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Coach Mike Brown simply wanted to get a look at some of his youngsters in Thursday’s preseason matchup with the Pistons. Instead, he got a bonus, as the Cavaliers – with four rookies on the floor against Detroit’s starters in the final period – blew past their old rivals and ran away with a 96-84 win at The Q.
Detroit closed the first half on a 20-8 run and led by three at intermission. But Cleveland’s defense clamped down in the second stanza – limiting the Pistons to just 29 percent shooting in the final two quarters and outscoring them, 50-35, in the second half.
Seven Cavaliers notched double-figures, including four starters. Kyrie Irving and Jermaine Taylor led the Wine and Gold with 15 points apiece. Irving scored 12 of his 15 in the third period; Taylor notched 10 of his in the second half.
Rookie Sergey Karasev got his first start of the preseason in place of Dion Waiters, who sat out with a right hip contusion. The 19-year-old Russian – who just acquired his U.S. VISA earlier this week – buried the first three-pointer he attempted and finished 4-of-7 overall, netting 10 points, three boards and a block before fouling out late in the contest.
Karasev was 3-for-3 from the floor in the fourth quarter and logged 34 minutes overall. He spent much of the evening checking veteran guard Chauncey Billups, who made his NBA debut when Sergey was four years old.
“(Karasev)’s got a confidence to him that most guys at his age don’t have,” praised Coach Brown. “He has an older veteran confidence. Most guys his age would have more of a cockiness than a confidence. He’s got a confidence in his game that makes you open your eyes. You got to respect it and you got to pay attention to it. Sometimes you forget that he’s 19-years-old.”
The man selected 18 spots in front of Karasev – top pick Anthony Bennett – was every bit as impressive, also going 4-of-7 from the floor. Bennett finished with 12 points off the bench, going 2-of-3 from long-distance to go with four boards and a steal.
After getting the night off in Tuesday’s loss to the Bobcats, Anderson Varejao returned in mid-season form, notching a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards.
“I felt great tonight, I felt fresh,” said Varejao. “I had a couple days off. I was in the weight room and it did good for me.”
Varejao wasn’t the only double-figure rebounder for Cleveland. Henry Sims, who’s fighting for a frontcourt roster spot, grabbed 10 rebounds to go with eight points – (on 4-of-5 shooting) – adding a team-high four steals in just 20 minutes of action.
Earl Clark had easily his best preseason performance in a Cavaliers uniform. Clark, acquired as a free agent over the summer, came into Thursday’s contest shooting a combined 5-for-21 from the floor. In the victory over Detroit, Clark was 5-of-9 from the field for 10 points.
Tristan Thompson rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with 11 points, seven rebounds – four off the offensive glass – a steal and a blocked shot.
On the night, the Cavaliers bench outscored Detroit’s, 49-26. Cleveland grabbed 11 more boards and tallied 27 assists on 28 made field goals.
Along with Waiters, Cavs swingman CJ Miles was a late scratch on Thursday, taking the night off to rest a sore left leg.
The Cavaliers – who improved to 3-1 in the preseason – take on another Central Division foe this weekend, welcoming Indiana to The Q for a Saturday night affair. The Wine and Gold hit the road early next week but remain in the state of Ohio – facing Philly on Monday night in Columbus and the Wizards two nights later in Cincinnati.