CLEVELAND, May 13 (Ticker) -- With another triple-double, LeBron James
deferred, directed and finally dominated.
James had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as he guided the
Cleveland Cavaliers to a needed 86-77 victory over the Detroit
Pistons that tightened their Eastern Conference semifinal
NBA TV highlights from Pistons-Cavaliers:
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James scored 15 points in the final period, when fourth-seeded
Cleveland beat top-seeded Detroit at its own game of offensive
execution. In the lowest-scoring game of the 2006 postseason,
the Cavaliers erupted for 33 points against the proud Pistons.
"To have four points and seven assists at halftime and then, lo
and behold, he gets a triple-double in the second round of the
NBA playoffs against the best team possibly in the league,"
Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "I say it all the time - he's
Anderson Varejao scored 16 points for Cleveland, which ended
Detroit's four-game winning streak and will have a chance to
even the series in Game 4 at home Monday.
"We are still going to win this series," Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace said. "We are not going to let one game discourage
In an effort to get his teammates going, James went scoreless in
the second quarter and managed just one bucket in the third
period, which ended with the Pistons holding a 56-53 lead.
But it seemed to be all part of a grand plan by James to loosen
the double-teams that had hounded him in the first two games.
In the fourth quarter, he found openings for himself and his
"I just react to the game," said James, who made 9-of-18 shots
and four steals. "If I get doubled, I give up the ball. That's
been my motto all of my life, ever since I started playing
basketball. I saw some creases in the fourth quarter and I was
able to attack and give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame."
"I thought we made a bad substitution," said Detroit forward
Tayshaun Prince, who has the primary responsibility on James.
"We put Maurice Evans in a bad position. He had been sitting
over there since halftime and came into the game with 6 1/2
minutes left (actually 8:37) in the fourth quarter. And he's
got a big defensive assignment (in James)."
James had a transition dunk before finding Varejao for a
three-point play that gave the Cavaliers a 64-62 lead with 7:22
"When they doubled LeBron, I rolled to the basket and got some
easy layups, and that builds confidence," Varejao said.
Prince returned, but the Pistons never led again, although they
tied it four times. James had the answers as he threw in a
scoop shot, set up Varejao for a dunk and weaved for a layup
before two free throws by Flip Murray gave the Cavs the lead for
good at 72-70 with 3:58 to play.
James added a driving layup, a steal of a cross-court pass and
two foul shots to push the margin to 76-70 with 2:20 left.
The Pistons were within 78-74 when James drained a 3-pointer
from the right wing and found Damon Jones for a 3-pointer and an
84-74 bulge with 40 seconds to go.
"(James) put his team on his back and willed himself to some
great plays," Detroit guard Chauncey Billups said. "We're used
to winning these close games like this. That's how we play, how
we've been accustomed to playing the last few years -
low-scoring games, grind it out, making plays at the end. And
we just didn't do that and they did today."
Murray scored 13 points as he started for Larry Hughes, who
averaged 15.5 points during the season but was not with the team
due to the death of his younger brother.
Cleveland shot 50 percent (34-of-68) and made 15-of-16 free
throws, including all nine in the fourth quarter.
Richard Hamilton scored 22 points and backcourt mate Billups
added 20 for the Pistons, who shot just 39 percent (28-of-71).
Detroit disintegrated down the stretch, managing just one basket
in the final five-plus minutes.
"(Detroit) has been averaging 107 points per game during the
playoffs," Brown said. "Tonight I thought we did a solid job
defensively by holding them below 40 percent from the field and
"To be honest, we had some good matchups that we didn't score
out of," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "When a team does
switch and you don't punish them off of switches, then it
becomes to our disadvantage."
James got loose for a breakaway reverse dunk that gave Cleveland
an 18-17 lead - its first of the series at the close of the
opening quarter. But he spent most of the first half trying to
set up his teammates.
The big beneficiary was Varejao, whose activity led to 11 points
in the first half. His layup off a feed from James made it
36-33 with 3:15 left in the second quarter before Detroit scored
the last nine points of the half
"Anderson is not necessarily a post-up guy where he can back you
down and make a post-up move," Brown said. "But what he can do
is when he catches the ball on the move he can finish very well
at the basket on the run."
A 3-pointer by Hamilton gave the Pistons their largest lead at
52-42 before the Cavs responded with an 11-2 surge capped by a
3-pointer by Murray - Cleveland's first of the game.
"The third quarter at times, we were good (controlling the
tempo)," Saunders said. "We had a few bad stretches and we had
a bad stretch in the fourth quarter."