Billups Leads Pistons Past Cavs 90-78

Monday, February 5th 2007, 6:30 am
By: News On 6

CLEVELAND (AP) _ From the opening tip to the final horn, the Detroit Pistons controlled the crowd, tempo _ and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Chauncey Billups scored 18 points, Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace had 15 apiece and the confident Pistons dominated Cleveland with offensive efficiency and defensive intensity in a 90-78 win Sunday.

The Pistons took control early, quieting a crowd of more than 20,000 fans who had hoped to kick off their Super Bowl festivities by witnessing a Cavs victory. The visitors from Michigan had other plans.

``They're always going to be at the top of the Central right now,'' said LeBron James, who had to work for every one of his 21 points. ``We've got to find a way to despise that and get on a level that Detroit is on.''

Billups added 10 assists, Wallace 13 rebounds and the Central Division-leading Pistons had six players score in double figures. Detroit has won five straight regular-season games over the Cavaliers, who pushed the Pistons to seven games in last year's playoffs.

And with their third win in a row, the Pistons also improved to 15-9 in road games, the only team in the Eastern Conference to have a winning record away from home.

``We expect to win,'' Billups said.

``They always have a workmanlike attitude about them going into someone else's building,'' James said. ``They took care of business.''

Elsewhere in the NBA, Toronto beat the Los Angeles Clippers 122-110 and Atlanta downed New Jersey 101-99 in overtime.

For the second time this season, the Pistons came to Quicken Loans Arena and pushed around the Cavs, who trailed by seven points at halftime, 11 at the end of three and never got closer than seven points in the final 12 minutes.

Whenever Cleveland had a defensive breakdown, the Pistons hit an open jumper.

``You make a mistake, they know how to exploit it,'' James said. ``We didn't make too many mistakes, but as soon as you make one, they make you pay for it.''

This Pistons' squad is very similar to the one which beat Cleveland in last year's playoffs with one big addition: Webber, who signed with the club as a free agent on Jan. 16 and was facing the Cavs for the first time with his hometown team.

Webber's presence _ the Pistons ran their offense through him in the first half _ is bad news for the Cavaliers, who don't appear ready to dethrone their northern neighbors. Webber scored 13 points in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting.

``It feels good to be on a good team,'' he said. ``At any moment any guy we have can start carrying the load.''

James feels the Pistons are even better with Webber than they were with Ben Wallace, who signed with Chicago as a free agent.

``When Ben Wallace was there, you could kind of relax on the offensive end when he was on the floor,'' James said. ``But now they have five guys that can easily score 20 points. They are a much better team with him (Webber).''

James was only 9-of-22 from the field. He had a few tough layups roll out and was constantly harassed by Tayshaun Prince and his teammates, who helped chase James everywhere he went on the floor.

``We try to trap him, get the ball out of his hands so the other guys got to make plays,'' Prince said. ``When he does have the ball, everyone behind me is in a zone-type atmosphere.''

Larry Hughes added 14 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 12 with 11 rebounds for Cleveland, which went just 4-of-17 on 3-pointers.

``I'm at a loss of words right now offensively, I don't know,'' James said. ``We score 100 points one night and the next we score 70.''

Raptors 122, Clippers 110

At Toronto, Chris Bosh scored 27 points, Morris Peterson added 18 and the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors (25-23) won their third straight.

Cuttino Mobley scored 24 points and Elton Brand had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who lost for the second time in nine games.

T.J. Ford, Anthony Parker and Jorge Garbajosa each added 17 points for the Raptors, who scored a season-high 66 points in the first half and shot 70 percent, tying a franchise record for a half.

Hawks 101, Nets 99, OT

At East Rutherford, N.J., Tyronn Lue made a 23-foot jumper at the buzzer in overtime, giving the Hawks their first three-game road winning streak in more than six years.

Joe Johnson scored 37 points and Josh Smith had six of his 14 points in OT to help the Hawks win their ninth road game this season _ one more than they won all last season.

Vince Carter had 27 points for the Nets, who have lost three in a row since returning from a West Coast road trip. Rookie Marcus Williams had 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and Jason Kidd added 13 points and 11 assists.