CLEVELAND — Isaiah Thomas recorded a season-high seven assists in the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 121-104 win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday but did not play at all in the fourth quarter as the Cavs outscored the Detroit Pistons 31-17 in the final frame to pull away with the victory.
“I don’t know. What do you want me to say?” Thomas said when asked about watching the end from the bench. “I’m just glad we won.”
The win over the Pistons came a day after Thomas said it wasn’t fair that the Cavs’ defensive woes were being viewed as his fault after he made his debut in early January following a seven-and-a-half-month layoff because of a torn labrum in his hip. During Saturday’s media availability, Thomas also had a back-and-forth with a reporter about his shot selection, which he referenced when asked about his approach to Sunday’s game.
“Yeah, I changed it because they was mad at my shot selection,” Thomas said sarcastically. “No, I just made the right play. That’s all I did. I tried to get in the paint, be aggressive. Guys made shots, and that’s just how I play. So, I mean, if there are two guys on me, I just try to find the open guy every time, and nine times out of 10, I try to make the right play, whether that’s getting a ball to a teammate or me scoring, and guys knocked down shots, so they helped me out today.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue played Thomas the entire third quarter, and he scored 10 of his 14 points in the period as the Cavs outscored the Pistons 32-26. Thomas finished the third alongside four of the Cavs’ reserves, as Lue began to implement his new rotation wrinkle that will stagger Thomas’ and LeBron James‘ minutes to allow each player time to be the lead in the offense without the other.
“We talked about it, so I think that needs to happen,” Thomas said of the adjustment. “My minutes just can’t be with LeBron at all times. We got to play to our strengths. Just like Chris Paul and James Harden, they don’t play together at all times.
“We got to play to our strengths. Kyrie [Irving] last year, they didn’t play together at all times. So he’s figuring it out, and we’re figuring it out as a unit, how to use our strengths, and at the same time, we know for the most part we start games together, finish games together, and we go from there. So it’s a learning process, and we’re still learning each other. I’m still learning this team, and Ty Lue is still learning how to use me and use me to the best of my ability.”
“Came back and started Bron in the fourth quarter,” Lue said. “Him and Kevin [Love] came out with five-and-a-half [minutes] to go in the third quarter, so we left I.T. in. We tried to get him out early in the first half, but we left I.T. in, and he was able to carry the scoring load in that third quarter. Then brought Bron back to start the fourth quarter and had a great rhythm. Tristan [Thompson] and those [other] guys [who started] said, ‘Let them go. Let them play.’ Second unit came in and played well.”
Korver, who benefited from the lineup shuffle, as he scored nine points on 3-for-3 shooting in the fourth quarter alone, acknowledged that having a fluid rotation plan takes some getting used to.
“I think Ty, what he’s been doing, he’s trying to get guys in a rhythm,” Korver said. “He’s in a tough spot. He’s trying to find, trying to get guys in rhythm, but he’s also trying to feel the game. He sees someone gets hot, he rides them.
“He usually does that. And, but he’s in a tough spot. I.T.’s finding his rhythm, different lineups are finding their rhythm, and that’s what the regular season is for, is for us to figure out what’s best. But you’ve got to have patience with it, and so, but like I said, tonight that kind of second unit with Bron there was kind of rolling in the fourth quarter, and our defense was great. We gave up 17 in the fourth quarter, which, whoa, good job Cavs. Uh, you know, so you kind of let it go.”
Sunday marked the 10th game Thomas has played this season.
“Just getting my legs back,” he said. “Getting my rhythm back. Like I continue to say, it’s going to take time, but that’s always positive to see flashes like that with me moving and cutting like I’m used to doing. So I’ll build on it, keep working, and it will come.”