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NBA Pistons' defense chokes Cavs



Published: Thu, February 20, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Darius Miles couldn't bear to watch as Cleveland lost its 43rd game.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Chauncey Billups wandered over to Darius Miles during pregame warmups and asked Cleveland's forward a few questions.

The biggest one: Why was the Cavaliers' record so bad?

Billups and the Detroit Pistons then made it worse.

Richard Hamilton scored 23 points, Billups added 15 and Ben Wallace had 16 rebounds Sunday night, leading the Pistons to a 90-75 win over the pathetic Cavs.

Hamilton scored 11 points and Billups had seven in the third quarter when the Pistons, the NBA's best defensive team, limited Cleveland to 14 points.

Detroit won for the seventh time in eight games and moved within one game of Central Division-leading Indiana.

"We stepped up and challenged them," Billups said. "We remembered those overtime games."

Earlier this season, the Cavs twice took the Pistons to OT before losing.

Third-period dominance

However, this one was all but over at halftime, and Detroit made sure of it with a dominating third period.

With the Pistons up by 21 in the fourth, Miles draped a towel over his head, dropped to the floor and tried to disappear.

As the Cavs stumbled toward their 43rd loss, Miles wanted to be anywhere but Gund Arena.

"I got a lot of love for these guys, but it got to the point where I didn't even want to play anymore," Miles said.

Ricky Davis had 19 points for Cleveland, which has lost 13 of 15 and dropped to a league-worst 10-43. The Cavs are 2-9 under interim coach Keith Smart.

'Not playing as a team'

Miles, a major disappointment for Cleveland this season, scored four points -- all on free throws -- and had four rebounds in 30 minutes. He spent a portion of the fourth quarter lounging on the floor near the Cavs' bench hoping the game would end quickly.

"We're just not playing as a team," Miles said. "I don't know what we're doing out there. We're like a bunch of street ballers out there."

Before the game, Miles said some of the Pistons were wondering what was wrong with the Cavs.

"Guys are like, 'Y'all got so much talent, why aren't you winning?' " Miles said.

Billups was one of them.

"Cleveland is too good to have that record," he said. "There is a lot of talent there. It's mind-boggling to see they only have 10 wins. They are young, talented and in many ways, have more ability than we do.

"That team is so talented it's scary."

Piling it on

After the Cavs trimmed a 13-point halftime deficit to seven in the opening 2:40 of the third, Hamilton and Billups combined to score Detroit's next 13 as the Pistons rebuilt their lead to 14.

Hamilton, averaging 27 points in his last three games, added two more baskets in the final 1:43 of the quarter as the Pistons opened a 73-52 lead entering the fourth.

"Every game, I get better and better," Hamilton said. "I'm using my teammates more, taking my time and having fun with it. Guys are doing a great job of getting me open."

Rookie Carlos Boozer tied a season-high with 15 rebounds, but Cavs All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas had just six rebounds and 10 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

"I don't have any brilliant quotes," Boozer said. "We just have to keep working."

Notes

Pistons F Danny Manning, signed as a free agent on Feb. 5, scored his first points of the season in the fourth.

Cleveland's point total was its second-lowest this season. The Cavs scored 74 in their second game this season.

Wallace has had more rebounds than points in 50 straight games -- the NBA's longest current streak.

Cavs C DeSagana Diop finally scored his 100th career point. It took the former No. 8 overall draft pick 66 games to reach the milestone.




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