CLEVELAND — It was just your ordinary 43-point turnaround.
With power forward Kevin Love out with a sore back and only nine players available, the Cavs got great performances from a lot of guys while beating the Detroit Pistons 126-119 Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The last time the teams met, on March 2 at The Q, the Pistons (36-34) led the Cavs (18-53) by 39 points early in the fourth quarter before settling for a 129-93 victory.
“Is it a gratifying feeling?” Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. “Yeah, it is, particularly because of the way we played last time. They came into our building and pretty much demolished us.”
There were a lot of stars for the Cavs, but none bigger than rookie point guard Collin Sexton, who hit two clutch 3-pointers — Cedi Osman had another — in a 9-0 run that put Cleveland up 121-114 with 39.6 seconds to play.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Are they the same players they were at the beginning of the season?’” Drew said. “And by no stretch of the imagination are they. Those guys have really, really shown growth.”
Sexton had just one assist, but finished with 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting overall and 5-for-6 from behind the 3-point arc, giving him a rookie league-high six consecutive games with at least 20 points. The 20-year-old also tied Austin Carr’s rookie team record with his sixth straight game of at least 23 points.
“I’m not surprised because I put in the work,” Sexton said. “I knew it eventually was going to pay off.
“Those are the moments people will remember: ‘He made a big shot,’” he said of his two clutch 3-pointers. “Those are the moments I work for.”
Sexton was far from the only star, as Osman put up 21 points, four rebounds and six assists, Nik Stauskas had his best game as a Cavs player while scoring 17 and Brandon Knight finished with 16 points, four rebounds and five assists.
“With guys out, I’m trying to take advantage of it and have a nothing-to-lose mentality,” Stauskas said. “It was just one of those nights.”
Not to be overlooked, David Nwaba, who started in place of Love, had 13 points, six rebounds and four assists and Marquese Chriss had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Until Cleveland’s three consecutive 3-pointers, it had been outscored by 27 points from behind the arc, with former Cavs guard Wayne Ellington leading the Pistons with 25 points on 7-for-13 3-point shooting.
Detroit, which rested power forward Blake Griffin, got 21 points, 21 rebounds and five assists from center Andre Drummond, while point guard Reggie Jackson had 15 points and Langston Galloway and Ish Smith had 13 apiece off the bench.
The Pistons finished 18-for-44 from behind the arc, but the Cavs heated up late to end 11-for-22.
Sexton also made what he and Drew both called “the play of the game” to set up Osman’s 3-pointer with 1:23 to go — driving baseline, drawing Drummond to him and passing to Nwaba in the right corner. Nwaba then made a simple swing pass to Osman, who put the Cavs up 118-114.
“He’s starting to understand the game, starting to understand when to attack the basket and when not to,” Osman said of Sexton. “His last two months, he’s been playing great.
“It shows how much he’s improved throughout the year. He’s a guy that’s willing to work and trying to learn.”
The Cavs held Drummond to two rebounds in the third quarter — he had 15 over the first two quarters — and their shorthanded bench matched its first-half production with 10 points, but the Pistons still led 88-87 going into the fourth.
That came after the Cavs continued their trend of slow starts, falling behind 32-25 after a first quarter in which Drummond had six points, eight rebounds and three assists.
The Pistons went on to make six of their first 10 3-point attempts to go up 46-35 early in the second quarter, but Cleveland responded with a 19-5 run that put it up 54-51 with 3ﾽ minutes left in the half.
Detroit regrouped to take a 61-60 lead at intermission, at which time Drummond had 13 points and 15 rebounds. The Cavs stayed close behind 14 points from Knight, 13 from Sexton and a 12-0 advantage in fast-break points.
Sexton then rose to the occasions as Cleveland pulled out a win down the stretch.
“He certainly has grown as a shooter,” Drew said. “I don’t think anybody can knock his ability to hit the three. I’ve seen him work on it day after day.
“You want players to live for those moments. Collin has shown he’s not going to shy away from those moments.”