CLEVELAND: Isaiah Thomas spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench, the ball-dominant shooter separated from ball-dominant Cavaliers star LeBron James, frequently the de facto point guard when the game is on the line.

Kyle Korver was back on the floor with James, so James’ energy-filled passes could find the man who ranks fourth in league history in 3-pointers made.

Channing Frye played significant minutes.

Derrick Rose and Tristan Thompson also sat the entire final period as the Cavs won going away over the Detroit Pistons 121-104 Sunday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

Although Frye, 34, and Korver, 36, would exclude themselves from the conversation, the Cavs stacked the rotation with power and athleticism in James, Jeff Green and Jae Crowder.

They found a long-lost defensive effort with the group, holding the Pistons to 17 points as the visitors suffered their eighth consecutive loss.

With 11 weeks left in the regular season and a team full of stars, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue must sort out the rotations that have confounded him. The roster could still be remade before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

There may be some uncomfortable decisions, none more so than what to do with Thomas, just 10 games into his return from a torn labrum in his right hip and nowhere near the player he was for most of last season.

But Korver said Lue is making inroads into a puzzle that has likely frustrated his players as much as their coach.

“He’s trying to get guys in a rhythm … but he’s also trying to feel the game. He sees someone gets hot, he rides them. He usually does that,” Korver said of Lue. “But he’s in a tough spot. It’s finding his rhythm, different lineups are finding their rhythm.

“That’s what the regular season is for — for us to figure out what’s best. But you’ve got to have patience with it.”

The dynamic with Thomas and James seems particularly touchy. Thomas played the entire third quarter, the last 4:57 without James, and led the Cavs with 10 points in the period.

But Thomas didn’t seem happy about sitting out the fourth, especially when the Cavs led 90-87 after three quarters.

“I don’t know. What do you want me to say? I’m just glad we won,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he understands that Lue may want to stagger his minutes with James.

“We talked about it, so I think that needs to happen,” Thomas said. “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. Kyrie [Irving] last year, they didn’t play together at all times.

“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. 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 to the best of my ability.”

Last season Thomas ranked second in the league in fourth-quarter scoring with a 9.8 average, just behind MVP Russell Westbrook (10.0). On that list, James averaged 7.1 and then-Cav Irving 5.6.

This season James leads the league in fourth-quarter average (8.2) and Korver is first in fourth-quarter 3-pointers with 52.

But Korver and James have not played together much of late and Korver has not been as productive. In the previous five games before Sunday, Korver had taken 13 3-point shots and made four. Against the Pistons, he went 4-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-7 from long range. In the fourth quarter, Korver hit all three of his attempts, including two 3s, and tied James with nine points in the period.

“It was fun. Felt like it had been a while since I had been out there when it matters,” Korver said.

Korver acknowledged James still carried them. From the 7:46 mark until he left with 49.9 seconds left, James scored or assisted on eight of the Cavs’ nine field goals.

Lue also liked the way Frye defended the post and spread the floor against Pistons’ 6-foot-11 center Andre Drummond, so Frye played over 20 minutes after sitting out two of the previous four games. Frye contributed seven points, seven rebounds and two assists, along with a second-quarter rebound dunk that energized his teammates.

“I had fun because I wasn’t sitting the bench,” Frye said. “I didn’t have to do extra cardio because I played 20 minutes.”

Unable to keep everyone happy, Lue may be forced to think matchups first when allocating minutes, as he did with Frye Sunday.

“We’re just trying to figure out what’s working,” Frye said. “We’ve watched a lot more film. We’re seeing different lineups out there and we’re just trying to figure out our rhythm and who we are. We have a lot of different lineups that work and a lot of different lineups that are good. We have to shoot the ball and run and just have fun.”

Compounding Lue’s dilemma is that the Cavs have played better this season with fewer players in the rotation. For most of the 13-game winning streak they had only nine healthy men.

On Sunday, for the second consecutive game, they were without guard Dwyane Wade, whose agent and mentor Henry “Hank” Thomas died Saturday morning. Lue said Wade may rejoin the team in Detroit for Tuesday’s game.

“It’s tough playing 11 guys,” Lue conceded. “When you’re not going to play a guy you just have to talk to them. We have 13, 14 guys that should play, actually. It’s going to be different games for different guys.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.