Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 4)

Series starts 12/31

Game 1: Saturday, December 31st
Game 2: Sunday, February 26th
Game 3: Monday, February 27th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 12th

Pistons 84

(24-4, 12-3 away)

Cavaliers 97

(18-10, 13-3 home)

1:30 PM ET, December 31, 2005

Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

1 2 3 4 T
DET 20 20 23 2184
CLE 21 33 27 1697

Top Performers

Det: B. Wallace 11 Pts, 18 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 Blk

Cle: L. James 30 Pts, 7 Reb, 7 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

Cavs cool off Pistons behind LeBron's 30  

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cavaliers weren't intimidated by the Pistons' impressive record, rich history or Ben Wallace's biceps.

With a Pistons-like defensive performance, Cleveland made Detroit look ordinary in a 97-84 victory Saturday.

"That's a good team that came into our building," Cavs guard Larry Hughes said. "We think we're supposed to win."

One day after LeBron James turned 21, and against the NBA's top squad, the Cavs may have come of age, too.

James scored 30 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals against the Pistons, who had their winning streak stopped at nine and lost for just the fourth time.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 18 points, Hughes 16 and Drew Gooden 12 with 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who posted their most impressive victory on the final day of '05 and improved to 13-3 at Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland has won the last three meetings and four of five at home against the Pistons, the team they're trying to catch in the Central Division and the franchise they aspire to be like someday.

"I told LeBron, 'It's just like when Chicago won the championship. If you want to go deep in the playoffs, then this is the team we have to go through. This is the team we have to beat," Donyell Marshall said. "That's a very big step for us."

The Pistons came in on pace to win a record 73 regular-season games, but shot a season-low 36 percent (29-of-81) from the floor and dropped to 24-4 -- still one of the best starts in league history.

Tayshaun Prince, averaging 15.1 points, had just four on 2-of-12 shooting and Chauncey Billups was only 2-for-11 from the field and had 14.

"We played horribly offensively," Prince said. "We got the shots we wanted but couldn't make anything. We were missing layups -- everything."

Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton had 21 points apiece to lead the Pistons and Ben Wallace added 11 with 18 rebounds.

The Cavaliers, who led by 19 in the first half, pushed it to 20 late in the third quarter and then held off a late push by the Pistons, who got within 92-82 on Carlos Delfino's free throw with 3:41 remaining.

But James, who posted up in the lane more than usual, drilled a 3-pointer with 3:17 left, and after Ilgauskas' basket made it 97-82, Cleveland fans began their New Year's Eve partying a little early.

"That's the best team in the league," Gooden said. "They have a (championship) ring. We see them as the measuring stick."

James, who has scored at least 30 in 11 of his last 14 games, finished December averaging 32.4 points -- the highest one-month average in club history. The Cavaliers have 18 wins after two months for the first time since 1996-97.

"We knew we had to bring our 'A' game," said James, "and that's what we did."

The Pistons started cold from the floor and remained that way in the first half, shooting just 31 percent in falling behind by 19.

"Nothing would go in," said Prince, who made his first shot and then missed 10 of 11. "Usually after we miss some shots, we heat up a little, but we couldn't get anything going."

Marshall made consecutive 3s and James completed a three-point play as the Cavaliers opened the second quarter with 11 straight points, forcing the Pistons to play from behind the rest of the way.

"They controlled the tempo," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "We played out of character."

Game notes

Cleveland has won seven of eight and went 8-6 in December after a 1-5 start to the month. ... James also averaged 6.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.9 steals in December. ... Saunders is just the second coach in league history to start 24-3 in his first season as coach. Bill Sharman opened the 1971-72 season 39-3 with the Los Angeles Lakers. ... The Cavs hadn't played on New Year's Eve since 1970, their inaugural season in the NBA, when they lost 119-85 at Atlanta and fell to 5-39. ... Cavs coach Mike Brown, who has just two technicals in his first season, tries the tender approach before yelling at officials. "I usually start with Merry Christmas or Happy New Year, and then say, 'Can you take a look at that last call," Brown said. ... Like the Pistons, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, whose 72-10 season is the NBA's best ever, started 23-3 before winning 18 in a row. ... Browns rookie WR Braylon Edwards sat courtside. He's scheduled to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday -- doctors had to wait until swelling went down -- and will need at least nine months to recover.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 84 97
FGM-FGA 29-81 (.358) 35-80 (.438)
3PM-3PA 4-20 (.200) 6-18 (.333)
FTM-FTA 22-29 (.759) 21-26 (.808)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 17-43 12-46
Assists 17 16
Turnovers 12 10
Steals 4 9
Blocks 5 4
Fast Break Points 6 20
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (2/0) 22 (0/0)
Largest Lead 2 20

Top Performers

Ben Wallace Wallace
Points: 11
Reb: 18
Ast: 2
Stl: 1
Blk: 4
LeBron James James
Points: 30
Reb: 7
Ast: 7
Stl: 4
Blk: 1