Detroit (49-27) moved closer to earning home court throughout the East playoffs for the second straight season with an 87-82 victory over Cleveland on Sunday. The Pistons are trying to hold off the Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, who are battling for the second-best mark, for the top seed.
The Pistons bounced back from a disheartening 106-88 loss to Chicago four days earlier with a terrific defensive performance against the Cavaliers, limiting LeBron James to 20 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
Six Detroit players scored in double figures, including power forward Antonio McDyess, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds. McDyess started ahead of Rasheed Wallace, whose playing time coach Flip Saunders said he wants to limit because of a hyperextended finger on his non-shooting hand.
“I tried to be aggressive and it worked to my advantage,” McDyess said.
Wallace, who finished with 10 points in 22 minutes, seemed confused as to why he came off the bench for the first time since Jan. 10.
“I didn’t miss no practice so I don’t know what it was for,” he said. “Y’all gotta ask Flip. … I was out there. I’m cooler than a fan.”
The Pistons can record their sixth straight 50-win season by beating New York (32-44). It’s the first meeting between the teams since the Knicks won 151-145 in triple overtime Dec. 27 to even the season series at a game apiece.
Richard Hamilton scored a career-high 51 points in that matchup, the first 50-point effort against the Knicks since Michael Jordan had 51 on Jan. 21, 1997.
Jamal Crawford and Stephon Marbury combined for 70 points for New York in that game, but there’s a chance neither will play Monday. Crawford is sidelined with a stress fracture, while Marbury sat out the last game with a right turf toe injury.
New York’s backcourt situation is further muddled by the uncertain situation of Steve Francis, who has missed five straight games with a sprained right ankle.
The Knicks’ chances of reaching the playoffs are looking slim. They have six games left and trail Orlando by three for the final postseason spot in the East.
Marbury was injured after playing only 12 minutes in a 99-94 loss to Minnesota on Friday. He had averaged 27.4 points over his previous five games.
Without him, New York used a starting backcourt of Nate Robinson and Mardy Collins in a 118-113 overtime victory at Milwaukee the next night. Robinson matched a career high with 34 points for the Knicks, who snapped a four-game losing streak.
Center Eddy Curry turned in the best game of his career with 43 points on 17-of-20 shooting, and added 13 rebounds. He also hit his second career 3-pointer, which forced overtime.
“It was one of those nights where the shots were falling,” Curry said. “My teammates did a good job looking for me.”
Curry has been outstanding against Detroit this season, averaging 28.5 points on 67.0 percent shooting.