CLEVELAND (AP) -- Interim coach Brendan Malone refused to take
credit for this one.
A day after Paul Silas was fired, Malone led a Cleveland
Cavaliers team in turmoil to a much needed 91-76 win over the
Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night, ending a three-game losing
"The players did it," Malone said. "It wasn't me. It was the
LeBron James scored 29 and finally got some help from the
Malone gave more playing time to Anderson Varejao and other
reserves and it paid off. Varejao scored 11 and played tough
defense with two blocks that ignited Cleveland.
The Cavaliers scored 21 points off 15 turnovers and limited
Detroit to just 29 points in the second half.
"We played great tonight," Malone said. "Our defensive
intensity was great against one of the best teams in the NBA."
Malone had his tie loosened from the opening tip and was often
on his feet, fervently encouraging his players.
"I'm happy for coach," James said. "The key was playing with
a lot of energy and defensive focus. A lot has happened in the past
couple days, but we've got to put it all behind us."
Rasheed Wallace scored 25 points and Tayshaun Prince had 22 for
the Pistons. The loss snapped their five-game winning streak.
Detroit was without leading scorer Richard Hamilton, who was out
with a sprained left ankle. Rookie guard Carlos Delfino made his
first start in Hamilton's place and scored four.
Chauncey Billups, averaging 25.5 over his last four games,
scored six points and had eight turnovers.
"This is probably one of the worst games I've played as a
Piston," Billups said. "It happens, but it wasn't anything
The Cavaliers opened up their biggest lead 77-66 with 5:37 left
on James' fast-break feed to Varejao, who slammed it home.
"I just tried to bring some energy off the bench," Varejao
said. "That's what my role is."
Varejao scored 10 of his 11 points in the fourth quarter. He
played 25 minutes, a minute off his career high, after playing 6
minutes in Sunday's loss to Toronto.
"He came up big," Malone said. "We put him in for rebounds
and defense and he came up with some big shots."
After trailing 47-45 at the half, Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored
eight straight points early in the third quarter to give Cleveland
a 56-51 lead. James added a free throw and a pair of jumpers for a
14-4 run and the Cavaliers didn't trail again.
Ilgauskas scored 13 points and Drew Gooden added 10.
The Cavaliers didn't disappoint majority owner Dan Gilbert, a
former Pistons fan, whose Rock Financial and Quicken Loans is based
in suburban Detroit. Gilbert had his own cheering section, bringing
700 of his employees to the game on 13 buses.
James, who scored 56 points in Sunday's loss, kept the Cavaliers
in the game early but the reserves stepped up, contributing 27
points to Detroit's 11. They were outscored 34-1 in Sunday's loss.
Eric Snow also seemed more in synch, scoring four points with 10
assists after going scoreless in 40 minutes Sunday.
"I'm impressed with what (Malone) did, with the new plays he
put in and the defensive rotations," Gooden said.
The team seems to be rallying behind Malone after a freefall in
which the Cavs lost nine of 12, barely hanging onto the fifth
playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"LeBron and 'Z' came up to me in practice and said, 'We're with
you,"' Malone said before the game. "Other players came to me and
said they told the owners they made a good choice. That meant a lot
The Cavaliers came out hustling, going after loose balls and
battling for rebounds.
The Pistons shot 4-for-18 from the field in the third quarter
and allowed the Cavaliers to take over. Detroit shot 37 percent
Hamilton will likely miss Wednesday's game at Philadelphia,
but could return for Friday's home game against Indiana, said
Pistons coach Gar Heard, filling in for Larry Brown, who missed his
fifth straight game after surgery related to a November hip
operation. ... Malone has named Cavaliers director of basketball
operations Mike Bratz an assistant. ... James said before the game
that his teammates didn't know what their roles were under Silas.
"I think one of the problems was that when you have guys who are
used to playing basketball and then they don't know where they
stand, it's frustrating. I'm the only guy who knew for sure I was
going to get my 40 minutes."