CLEVELAND -- Chauncey Billups looked up from his chair in Detroit's crowded locker room and addressed the days ahead.
"The real season," he said, "is about to start."
Playoff time. For the Pistons, that's all that matters.
With its reserves playing most of the minutes, Detroit closed the regular-season Wednesday night with an 84-74 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that beat the Pistons four straight times last season and denied them a trip to the NBA finals.
One year earlier, the Pistons didn't reach their goal of a title when they were eliminated by Miami.
Billups can't imagine coming up short again.
"We know what it's like to lose, and how we've lost the last two seasons," he said. "Hopefully we won't have that feeling again."
For the finale, LeBron James rested his back -- and sat on his scoring title. Cleveland's All-Star forward spent the game in street clothes, resting up for a first-round matchup with Washington.
Rookie Aaron Afflalo scored 15 points, Jason Maxiell had 13 and Rodney Stuckey 12 for the Pistons, who will meet the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round starting Sunday.
Wally Szczerbiak, who has struggled to find his shooting touch since coming to Cleveland in a trade, scored 18 points to pace the Cavaliers. Delonte West, another of the newer Cavaliers, added 11 points and Dwayne Jones had 10 rebounds.
Not wanting to risk injury to James or center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown didn't activate his two best players so they'd be ready for the Wizards.
Although he didn't play, James finished the season as the league's scoring champion - a first for a Cavaliers player. The 23-year-old averaged 30.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists, becoming the first player to average those stats since Michael Jordan in 1988-89.
James, Jordan and Oscar Robertson are the only players to average 30-7-7 in a season.
All those stats will be meaningless beginning this weekend, when the Cavaliers attempt a second run at the Eastern Conference championship.
"We're ready," Cavs guard Daniel Gibson said. "We know what it takes and we can't wait to get it started."
With the starters for both teams out, this game looked more like a preseason matchup than anything else. Both coaches cleared their benches, giving even their Nos. 11 and 12 players a chance to shine.
"Early on, I think Dr. Naismith was rolling over," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.
At halftime, Saunders had some fun with his team. He told them, "We're going to go with the best team that we think we can win with, so we're not going to play our starters."
Cleveland rookie center Lance Allred, believed to be the NBA's first legally deaf player, scored his first career point when he banked in a free throw in the third quarter. Later, he scored his first field goal on another bank -- this one intentional -- with 19 seconds left.
Detroit, which finished 59-23 for a six win improvement from last year, trailed by three entering the fourth. But after catching the Cavs at 65-all, the Pistons closed with a 19-9 run. Walter Hermann hit two 3-pointers in the spurt and added a finger roll in the lane that thrilled Rasheed Wallace and Detroit's other sitting starters.
Cleveland has defeated Washington the past two postseasons, and this year's meeting is already setting up to be an interesting and entertaining series.
Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson recently called James "overrated" and Washington's Gilbert Arenas wrote in his blog that "everybody wants Cleveland in that first round."
James, who sat behind the Cavaliers' bench, has laughed off the remarks, but it's safe to assume he'll use them for motivation.
Ever-opinionated Hall of Famer Charles Barkley criticized the Wizards for trash-talking James. "The Washington Wizards have got to be the dumbest team in the history of civilization," Barkley said in a conference call. "For them to rile up LeBron, who's the second-best player we've got in the NBA ... that's just stupid. I thought (the Wizards) had a chance to win that series. I don't think that anymore." ... The Cavaliers signed G Billy Thomas for the remainder of this season and next season. He signed a pair of 10-day contracts with Cleveland and appeared in six games. ... Cleveland finished 46-36 after going 50-32 last season. The Cavs have won at least 45 games the past three seasons.