With James feeling better, the Cleveland Cavaliers look to end a four-game losing streak to the Pistons in the regular season and avenge one of their worst offensive performances of 2006-07 when the teams meet on Sunday.
James, slowed by a sprained right big toe that might bother him all season, had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers (27-20) in a 101-81 win over Charlotte on Friday night.
James was able to rest his toe, which recently caused him to miss two games, during some extended garbage time.
“It felt good the last two nights,” said James, who had 17 points in a loss to Miami on Thursday. “It was great to see that it didn’t bother me at all coming off a back-to-back.”
The star forward had 26 points against the Pistons (27-18) on Dec. 21, but the Cavaliers were held to 34.2 percent shooting in an 87-71 loss. Cleveland, a game behind first-place Detroit in the Central Division, hasn’t beaten the Pistons in the regular season since a 97-84 victory on Dec. 31, 2005.
The Cavs took a 3-2 lead over Detroit in the second round of last season’s playoffs before the Pistons rebounded to win two straight and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
James is shooting just 40.1 percent from the field—his lowest against any team he has played at least 10 games against—in 13 regular-season contests versus the Pistons, but most of his struggles came early in his career.
James averaged 18.3 points on 36.1 percent shooting in his first six appearances against the Pistons, but has posted 27.4 points and shot 42.9 percent in his last seven contests against them.
He scored 26.6 points in the playoff series between the teams last season, but was held to two points on 1-of-9 shooting in the second half as Cleveland lost 79-61 in Game 7.
The Pistons continue to be one of the league’s premiere defensive teams, holding opponents to 93.7 points and 44.1 percent shooting from the field.
Detroit held an opponent under 90 points for the 18th time this season Friday night, beating Milwaukee 96-86 despite losing some key big men.
The Pistons’ problems started before the game, when Dale Davis was put on the inactive list for missing the morning shootaround. Things got worse in the third quarter, when Rasheed Wallace benched himself to avoid being ejected.
Wallace picked up his 14th technical foul early in the third quarter, and will get an automatic one-game suspension after two more. Antonio McDyess, meanwhile, got his second technical foul and was ejected shortly after Wallace’s departure.
“It’s a joke,” said Wallace, who asked coach Flip Saunders to take him out because of his anger with the officials.
Wallace has been ejected 28 times in his 12-year career.
“He was frustrated, but he’s learning what to do,” Saunders said.
Davis, who is frustrated after losing most of his playing time to Chris Webber, said that he didn’t sleep through his alarm clock.
“I didn’t set it,” he said before the game.
Detroit has won two straight and six of eight, while Cleveland had lost seven of 10 before Friday’s win.