LeBron moves closer to Cavs' career scoring mark in statement victory

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A newcomer to one of the NBA's fiercest rivalries, Wally Szczerbiak didn't need long to understand Cleveland's hatred.

"All my buddies, all the fans, everybody, all they want to do is beat Detroit," he said.

LeBron James scored 30 points, moving closer to becoming Cleveland's top career scorer, and the Cavaliers reminded Detroit that they're still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference with an 89-73 victory over the Pistons on Wednesday night.

James came in needing 35 points to pass Brad Daugherty as the Cavs' scoring leader. The NBA's top scorer came up a little short, but will likely break the mark on Friday when Cleveland hosts Toronto in a potential first-round playoff preview.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 20 points and Szczerbiak, who has struggled with his shot since coming over in a trade last month, added 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting for the Cavaliers.

"Hopefully this is something I can build on," said Szczerbiak, part of an 11-player, three-team swap at the trading deadline. "I've been getting wide-open looks from LeBron. It's a matter of settling in and making some."

Despite going to the NBA finals for the first time last season, the Cavaliers are viewed by many as longshots to get back. Boston and Detroit, which have both clinched playoff spots already, are considered the class of the East.

James, though, may eventually have something to say about that.

Rasheed Wallace scored 16 points and Richard Hamilton 14 for the Pistons, who were held to 63 fewer points than they scored in a 136-120 blowout of Denver on Tuesday. After shooting 60 percent in a track meet against the Nuggets, Detroit shot only 40 percent and never got it going on offense.

"We shot horrendous," Wallace said. "We shot well in the first quarter, but it went down hill from there."

It was Detroit's first visit to Cleveland since losing Game 6 of last season's conference finals, a series defined by James' 48-point performance in Game 5 at Auburn Hills, Mich. He entered the fourth quarter needing 16 points to pass Daugherty, but nearly spent the first three minutes on the bench and ended up with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the period.

James wasn't about to force the issue for an individual record. As always, his sights were on a win for a team still finding its way with new players.

"We took five steps forward, especially on the defensive end," James said. "We didn't execute like I think we can, but we did down the stretch."

James examined a boxscore as he walked out of the locker room before the start of the third quarter. He must have noticed that he had only tried 10 shots, but that he was getting help from Ilgauskas, who missed seven games with a back injury, as well as Szczerbiak, Ben Wallace and Delonte West -- all acquired in last month's colossal deal.

Hamilton is impressed with the Cavs' new look, but it's something familiar about them that still makes Cleveland tick.

"Their big horse is still LeBron," he said. "He had 30. He's still a big horse."

Szczerbiak, who was shooting just 31 percent since the trade and played sparingly in the last two games, scored two baskets early in the fourth to help the Cavs open a 10-point lead, and Ilgauskas made consecutive jumpers as Cleveland eventually pushed its advantage to 16.

In the closing seconds, the crowd chanted "MVP" before James capped Cleveland's eighth straight home win by making a 21-foot jumper with 4 seconds left.

The Cavaliers took a 45-38 halftime lead, closing the second quarter with a 9-0 run that featured a 3-pointer by West and a long putback by Wallace, who grabbed a rebound while in the air and dropped in his shot just before the horn.

West pumped his fist before heading to the locker room, and the arena filled with the sound of a clanging bell, a tribute normally reserved for one of the big man's defensive stops.

Game notes
Daugherty needed 548 games to set Cleveland's scoring record of 10,389. Friday will be James' 380th game. ... Earlier this week in Orlando, James and fellow megastar Tiger Woods met for the first time. They share more than a Dec. 30 birthday. "Every time he goes out he expects to win," James said when asked what he admires about Woods, "He's an unbelievable talent. I've always looked at Michael Jordan as being one of the greatest athletes of my lifetime, and Tiger is right there now." ... Cleveland had just eight turnovers.