AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 9 (Ticker) --The Detroit Pistons are threatening to turn the Eastern Conference semifinals into a very short series.
Rasheed Wallace scored 29 points to lead a balanced attack as the Pistons again asserted themselves early and demoralized the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 97-91 victory that opened a 2-0 series lead.
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As they did in Game 1, the top-seeded Pistons used a strong start, sharp shooting from the arc and a concerted defensive effort on superstar LeBron James to improve to 6-1 in the postseason. Game 3 is Saturday in Cleveland.
"Blowout or not, they are still down 2-0," Wallace said.
"Right now we've got to be a little greedy," Pistons center Ben Wallace said. "We've got to go into Cleveland looking to close this thing out. We've got them on the ropes. We don't want to go in there and relax and allow them to attack us. We've got to go in there in attack mode, force them to play our style of basketball."
Detroit easily maintained control despite just one very timely basket from Richard Hamilton, its top scorer in the playoffs.
"It's fun because everybody knows you have to pick your poison," Hamilton said. "I knew tonight that we were going to try and get the ball into the post with Rasheed and Tayshaun."
Leading the way was Rasheed Wallace, who had a quiet 10 points in the opener but came alive Tuesday. Looking for his offense, he made 10-of-17 shots, including 5-of-8 3-pointers. He added nine rebounds and two blocks in his best game of the 2006 postseason.
Rasheed Wallace's inside-outside mix was too much for Cavaliers forwards Drew Gooden and
Anderson Varejao. He scored eight points in each of the first three quarters, giving the Pistons a reliable option.
"He's so versatile," teammate Lindsey Hunter said. "He's a guy, 6-11, that can post up, can pass, can shoot the three. He's probably one of the most talented big men in the NBA, if not the most talented. He's a hard guy to guard and he creates so many matchup problems for other teams."
Seven straight points from Game 1 star Tayshaun Prince gave Detroit the lead for good at 15-10. A 3-pointer by Chauncey Billups closed the first quarter and opened a 23-16 lead.
"We got off to a great start very quickly," Prince said. "I believe we held them to 16 points in the first quarter, which was great. We were still shooting the ball great from behind the arc early, especially in the first half."
Detroit's defense began to dominate, holding Cleveland without a basket for nearly seven minutes. The Cavaliers missed nine shots during their drought, falling into a 37-18 hole.
Rasheed Wallace beat the shot clock by banking in a 3-pointer to make it 48-28 with 2:33 left in the first half.
James, who was scoreless in the second half of Sunday's 113-86 loss, managed just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting before intermission Tuesday. He was shadowed by a second defender practically everywhere he went, and his teammates were unable to make the Pistons pay.
"The Pistons are a great defensive team, and I don't want to force things when I don't need to," James said. "I was trying to draw the double-team and get my teammates involved."
A bucket by Gooden opened the second half and pared the deficit to 52-38 before Detroit put together a 10-2 surge capped by Prince's dunk and free throw that rebuilt the lead to 22 points. James came alive in the second half and fueled a frantic but futile fourth-quarter rally. He found Varejao for a layup that made it 87-78 with 7:15 to play.
"I am proud of what our guys did in the second half, but we did not attack in the first half, and we did not drive the basketball," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "We let the Detroit Pistons keep us on our heels."
Rasheed Wallace preserved the lead with a blocked shot and drained a 3-pointer for a 92-78 bulge at the 4:34 mark. A three-point play by James made it 92-87 with 1:13 left, but Hamilton responded with a three-point play that sealed it 15 seconds later.
Prince scored 20 points, Hamilton added 17 on 1-of-7 shooting and Billups 15 for the Pistons, who made 10-of-25 3-pointers as they improved to 42-4 at home. Ben Wallace had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
James had 30 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists and Gooden scored 17 points for the Cavaliers, who held a 51-38 advantage on the glass.
"Everyone in the NBA knows that and everybody outside of the NBA knows that the Pistons are too good of a team to dig yourself a hole and try and crawl your way back up it," Gooden said.