Cleveland (52-15) at Detroit (23-44)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Auburn Hills, MI
Temp: 51° F
  • Game info: 7:30 pm EDT Tue Mar 16, 2010
  • TV: FSOH, FSD
Preview | Box Score | Recap

It’s been nearly four months since the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to a team that’s currently below .500 in the standings.

Given the streak already working against them, it’s hard to imagine the Detroit Pistons being the club to finally knock Cleveland off.

The Cavaliers look to move a step closer to wrapping up the Central Division on Tuesday night by notching their 10th straight victory over the Pistons, who try to avoid their third blowout loss to an Eastern Conference contender in four days.

Well on its way to a second consecutive 60-win season, Cleveland (52-15) has a 5 1/2 game lead on Orlando for the East’s top seed and a three-game cushion on the Los Angeles Lakers for the league’s best record.

The Cavaliers have won 22 consecutive games against teams that currently have sub-.500 records since losing at Washington on Nov. 18, but they’ve also been holding their own against fellow playoff contenders as well.

After Cleveland won by 20 at Boston in late February, LeBron James(notes) finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists Sunday in the Cavaliers’ 104-93 victory over the Celtics, which reduced their magic number to clinch the Central to two.

“I thought we played the right way,” coach Mike Brown told the NBA’s official Web site. “When you play a team like Boston, the most aggressive team is going to win. I thought we were aggressive on both ends of the floor for most of the game.”

Plenty of that aggressiveness came from Anderson Varejao(notes), who impressed Celtics coach Doc Rivers by finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

“One guy completely dominated the game and that was Varejao,” Rivers said.

Varejao had 16 points and 10 boards in Cleveland’s 99-92 home win over Detroit (23-44) on March 5, the Cavaliers’ ninth straight victory against the Pistons with last season’s four-game, first-round sweep included.

Since Shaquille O’Neal(notes) severely sprained his thumb on Feb. 25, Varejao has averaged 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds - all while continually getting under the skin of opponents.

“That’s Andy,” James said. “That’s what he does. You know he’s going to be active, going to play his butt off every single game and give it his all.”

Varejao’s effectiveness, however, wouldn’t be possible without James, who’s averaged 37.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in a pair of wins against Detroit this season.

The Pistons have played five games without Rodney Stuckey(notes) since the guard’s scary collapse on the bench in Cleveland, and they won two of their first three without him at The Palace.

On the road for their past two, however, things didn’t go nearly as well. Detroit fell behind Atlanta by 28 points Saturday en route to a 112-99 loss, and it was never close in a 119-93 loss at Boston on Monday.

“They were good. We were bad,” Pistons coach John Kuester said. “It was one of the few games that our energy wasn’t the way it should be, and I’m disappointed with the way we played.”

While Stuckey could be back practicing as soon as Thursday, Detroit may have to worry about another injury. Tayshaun Prince(notes) was kneed in the back early in Monday’s game by teammate Jason Maxiell(notes), and he didn’t return.

It seems unlikely that Prince, who had 23 points against Cleveland earlier this month, will play Tuesday.

“We’ve been hurt all year, and another guy goes down,” guard Richard Hamilton(notes) said. “It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘Come on, man. Are you serious?’ But it’s tough.”

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Tuesday, Mar 16