AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Kyrie Irving made big shots, defended tenaciously and then waved goodbye to the Detroit fans.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are moving on to the second round — and they’re looking like a pretty complete team.
Irving scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half, and the Cavs finished off a four-game sweep of the Pistons, holding on for a 100-98 victory on Sunday night. Irving scored 110 points in the series, easily the most on the team.
“For our team, it doesn’t matter who is the leading scorer or anything. We just want to get wins,” LeBron James said. “But the fact that he was in such a great groove, just throughout this whole series, we rode his coattails, we rode (Kevin Love), and I was able to focus on some other things, especially my rebounding, get guys involved — defensively, just try to lock in on my individual matchup.”
James had 22 points, but it was Irving who made the biggest shots all night. His midcourt buzzer beater put the Cavs up 81-78 after the third quarter, and with Cleveland clinging to a one-point lead in the final minute, he sank a 3-pointer from the right wing with 42 seconds remaining and then walked over to the bench, calm as could be.
The Pistons still had a chance at the end, but with Irving hounding him, Reggie Jackson’s wild shot at the buzzer was off the mark. Irving then started waving goodbye to the fans at the Palace.
Cleveland advances to play either Atlanta or Boston. The Cavs appear to be in better shape than they were in last year’s playoffs, when Irving and Love were both injured by the time Golden State took the title by beating Cleveland in the NBA Finals.
Irving fractured his kneecap against the Warriors and needed surgery and months of rehab before coming back.
“I knew that the preparation was for the postseason,” Irving said. “I knew that during the regular season, there was going to be peaks and valleys, and I really just had to come to grips with it.”
Marcus Morris led Detroit with 24 points, but the Pistons lost to Cleveland for the 12th straight game in the postseason, equaling an NBA record. Detroit has also lost 10 straight playoff games overall. Its most recent postseason appearance before this one was in 2009, and the Pistons were swept by Cleveland in the first round that year, too.
Cleveland shot 43 percent from 3-point range in the first three games of this series. The Cavs weren’t as sharp Sunday, but they kept putting shots up from long distance, going 13 of 36. J.R. Smith was 5 of 7, including a heave from well behind the line that beat the shot clock buzzer and gave Cleveland a 95-86 lead.
Detroit made one more run, playing a smaller lineup toward the end and earning a chance to win it or force overtime. Jackson missed a 3-pointer from near the top of the key, and although he pleaded for a foul, his team’s season was over.
“I just think refs need to have some type of system in line ... fines, suspensions, being fired. Same thing happens to us,” Jackson said. “Make bad plays or questionable, you’re not really being productive to the sport. Things should have consequences, just like the players.”
The Los Angeles Lakers beat Seattle 12 straight times in the playoffs from 1980-89. Cleveland has tied that mark with its streak against the Pistons.
Irving scored 10 quick points in a flurry early in the third quarter. The Pistons trailed by 11 but rallied to tie it before Irving made his shot from halfcourt. It was not the first time a shot like that went in against Detroit this season.
“I don’t know what we gave up, maybe a half a dozen?” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That’s one thing, training camp, we’re going to have to work on — guarding the halfcourt shot. Matt Barnes beat us with one. We had a bunch of others.”
Cleveland dominated its rivalry with Detroit this week, with the Indians finishing up a three-game sweep of the Tigers earlier Sunday. The Cavaliers’ Twitter account acknowledged that before Sunday night’s basketball game with the following message: “Hey @Indians, can we borrow that broom when you’re done with it?”
Cavaliers: Mo Williams (sore left knee) did not play.
Pistons: Reggie Bullock (left leg) missed the game. ... Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2008 against Boston. ... Tobias Harris scored 23 points, and Andre Drummond had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister