Created on Saturday, 02 February 2013 Written by NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Brandon Knight could tell the Detroit Pistons needed a little boost after the trade earlier this week that sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to Memphis.
"Guys lost friends that day," Knight said. "Guys were thinking how the future will be. There's a lot of emotions there."
Two days after the deal, Knight and the Pistons were sharp Friday night in a 117-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Knight had 20 points and 10 assists for Detroit, and Greg Monroe added 18 points and 16 rebounds.
The Pistons never trailed, despite playing without Jose Calderon — the man they acquired from Toronto in Wednesday's three-team deal. The Spanish-born point guard was unavailable to play because of visa issues.
Knight, also a point guard, might play off the ball more once Calderon is in the lineup.
"Great player — done a lot of good things over his career, and definitely a big help for us coming in," Knight said. "We'll get used to playing with one another and see how it works out."
Knight was a lottery pick two years ago, so Calderon's arrival won't necessarily mean a reduced role for the 6-foot-3 guard. He may be asked to become more of a scorer, though.
He made his first four shots Friday, and the Pistons opened an early 21-11 lead on a dunk by Monroe. Cleveland shot only 22 percent from the field in the first quarter. The Cavaliers finished at 40 percent.
Knight more than held his own against Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft — when Knight was taken eighth by Detroit.
"We came out soft, and we played that way for the whole game. I take full responsibility for that, because I didn't play with energy, and that trickles down to the rest of the team," Irving said. "I let things that happened in the game bother me, and I got disinterested and let the game get away from me. I can promise that won't ever happen again."
Tristan Thompson led Cleveland with 19 points.
Kyle Singler scored 20 points for the Pistons.
Detroit led 54-47 at the half and extended its advantage in the third quarter. Knight made a 3-pointer followed by a pair of free throws to make it 79-64. A jumper by Knight gave the Pistons their largest lead at 85-66 late in the quarter.
"I thought Brandon definitely set the tone," Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. "We came ready to play."
Detroit is 3-0 against Cleveland this season. Irving didn't play in either of the first two meetings, and now the Cavaliers are without center Anderson Varejao for the rest of the season.
Varejao was treated recently for a blood clot in his right lung.
Irving scored 14 points. Cleveland managed 20 offensive rebounds in each of the first two losses to the Pistons. Without Varejao, the Cavaliers had only 13 this time.
"That's the third time we've played that team, and they've played harder every time and they've been tougher every time. Maybe we need to go back to 2½ or three-hour practices and run up and down the floor," Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. "I asked our guys if they were content being 13-34, because if they are, let me know and we can make some changes."
Cleveland had won three of four entering the game, and the Cavaliers had outscored each of those opponents in the fourth quarter. That streak ended Friday, when Detroit won the fourth 32-31.
Cleveland cut the deficit to nine at 99-90 in the fourth when C.J. Miles made a 3-pointer following a pair of missed free throws by Detroit rookie Andre Drummond. The Pistons took Drummond out, so the Cavaliers began fouling Charlie Villanueva intentionally. Villanueva went 3 of 6 from the line during that stretch, but Cleveland couldn't take advantage.
NOTES: Irving and Knight entered the game ranked one-two in the league among players under age 22 in assists per game. ... Detroit shot 23 of 43 on free throws.