Sheeds-Back! And Pistons Are Big Favorites Over Lebron and The Cavs

Team Page: Detroit :: Cleveland

76% of Bets Placed on Pistons +3 | Matchup | NBA Picks
The Detroit Pistons expect to have leading rebounder Rasheed Wallace back on Thursday. Even if he wasn't, the Pistons believe they have the depth and a proven game plan to defeat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers as the Central Division rivals meet for the first time since their seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Oddsmakers have made Cleveland -3 point spread favorites (NBA Odds)

for todays game, the over/under has been set at 182 total points (View NBA Sports Books).

Wallace has missed the team's last two games because of an ankle injury. He has been bothered by a sore right ankle for a week, but it hadn't affected his performance much. The power forward is averaging 13.5 points and a team-leading 9.3 rebounds for the Pistons (15-8).

Wallace did not talk with reporters after practicing Wednesday, but coach Flip Saunders seemed confident in Wallace's ability to return for this game.

``Rasheed looked good. He went the whole practice, had no problems,'' Saunders told the team's Web site. ``Worked up a good sweat, participated in all the live drills. Moving good - moving better than he did before he went down. I think the work he did with (strength coach) Arnie (Kander) seemed to help.''

Saunders added that with Dale Davis and Jason Maxiell available, he won't feel pressured to keep Wallace in the entire time.

Maxiell had 17 points and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes - all career highs - in Detroit's 97-93 win over the Seattle SuperSonics on Sunday. He hit a go-ahead jumper with 6.8 seconds to play after entering the game having played only 13 times this season, and he was so unknown, the Sonics players had difficulty even saying his name.

``Max ... Mac ... Maxwell, whatever his name is, he outrebounded our whole team,'' Seattle's Rashard Lewis said. ``Every time I turned around, he was coming out of nowhere. I don't think we put a body on him all night.''

Richard Hamilton scored 24 points and Chauncey Billups added 21 in that game, Detroit's fourth win in the last five contests.

The Pistons have a 1 1/2-game lead in the Central Division over the Cavaliers (14-10), who are coming off a 113-111 loss to the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday.

This is the first of four meetings between the Pistons and Cleveland. Detroit won three of four last season, holding James to an average of 23.3 points in the losses - 8.1 points below his 2005-06 average. James did average 26.6 points in the seven playoff games, but also had two triple-doubles and was close to two other ones in the hard-fought playoff series. The Cavaliers squandered his second triple-double of the series in a Game 6 loss at home before losing the decisive Game 7 in Detroit.

Saunders said keeping James off balance is key when trying to defeat the Cavaliers.

``You can't give him the same look all the time, whether it's the same man or different players or different ways you defend,'' he said. ``If you keep him off rhythm a little bit, you might get their whole team a bit off.''

James, who is averaging 26.8 points, scored 37 against the Nets, but it wasn't enough after the Cavaliers fell behind by 16 points in the fourth quarter. James brought the team within three points, but Cleveland fell to 3-8 on the road.

While Cleveland has struggled on the road, the team is tied with the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference's best home record at 11-2. The Cavaliers play their next two games in Cleveland, but afterward have a tough stretch that includes 11 of 14 games on the road.

``We're getting very close to figuring it out,'' James said. ``Our last two road games have been pretty good, a lot better than in the past. We're starting to find easier ways to score baskets. If we play the defense we've played all season, we'll find a way to win.''

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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