The Pistons led 82-66 going into the fourth quarter, but once again collapsed down the stretch.
Jarrett Jack hit a 3-pointer to pull the Cavaliers within 96-90 with 2:49 left, and his jump shot made it a 4-point game with 90 seconds to play. After a bad Brandon Jennings miss, Jack drove the lane and hit a floater while being fouled. His free throw made it 96-95 with 53.8 seconds left.
Josh Smith dribbled himself into trouble, and missed a desperate shot as the 24-second clock expired, but Kyle Singler knocked the rebound off Waiters to give the Pistons another chance. Jennings ran the clock down to 3.2 seconds, but missed a jumper to give Cleveland a chance to win.
Both teams called two timeouts before the ball was inbounded, but Waiters got the ball in the right corner and hit the winner as time expired.
Matt Dellavedova led Cleveland with a career-high 21 points, Waiters had 18 and Jack 17. Smith finished with 24 for Detroit.
Detroit dominated early, and looked ready for a rare blowout victory. They led by as many as 14 in the first quarter, but it didn't last. The Cavaliers rallied after three Pistons starters picked up two quick fouls, and Detroit needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Singler to lead 51-50 at the intermission.
Singler and Jennings both had 11 points in the half, while Anderson Varejao came off the bench to get eight points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
The Pistons got off to another quick start in the third, once again controlling the game with Varejao on the sidelines. Smith and Greg Monroe combined for 18 points in the quarter, as the Pistons were able to pound the ball inside, and Jennings hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to give Detroit the 16-point lead going into the fourth.
Andre Drummond and Tyler Zeller were called for double technicals after a minor confrontation in the second quarter. ... Drummond missed all four of his first-half free throws, including an air ball that was wide left by nearly a foot. Smith made it a rare double by air-balling a free throw in the third quarter. ... Cleveland only dressed 10 players, as they were missing five due to injuries, including Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett.