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Knight outplays Irving in Pistons' victory

The SportsXchange

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight can't escape comparisons to Cleveland's Kyrie Irving. They both entered the NBA last season as lottery picks, they're the same size, and they play crucial roles for their teams.

Irving earned an All-Star selection last week, but on Friday, he was no match for Knight.

Knight racked up 20 points, six rebounds and 10 assists as the Pistons romped past the Cavaliers 117-99 at The Palace on Friday. Irving, the league's sixth-leading scorer at 23.7 points per game, was limited to 14 points and five assists as Knight hounded him.

"I try to keep it consistent no matter who I'm playing against, but you definitely get up for somebody who came up in your own class and is a good player," said Knight, the No. 8 pick in the 2011 draft while Irving was the top overall selection. "It's not my job to see who I'm measured by, but the most important thing for myself is to try to reach my potential."

The Pistons bounced back from consecutive losses, including a 98-79 thumping by Indiana on Wednesday. The team found out shortly before Wednesday's game that long-time Pistons small forward Tayshaun Prince had been traded to Toronto.

"Just before the game, the preparation was different for everybody," Knight said. "Everything was a little bit different. Guys lost friends that day, guys were thinking how the future would be, so there were a lot of emotions. You've got to be professional, but it was a little tougher to focus on that game than it usually is."

Knight, who had his first double-digit assist game since Nov. 16 against Orlando, wasn't the only Piston who enjoyed a big night. Rookie Kyle Singler had a career-high 20 points, and Greg Monroe recorded his 18th double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey added 14 points for the Pistons (18-29), who clinched the four-game season series with the Cavs by winning the first three meetings.

Detroit led by as much as 19 and never trailed. Its point total was two shy of a season high despite 20 missed free throws. The Pistons shot better from the field (54.2 percent) than the foul line (53.5).

"We did a good job of sharing the ball with each other," Stuckey said. "We were getting out on the break a lot more, and if we had made more of our free throws, we would have won a lot bigger."

Tristan Thompson led Cleveland (13-34), which had won three of its last four, with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Marreese Speights had 17 points.

"There were problems everywhere," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "We came out nonchalant and did not have the effort or the energy for whatever reason. The reason they beat us pretty handily three times is because they play harder than we do for longer periods of time."

Irving put the blame on himself.

"I take full responsibility for my lackluster play that kind of trickled down to everybody else," he said. "This cannot happen and this will never happen again. I can guarantee that."

Stuckey scored 10 third-quarter points as the Pistons gained a comfortable advantage. He converted a layup off a Monroe feed to make it 68-58. He soon followed with four free throws before backcourt partner Knight stretched the advantage to 15, 79-64, with a 3-pointer and two free throws. When Knight made a pull-up jumper in the final minute of the quarter, Detroit's lead was up to 19, at 85-66.

Cleveland sliced the deficit under double digits when C.J. Miles' 3-pointer made it 99-90 with 4:43 remaining, but that was as close as it would get.

Knight, who was averaging 23.5 points and 6.0 assists this season against the Cavs, had 11 points, five rebounds and five assists in the first half as the Pistons led 54-47 at halftime. Detroit had a 34-22 advantage in points in the paint but hurt itself at the free-throw line, missing eight of 14 attempts in the first half.

NOTES: The Cavs played without reserves Luke Walton (personal reasons) and Daniel Gibson (sprained toe). ... Pistons point guard Jose Calderon, acquired from Toronto by way of Memphis on Wednesday in a three-team deal, did not play because of visa issues. Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said Calderon would start when he's cleared to play and Knight would move to shooting guard. "What this trade does to us, the adjustments will be -- if we can defend -- we'll be able to get out in the open court more," Frank said. "We'll run more multiple pick and rolls because we'll always have two (ball-handling) guards on the floor." ... The Cavaliers begin a seven-game homestand against Oklahoma City on Saturday. ... Pistons center Andre Drummond has eight double-doubles this season, a league high for rookies. Cleveland's Tyler Zeller has four, tying him for fourth place among first-year players. ... Singler's previous high was 16 points, which he reached three times.
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