Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 12/31

Game 1: Saturday, December 31st
Game 2: Sunday, February 26th
Game 3: Monday, February 27th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 12th

Cavaliers 73

(47-31, 18-21 away)

Pistons 96

(63-15, 36-3 home)

8:00 PM ET, April 12, 2006

The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI

1 2 3 4 T
CLE 19 10 22 2273
DET 27 29 19 2196

Top Performers

Cle: L. James 22 Pts, 3 Reb, 1 Ast

Det: R. Wallace 16 Pts, 9 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

Pistons throttle Cavs, close in on home court 

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- LeBron James hopped on his right foot, sparing his sprained left ankle, and the Cleveland Cavaliers gasped a week before their first playoff appearance since 1998.

The Detroit Pistons were routing the Cavs when their star was hurt and they went on finish them off with a 96-73 victory Wednesday night, moving within a game of earning home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

"It was just another game for us to work toward our goal," point guard Chauncey Billups said.

James landed awkwardly while being guarded by Tayshaun Prince on a three-point play, and the MVP candidate knew he was injured right away.

"I just wanted to lie down and see how bad it was," he said.

James was checked out on the court by Cavs athletic trainer Max Benton during a timeout, then made a free throw to complete his three-point play. He was taken out a second later, left the court moments afterward and had X-rays taken.

"It's sprained pretty good, but nothing serious," said James, who had 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting. "You never really know until the next day, but I've had them before, and this is nothing that bad."

The Cavs said his status is day to day.

Cleveland hosts the New York Knicks on Thursday, and the Cavs might decide to play it safe by resting James because they can't improve or hurt their position as the fourth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"If I don't feel 100 percent tomorrow, I won't go," James said.

The Pistons will secure home court with one more victory, or a San Antonio loss. Detroit has the tiebreaker because it beat the Spurs in both meetings.

Detroit (63-15) tied the franchise record for victories and if it wins one of the last four games, it will break the record set during the 1988-89 season, when the Bad Boys went on to win the first of two straight titles.

"As I said in the locker room, people die to get to 50 (wins)," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "To get to 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."

Detroit is 36-3 at home, one victory away from the team record with games remaining at The Palace against the Knicks and Washington.

The Pistons took control against Cleveland with a 14-0 run midway through the second quarter.

Rasheed Wallace had 16 points and nine rebounds, while Prince and Richard Hamilton each scored 14 for the Pistons, who have won eight of nine. Three reserves -- Maurice Evans (13), Tony Delk (12) and Antonio McDyess (10) -- added to Detroit's balanced attack, which Billups directed with eight assists.

Meanwhile, only Zydrunas Ilgauskas helped James carry the scoring load. Ilgauskas, back from an ankle injury, scored 10 points and the Cavs didn't have another scorer with more than eight.

Early in the fourth quarter, Cavs forward Alan Henderson dislocated a finger on his right hand on a missed dunk and did not return.

Cleveland had won 11 of 12, a streak that secured home-court advantage in the first round and a second-round matchup with the Pistons if both teams advance.

"They showed us what playoff basketball is all about," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "It will be good for us to have gone through this if we learn from it."

Before the game, Ilgauskas said it was important to get back on the court because he doesn't want to be rusty when the playoffs start next week. The lumbering center looked sharp early, then was lackluster.

Ilgauskas had eight points and three rebounds when he came out of the game with 3:10 left in the first quarter -- twice as many points as James had at the time.

James later scored five points to put the Cavs ahead -- for the first time -- 19-16, then the Pistons responded by scoring the last 11 points of the quarter and went ahead 27-19.

The Pistons then had their decisive run, which helped them lead 56-29 at halftime.

Other than James and Ilgauskas, the Cavs combined to score four points on 2-of-20 shooting in the first half while the Pistons had eight players with at least four points.

"Flip outcoached me and their players outplayed us on both ends of the floor," Brown said. "Even their cheerleaders did a nice job."

Game notes

Cavs center Anderson Varejao was ejected in the second quarter after taking down Rasheed Wallace. Varejao hit Wallace's shoulder on a driving layup, then appeared to push him down. "It was just another soft foul," Wallace said. "I don't know what he was trying to do, but it didn't work." ... Brown said Larry Hughes is "still finding his way," and could not say when, or if, he would return to the starting lineup ahead of shooting guard Ronald Murray. Hughes returned earlier this month missing three months with a broken right middle finger. ... Detroit won the season series 3-1. ... Faces in the crowd included Robert Traylor, a former Cavalier and Michigan Wolverine, and some Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 73 96
FGM-FGA 27-77 (.351) 38-87 (.437)
3PM-3PA 2-16 (.125) 7-18 (.389)
FTM-FTA 17-28 (.607) 13-18 (.722)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 13-49 13-46
Assists 13 24
Turnovers 16 9
Steals 5 7
Blocks 4 9
Fast Break Points 17 14
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 14 (1/1) 20 (0/0)
Largest Lead 3 29

Top Performers

LeBron James James
Points: 22
Reb: 3
Ast: 1
Stl: 0
Blk: 0
Rasheed Wallace Wallace
Points: 16
Reb: 9
Ast: 1
Stl: 1
Blk: 2