the Bulls in Chicago.
With Irving nursing a sore knee, Boston started strong and never looked back — scoring the first seven points en route to a 35-16 lead after one quarter.
Jaylen Brown scored 21 points fr Boston, who led by as many as 37 on the way to a fifth win in six games.
The Celtics are 1 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors for the Eastern Conference lead.
The Bulls, meanwhile, lost for the 14th time in 17 games.
In San Antonio, veteran point guard Tony Parker scored 23 points and handed out four assists as the Spurs edged the Memphis Grizzlies 100-98.
“Tony was his old self,” guard Danny Green said of the French star, a 17-year veteran who came off the bench as he continues to battle back from a quadriceps tendon injury suffered last May.
Green had 14 points and Davis Bertans added 17 for the Spurs, who had lost four at home and eight of their last 10 to fall from third to sixth in the Western Conference.
The win was especially important as the Spurs now embark on a tough road swing against the Golden state Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.