Isiah Thomas only played 13 minutes, so he had plenty of time to ponder the status of the race for the NBA's best record.
"They might as well rest their guys because this race is over," Thomas said after the Pistons defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-95 Wednesday night. "The thing about this team is that we can hurt you in so many ways. Every night it's a different person."The Pistons improved their record to 58-18 and went 40 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history, while the Cavaliers, with the second-best record in the league, fell to 55-22. The team with the best record in the NBA gets
Pistons coach Chuck Daly and Cavaliers coach Lenny Wilkens, who have even more time on the bench than Thomas, were more cautious than the injured All-Star guard.
"It's not over," Daly said. "With (games against) New York and Cleveland coming up - bang-bang - things can change in a hurry. Cleveland may be the most talented starting five in the league. They're an outstanding team and well-coached."
"Who knows what will happen?" Wilkens said. "Detroit is in great shape, no question. I can't predict the future. Detroit is going to have to win it; we're not going to give it to them."
Thomas, who has a broken hand suffered in a fight with Bill Cartwright last week, is being replaced in the starting lineup by Vinnie Johnson, who scored 17 of his 31 points in the second quarter to help the Pistons take control.
The Cavs, behind two 3-pointers and a 12-footer from Mark Price, who scored 16 points, used a 19-11 run to take their first lead, 42-41, with 4:46 left in the first half.
Then Johnson hit two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points in the period to put the Pistons back on top 58-48 at halftime.
"I'm always pumped up," Johnson said. "Starting doesn't have much to do with it. Tonight I felt like my shot would go, and it did."
"The bounces went their way," Price said. "When you hit shots like that, you know things are going your way. We got some good shots. We got the ball down in the low post about three times and missed the shots. Then Vinnie got hot at the end of the first half. That put the momentum in their favor."
Thomas, who was suspended for the Pistons' previous two games for his part in an altercation last Friday night with Cartwright, entered the game at the start of the second quarter.
Thomas played six minutes in the period and made another appearance in the second half. He failed to score.
Suns 109, Mavericks 94
Dallas fell 3 1/2 games behind Portland for the final Western Conference spot despite the return of Roy Tarpley following treatment for cocaine abuse.
Jeff Hornacek scored 21 points for Phoenix, which won its fifth consecutive game.
Lakers 107, Spurs 100
Magic Johnson had 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists while A.C. Green and James Worthy scored 17 points apiece for L.A.
The Lakers took control with an 11-2 run late in the fourth quarter to snap an 88-88 tie. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had four of his 14 points during the burst.
Hornets 104, Knicks 99
Charlotte broke a nine-game losing streak and handed New York its fifth loss in eight home games since the Knicks won 26 straight at Madison Square Garden.
Kelly Tripucka scored 25 points for the Hornets, who trailed 40-29 after the first quarter but held the Knicks to 59 points the rest of the game.
Bullets 111, Bucks 107
Washington beat Milwaukee for the first time in five tries this season as John Williams scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with eight seconds left.
Jeff Malone scored 24 points for Washington, which trailed by 16 at halftime. Malone hit a pair of jumpers in the final 1:38 and two free throws with one second left.