for this game

Pistons victorious but Cavs reach playoffs

Mar 30, 2008 - 4:26 AM By Dana Wakiji PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons continued their home dominance Saturday and avenged an embarrassing loss to their division rival.

Richard Hamilton scored 14 points and the Pistons beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 85-71, on Saturday.

"I think the way we lost against them a couple weeks ago, we were embarrassed to lose like that," Detroit guard Chauncey Billups said of his team's 89-73 loss in Cleveland on March 19. "That is a good team, a really, really good team, but we felt like when it got tight we didn't fight, and that's really not how we do it around here.

"There are really not that many meaningful games left with 10 games left, and we can't really move up or down but this one is meaningful because that is a team we could face down the road."

Detroit, which had already clinched its fourth consecutive Central Division title with a win over the depleted Miami Heat Thursday night, improved to 30-6 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

"They won tonight, they came out and made a statement," said Cavaliers forward Joe Smith, who had 10 points off the bench. "They came out to show something because they had been struggling a little bit the last couple of games and now they have everyone back. They came out tonight and made a statement, and we weren't able to answer."

Despite dropping their sixth straight road game, the Cavaliers later clinched a playoff berth when the New Jersey Nets lost at home to the Phoenix Suns.

The Pistons shot 51 percent in the first half and held the Cavaliers to 32 percent shooting as they took a 49-33 halftime lead.

Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess and Hamilton each scored eight points in the first half. LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas led the Cavaliers with seven points each through two quarters.

Hamilton returned to the Pistons' lineup after missing three games with a sore left hip.

"Oh, man, it hurts. It's killing me right now," Hamilton said. "The more I sit down, the more it hurts. I'm happy that we got to an early lead, got an opportunity to rest in the fourth quarter."

The Cavaliers got back Ben Wallace (back spasms) and Daniel Gibson (left high ankle sprain) from injury, but Wallace had to leave early in the third quarter after aggravating his back. Delonte West, who has left ankle tendinitis, did not play for Cleveland.

"At the beginning of the game, I thought I could go to him, but as the game went on, I decided there was no reason to risk it," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "We already had one guy (Gibson) limping out there."

The Cavaliers have had trouble reaching the same level they did last season because of the number of injuries they've had.

"It's been really frustrating," James said. "This is the first time in my career that we've had guys come in and come out. Our team is based on consistency and trying to get momentum and it's hard to do that when you have guys coming in and coming out.

"Hopefully, we can get healthy. We know it's part of the game, but it's happening to us at the wrong part of the season with less than 10 games."

Detroit used a 19-11 run to end the first quarter and take a 29-18 lead. McDyess had six points in the run.

The Pistons extended their lead to 22 points with an 18-7 run, led by Hamilton and reserve Jason Maxiell, who each scored four points.

James struggled and finished with 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting. The Pistons used Hamilton to guard James.

"We just felt we needed to put somebody a little bit quicker on him," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "LeBron is so tough to defend."