CLEVELAND — The Eastern Conference finals this was not, but the Cavaliers will take it.
With LeBron James and every other starter for both teams watching from the bench, Cleveland rallied to beat the Detroit Pistons 96-90 in overtime Thursday night in exhibition play at Quicken Loans Arena.
This was a night for guys like center Dwayne Jones, who made two free throws to tie the game with 0.4 seconds left in regulation, and Devin Brown, who was only 3-of-13 from the field but still willed his way to 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“Big D.J. was terrific,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “That’s what we’re looking for from one of those bigs trying to make the team. We’re looking for a guy who’s going to be a presence in the middle, who’s going to rebound, who’s going to defend. We don’t need any more scorers.”
Jones, who appeared in just four games last season, finished with six points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in 30 minutes. The 6-foot-11, 251-pounder’s offensive game is basically limited to dunking, but he nailed two pressure-packed free throws to force OT after missing his previous four attempts badly.
“I was pretty confident,” the St. Joseph’s product maintained. “All summer, I worked on my routine. I wasn’t worried at all. I knew what I did wrong. I just tried to correct it.”
With Anderson Varejao holding out and Cedric Simmons sidelined by a bone bruise to his left ankle, Jones has a golden opportunity to not only make the team, but earn a few minutes early in the regular season.
The 24-year-old also knows what he has to do in order to do that.
“We’ve got enough scorers on this team,” Jones said. “We need role players. I’m hoping to be one of those.”
So is Devin Brown, a 6-5, 220-pound guard who didn’t report to camp in the greatest of shape, but who has a knack for getting into the lane and making those important garbage plays.
“He’s just solid,” Mike Brown said. “He’s going to rebound for you, he’s going to assist for you, he’s going to defend for you.”
James, of course, will do all that and more. He had 17 points in 17 first-half minutes before going scoreless over the first eight minutes of the third quarter.
The Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 17, were still down 64-50 when James exited with 3:34 to play in the third, but Damon Jones, Dwayne Jones, Devin Brown, Donyell Marshall and Daniel Gibson sparked a 25-6 Cleveland run.
Down the stretch of the fourth quarter and in overtime, it was Dwayne Jones, Devin Brown, Shannon Brown, Darius Rice and Hassan Adams getting the job done for the Cavaliers.
“It was fun to get some minutes out there,” Dwayne Jones said. “I’ve been around a year and that’s probably the most I’ve been on the court.”
Simmons, acquired from the New Orleans Hornets for David Wesley and cash considerations just before camp opened, underwent an MRI on his left ankle late Wednesday and will be out indefinitely, leaving the already big man-challenged Cavaliers even thinner on the front line.
“He was a talented young big,” Mike Brown said. “I thought he was really making strides. He showed flashes of being a guy that might be able to play some minutes for us. That still may be the case, but now it’s been put on hold.”
Sheed at it again
Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace and Cleveland’s Drew Gooden were assessed technicals as Gooden was preparing to shoot a free throw in the third quarter. When Detroit came down the floor, Wallace tried to post up Gooden, but James came over and swatted his shot away. It was clearly goal-tending, but no call was made. That led to Wallace mouthing about the no-call to James as the Detroit power forward went to the bench.
Gooden was 1-of-5 from the floor, making him 3-of-17 in two preseason games.
• For the second straight game, the Cavaliers finished with a whopping 27 turnovers. Gibson had committed seven turnovers midway through the third quarter.
• A player to watch is Detroit rookie Rodney Stuckey, who is athletic and owns an NBA body. The guard out of East Washington had 10 points.
• Tonight’s 7:30 game at The Q against No. 2 draft pick Kevin Durant and the Seattle Sonics will be broadcast on WMMS-FM 100.7 because the Indians will be on WTAM-AM 1100.
(bullet) Immediately following that game, the Cavaliers will depart for an eight-day trip to China.
Contact Rick Noland may be reached at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.