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Cavs cool off Pistons behind LeBron's 30

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cavaliers weren't intimidated by the
Pistons' impressive record, rich history or Ben Wallace's biceps.

With a Pistons-like defensive performance, Cleveland made
Detroit look ordinary in a 97-84 victory Saturday.

"That's a good team that came into our building," Cavs guard
Larry Hughes said. "We think we're supposed to win."

One day after LeBron James turned 21, and against the NBA's top
squad, the Cavs may have come of age, too.

James scored 30 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and
four steals against the Pistons, who had their winning streak
stopped at nine and lost for just the fourth time.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 18 points, Hughes 16 and Drew Gooden 12
with 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who posted their most
impressive victory on the final day of '05 and improved to 13-3 at
Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland has won the last three meetings and four of five at
home against the Pistons, the team they're trying to catch in the
Central Division and the franchise they aspire to be like someday.

"I told LeBron, 'It's just like when Chicago won the
championship. If you want to go deep in the playoffs, then this is
the team we have to go through. This is the team we have to
beat," Donyell Marshall said. "That's a very big step for us."

The Pistons came in on pace to win a record 73 regular-season
games, but shot a season-low 36 percent (29-of-81) from the floor
and dropped to 24-4 -- still one of the best starts in league
history.

Tayshaun Prince, averaging 15.1 points, had just four on 2-of-12
shooting and Chauncey Billups was only 2-for-11 from the field and
had 14.

"We played horribly offensively," Prince said. "We got the
shots we wanted but couldn't make anything. We were missing layups
-- everything."

Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton had 21 points apiece to
lead the Pistons and Ben Wallace added 11 with 18 rebounds.

The Cavaliers, who led by 19 in the first half, pushed it to 20
late in the third quarter and then held off a late push by the
Pistons, who got within 92-82 on Carlos Delfino's free throw with
3:41 remaining.

But James, who posted up in the lane more than usual, drilled a
3-pointer with 3:17 left, and after Ilgauskas' basket made it
97-82, Cleveland fans began their New Year's Eve partying a little
early.

"That's the best team in the league," Gooden said. "They have
a (championship) ring. We see them as the measuring stick."

James, who has scored at least 30 in 11 of his last 14 games,
finished December averaging 32.4 points -- the highest one-month
average in club history. The Cavaliers have 18 wins after two
months for the first time since 1996-97.

"We knew we had to bring our 'A' game," said James, "and
that's what we did."

The Pistons started cold from the floor and remained that way in
the first half, shooting just 31 percent in falling behind by 19.

"Nothing would go in," said Prince, who made his first shot
and then missed 10 of 11. "Usually after we miss some shots, we
heat up a little, but we couldn't get anything going."

Marshall made consecutive 3s and James completed a three-point
play as the Cavaliers opened the second quarter with 11 straight
points, forcing the Pistons to play from behind the rest of the
way.

"They controlled the tempo," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.
"We played out of character."

Game notes
Cleveland has won seven of eight and went 8-6 in December
after a 1-5 start to the month. ... James also averaged 6.4
rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.9 steals in December. ... Saunders is
just the second coach in league history to start 24-3 in his first
season as coach. Bill Sharman opened the 1971-72 season 39-3 with
the Los Angeles Lakers. ... The Cavs hadn't played on New Year's
Eve since 1970, their inaugural season in the NBA, when they lost
119-85 at Atlanta and fell to 5-39. ... Cavs coach Mike Brown, who
has just two technicals in his first season, tries the tender
approach before yelling at officials. "I usually start with Merry
Christmas or Happy New Year, and then say, 'Can you take a look at
that last call," Brown said. ... Like the Pistons, the 1995-96
Chicago Bulls, whose 72-10 season is the NBA's best ever, started
23-3 before winning 18 in a row. ... Browns rookie WR Braylon
Edwards sat courtside. He's scheduled to undergo knee surgery on
Tuesday -- doctors had to wait until swelling went down -- and will
need at least nine months to recover.