CLEVELAND, Dec. 31 (Ticker) --
The Detroit Pistons beat Tim Duncan
in their nine-game winning streak. LeBron James
wouldn't let the streak get to 10.
One day after his 21st birthday, James scored 30 points and the
Cleveland Cavaliers held the Pistons to a season-low 36 percent
shooting in a 97-84 victory.
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"We had to bring our A game and that's what we did," said James,
who also had seven rebounds and seven assists. "Defensively,
we just tuned in every assignment that we had and every
assignment that we practiced."
It was the first meeting of the season between the Central
Division rivals. Last year, they split four games.
The Pistons are doing their best to run away with the division,
getting off to a 24-3 start before Saturday's loss. The Cavaliers
entered with a 17-10 record.
Detroit was bidding to become the first NBA team to win 10 in a
row since it won 11 straight last March 30-April 19. But after
beating Duncan and the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on
Christmas Day in a rematch of last year's NBA Finals and
defeating O'Neal and the Miami Heat two nights ago, the Pistons
did not shoot well enough to beat James and the Cavaliers.
The Pistons' perimeter trio of Richard Hamilton
, Chauncey Billups
and Tayshaun Prince
combined to make just 6-of-29 shots
in the first half when the Cavaliers built a 54-40 lead.
"We couldn't get anything going in the first half," Prince said.
"We missed a lot of layups, we missed some easy shots and they
continued to stay with the same defense."
James scored 11 of his points in the third quarter, including a
pair of free throws with 1:55 left to help the Cavaliers open
their biggest lead at 79-59.
"I thought our guys did a nice job of playing as close to 48
minutes as possible," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown
said. "I keep
preaching to the guys that our defense fuels our offense."
After the Pistons pulled within 92-82 on a free throw by Carlos Delfino
with 3:41 remaining in the fourth quarter, James drilled
a 3-pointer with 3:17 left and then set up Zydrunas Ilgauskas
for a layup to increase the advantage to 97-82.
Ilgauskas finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Larry Hughes
added 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting for the Cavaliers,
who won for the seventh time in eight games.
"(Detroit is) a good team coming into our building, but we think
that we're supposed to win," Hughes said.
Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace
led the Pistons with 21 points
apiece and Ben Wallace
added 11 and 18 rebounds. However,
Billups made just 2-of-11 shots and Prince, who came in
averaging 15.1 points per game, was 2-of-12 from the field.
The long-armed Prince is known for his defensive ability, but
did not have much success containing James, who scored eight
points more than he averaged against the Pistons last year. It
marked the 11th time in the last 14 games that James has scored
30 or more points, averaging 32.4 points in that span.
made consecutive 3-pointers and James converted
a three-point play and a dunk as the Cavaliers started the
second quarter with an 11-0 run and opened a 32-20 lead.
"I told LeBron, 'If we want to go deep (into the playoffs), then
this is the team we have to go through and this is the team we
have to beat,'" Marshall said. "The key for us was to keep the
energy we had in the first half. We were able to do a good job
of holding them off."
Prince hit a short jumper to pull the Pistons within 36-28 with
7:16 left in the second quarter. But Ilgauskas scored five
points to highlight another 11-0 run, which opened Cleveland's
advantage to 47-28 with 4:42 remaining.
"(The Cavaliers) came out and were very aggressive," Detroit
coach Flip Saunders
said. "And, as I told the guys before the
game, in an emotional game like this, they're going to play
extremely well, they're going to play aggressively, and you have
to match their intensity and make shots."
But the Pistons made just 29-of-81 shots, including 4-of-20 from