CLEVELAND (AP) -- One game and one giant step forward.
Ilgauskas, playing for the first time in nearly a year, scored
11 points and Andre Miller had a career-high 34 Tuesday night,
leading the Cavs to a 100-88 win over the Pistons.
The 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas, limited to just 29 games the past three
years because of foot injuries, hadn't played for the Cavs since
last Dec. 22 when he hurt his left foot and underwent his fifth
But although he looked rusty and got winded during his 16
minutes, Ilgauskas sparked the Cavs, who have won five of their
last six home games.
"It's good to be back," Ilgauskas said. "It's been a long,
frustrating road for me, the fans, the team and my family. I played
Miller added 11 assists, including two on key baskets in the
final 2:03 as the Cavs held on. Miller went 12-of-16 from the
field, added eight rebounds, three blocks, three steals and scored
Cleveland's final six points on free throws.
Ilgauskas, who has missed 282 of a possible 396 games since
being drafted in 1996, made 4 of 6 shots, blocked two and altered
"There was a little buzz in the crowd," said Cavs guard Wes
Person. "That was great. There were a lot of smiles on a lot of
faces. He does everything so well. He gives us so many
Corliss Williamson had 19 points for the Pistons, who came in
leading the NBA's Central Division but played more like the squad
which won just 32 games last season.
"We ran some plays and got some looks and didn't knock them
down," said Stackhouse. "Some things they were doing defensively
slowed us down. We moved the ball and got some looks but we didn't
knock down enough."
After scoring nine points in the first half, Ilgauskas came back
with 5:31 left in the third quarter and the Cavs trailing 65-64.
Moments later, Bimbo Coles and Wesley Person hit consecutive
3-pointers and the Cavs went on a 16-2 run to open a 7-point lead
Williamson's basket gave the Pistons an 84-83 lead with 6:06
left, but Miller scored 10 points and the Cavs closed the game with
a 17-4 spurt despite making seven turnovers in the final period.
Ilgauskas made his debut to chants of "Z" and a standing
ovation with 1:53 left in the first quarter and scored his first
basket just 30 seconds later.
Grabbing an entry pass near the baseline, Ilgauskas spun on the
baseline, made a pump fake on Zeljko Rebraca and dropped in a short
Ilgauskas admitted being a bit nervous but said once he was on
the floor, he calmed down -- especially when his first shot dropped.
"I was just happy it went in," he said.
The next time he touched the ball, Ilgauskas drew a shooting
foul and split a pair of free throws. On the defensive end, he
flattened Stackhouse on a drive to the basket.
He dunked, made a left-handed layup and hit a nice fadeaway
jumper from 12 feet before being replaced. As he went to the bench,
Cavs coach John Lucas, who had yet to coach his center in a
regular-season game, slapped hands with Ilgauskas.
Even the Pistons were glad to see Ilgauskas back.
"Hopefully, he can stay healthy," Stackhouse said. "Just
having him back, I know was an inspiration for them."
The Cavs were 15-9 last year when Ilgauskas got hurt. They
went 15-43 without him. ... The Pistons had won three straight road
games. ... Lucas said he wasn't going to hand Ilgauskas his
starting job back. "He's got to earn it," said Lucas, who added
his biggest goal was to make sure "Z" didn't get hurt again.
"This is like patchwork for "Z". Let's get him through the year
and then we can talk about how dominant I think he can be." ...
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