AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Ben Wallace doesn't get MVP
consideration or hit dramatic shots like his All-Star teammates.
But none of the Detroit Pistons have any doubt about which
player is at the heart of their 46-9 start.
Sunday, Wallace had 11 points and 19 rebounds as the Pistons
beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 90-78.
"They might as well take the Defensive Player of the Year award
and send it to Ben," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He's been
on a mission in the last three weeks, and when you look at all of
the things he's doing -- rebounding, blocking shots and making
steals -- he's been phenomenal."
Detroit never trailed, and led by at least 10 points for most of
the second half. The teams play again Monday night in Cleveland.
"They did a great job taking us out of our offense," Cavs
coach Mike Brown said. "There is no way you can win on the road
with 20 turnovers, especially against a team like this."
The Pistons have won five straight overall and 12 in a row at
the Palace, while Cleveland lost its third in a row to fall 14½
games behind Detroit in the Central Division.
James got kicked in the shin late in the third quarter, causing
a noticeable limp, but he wasn't worried about the injury.
"I'm going to ice it down and be ready for tomorrow," he said.
Ilgauskas missed most of the first quarter after needing five
stitches to close a head wound caused by Rasheed Wallace's elbow.
Ilgauskas felt Wallace was getting revenge for an incident moments
"I think he was frustrated because I caught him first with an
elbow and then he hit me back," he said. "Mine wasn't
intentional. His, I haven't seen the replay."
Wallace, who was called for a flagrant foul, hit Ilgauskas in
the top of the head as the Lithuanian drove for a layup.
"I'm not going to start the game by cracking a cat in the skull
if I don't get elbowed first," he said.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half -- Cleveland
shot 33 percent from the floor and the Pistons missed 10 of 11
3-point attempts -- but Billups and Hamilton combined for 24 points
to put Detroit up 44-33.
The Pistons expanded their lead to 56-37 on a Tayshaun Prince
3-pointer early in the third, and led 67-52 by the end of the
Saunders has been trying to get Ben Wallace more touches on the
offensive end. The results have been mixed -- he shot airballs on
two mid-range jumpers Sunday -- but it has been important to
"I at least want to make the other guys guard me," he said.
"I know that when I'm getting involved on offense, it gives me
more confidence and energy."
Wallace's efforts don't go unnoticed by the opposition, either.
"Ben is quick, athletic, strong, tenacious and hungry -- the
whole nine yards," Brown said. "He makes it tough because you are
afraid to drive the basketball when you know he's back there."<
^NOTES@: Prince and both head coaches picked up first-half technical
fouls for arguing calls. ... Pistons rookie Alex Acker scored his
first career points on a basket in the last minute of the game. ...
Detroit announced after the game that rookie Amir Johnson would
report to the NBDL on Monday. ... Cleveland's three-game losing
streak is its longest since a six-game slide in late January.
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