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West returns as Cavaliers crush Pistons

Feb 23, 2009 - 5:30 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons have ruled the Central Division for the last six years. Times are changing.

Delonte West returned from a 16-game absence to pour in 25 points and lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 99-78 victory over the Pistons on Sunday.

LeBron James added 20 points and nine assists and Wally Szczerbiak scored 15 points off the bench for the Cavaliers, who have won four straight.

Detroit has dropped six in a row, 15 of its last 20 and is not only in danger of losing its grip on the Central Division but of falling out of the playoff picture all together.

The Pistons put up absolutely no fight right from the start on Sunday as Cleveland took a 31-17 lead after the first quarter and extended it to 67-34 at the break as West went for 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first 24 minutes.

"We were out on the court playing like either we don't like each other, or are we strangers? That was disappointing," Detroit coach Michael Curry said.

West finished the game 10-of-14 from the field, including 5-of-5 from beyond the arc, showing no ill effects from the wrist injury that has kept him out for over a month.

"Was he injured? He played like he was never out," James said of West. "He didn't miss a beat. That just shows the chemistry of our team. He adds another guy that can attack a defense and guard some of the best perimeter guys on the opposing team."

"I stayed ready," West said. "My arm was bothering me a little bit from all the high fives I was getting. When the crowd gets behind you, you can feel the energy in the building and you feel like you can't miss. When the adrenaline gets going, the blood is flowing through your body, it's hard to feel an injury. It's starting to stiffen up now, but I'll be right back in (Monday) and get my treatments."

The Cavaliers shot 56 percent (22-of-39) in the dominating first half.

"The spacing was unbelievable," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "The ball movement and decision-making was unbelievable also."

Detroit finished the night 32-of-86 (37 percent) from the field and had just two starters reach double figures, led by Allen Iverson's 14.

"We stunk the gym up," Iverson said. "We usually play together on the road, and we just acted like strangers out there tonight. We didn't get it done."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 16 points and Mo Williams scored 11 as most of Cleveland's starters took the fourth quarter off.

"We had a lot of energy and played great basketball from start to finish," James said.