Pistons Roll Over Cavs, LeBron Sprains Ankle
Detroit 96, Cleveland 73
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 12 (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons delivered a painful message to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rasheed Wallace scored 16 points as the Pistons matched a franchise record for wins in a season with a 96-73 thrashing of the Cavaliers, who lost James to a left ankle sprain.
"It shows that they were able to sustain something for a pretty long period," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "People die to get 50 (victories) and to get 60 is really something. Every win beyond that shows that you've been able to play at a pretty high level for a long time."
In what could have been a possible preview of a matchup in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Pistons made it quite clear to the Cavaliers why they are the NBA's best team.
Pistons guard Chauncey Billups wasn't thinking of sending any messages.
"It was just another game for us," Billups said. "We're just trying to win every game we can to gain home court through the playoffs."
Cleveland coach Mike Brown hoped that his team could learn from the defeat.
"They showed us what playoff basketball is about," he said. "It was good for us to go through. We've experienced some ups and downs in the past and we've bounced back before. So I'm going to spin this into a positive and say that this butt-kicking was a good lesson for us on both ends of the floor."
The Cavaliers suffered more than embarrassment on the scoreboard when James - third in the league in scoring at 31.7 points - tweaked his ankle on a drive to the basket late in the third quarter. The 21-year-old phenom limped to the locker room.
"It's not too serious," James said. "I don't know who I stepped on but I did sprain it. I'll see how I feel in the morning and see if I can go tomorrow. But if I'm not 100 percent, I won't go."
James likely will miss Thursday's game against New York.
Prince, who was guarding James on the play, wasn't sure what happened.
"I can't tell what happened because it happened so fast," Prince said. "He might have stepped on my foot. You hate to see any player get hurt at this point in the season with the playoffs coming up. I hope it's nothing serious."
Wallace suffered some pain of his own at the 6:34 mark of the second quarter when he was the recipient of a flagrant foul by Anderson Varejao, who was ejected.
After Varejao's hard foul, the Pistons used a 19-6 run to close the first half and open a commanding 56-29 lead at the break.
"We get a little bored sometimes," Billups said. "Anytime something like that happens it fuels our fire."
In a game against the Cavs here in late February, Wallace received a flagrant foul for opening up a cut on Zydrunas Ilgauskas's head with his elbow. The teams played in Cleveland t he next day and a fan held up a sign that said, "Sheed must bleed."
"The guys have been killing me with that ever since," Wallace said. "Dale (Davis) wrote that on the (chalk) board tonight. It's all in fun."
Wallace said that he didn't know what Varejao was doing.
"Whatever it was, it didn't work," Wallace said. "I think he might have done it to get his teammates to rally, because they were already down by a lot."
In the second quarter, Cleveland made just 4-of-17 shots and committed six of its 15 turnovers.
"We're entitled to have bad games," James said. "You just can't play like we did in the first half. It all started when they went on an (11-0) run when we were up 19-16. It's something you learn from."
Maurice Evans scored 13 points and Tony Delk 12 for Detroit, which improved to 36-3 at home and is on the verge of clinching the league's best record.
Detroit won three of four games from Cleveland this season.
James scored 22 points to the Cavaliers (47-31), who lost for just the second time in 13 games. Cleveland already has clinched the fourth seed.