Pistons never trail after halftime in dispatching Cavs

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Ben Wallace doesn't get MVP

consideration or hit dramatic shots like his All-Star teammates.

But none of the Detroit Pistons have any doubt about which

player is at the heart of their 46-9 start.

Sunday, Wallace had 11 points and 19 rebounds as the Pistons

beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 90-78.

"They might as well take the Defensive Player of the Year award

and send it to Ben," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He's been

on a mission in the last three weeks, and when you look at all of

the things he's doing -- rebounding, blocking shots and making

steals -- he's been phenomenal."

Detroit never trailed, and led by at least 10 points for most of

the second half. The teams play again Monday night in Cleveland.

"They did a great job taking us out of our offense," Cavs

coach Mike Brown said. "There is no way you can win on the road

with 20 turnovers, especially against a team like this."

The Pistons have won five straight overall and 12 in a row at

the Palace, while Cleveland lost its third in a row to fall 14½

games behind Detroit in the Central Division.

Billups led the Pistons with 21 points while Richard Hamilton

added 18 and Rasheed Wallace had 15.

LeBron James had 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for

the Cavaliers and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 15 points and nine


James got kicked in the shin late in the third quarter, causing

a noticeable limp, but he wasn't worried about the injury.

"I'm going to ice it down and be ready for tomorrow," he said.

Ilgauskas missed most of the first quarter after needing five

stitches to close a head wound caused by Rasheed Wallace's elbow.

Ilgauskas felt Wallace was getting revenge for an incident moments


"I think he was frustrated because I caught him first with an

elbow and then he hit me back," he said. "Mine wasn't

intentional. His, I haven't seen the replay."

Wallace, who was called for a flagrant foul, hit Ilgauskas in

the top of the head as the Lithuanian drove for a layup.

"I'm not going to start the game by cracking a cat in the skull

if I don't get elbowed first," he said.

Both teams struggled offensively in the first half -- Cleveland

shot 33 percent from the floor and the Pistons missed 10 of 11

3-point attempts -- but Billups and Hamilton combined for 24 points

to put Detroit up 44-33.

The Pistons expanded their lead to 56-37 on a Tayshaun Prince

3-pointer early in the third, and led 67-52 by the end of the


Saunders has been trying to get Ben Wallace more touches on the

offensive end. The results have been mixed -- he shot airballs on

two mid-range jumpers Sunday -- but it has been important to


"I at least want to make the other guys guard me," he said.

"I know that when I'm getting involved on offense, it gives me

more confidence and energy."

Wallace's efforts don't go unnoticed by the opposition, either.

"Ben is quick, athletic, strong, tenacious and hungry -- the

whole nine yards," Brown said. "He makes it tough because you are

afraid to drive the basketball when you know he's back there."<

^NOTES@: Prince and both head coaches picked up first-half technical

fouls for arguing calls. ... Pistons rookie Alex Acker scored his

first career points on a basket in the last minute of the game. ...

Detroit announced after the game that rookie Amir Johnson would

report to the NBDL on Monday. ... Cleveland's three-game losing

streak is its longest since a six-game slide in late January.