AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 17 (Ticker)
-- LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers played with a purpose normally reserved for
the Detroit Pistons.
James found Drew Gooden
for the go-ahead layup with 27 seconds
left as the Cavaliers met an enormous challenge and moved to the
threshold of the Eastern Conference Finals with an 86-84
victory over the surprisingly passive Pistons.
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James added to his brief but rapidly growing postseason resume
with 32 points for the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, who beat the
top-seeded Pistons for the third straight time - all without
starting guard Larry Hughes
- to take a stunning 3-2 series
"They aren't the Big Bad Wolf, and we aren't the Three Little
Pigs," James said. "We're all grown men, and we know we can
In the playoffs for the first time in eight years and led by the
21-year-old James, the Cavaliers showed determination and
focus. They never trailed in the second half and answered every
charge by the Pistons, who were 47-4 at home this season.
"At any point in the fourth quarter, we could have collapsed,"
Cleveland coach Mike Brown
said. "But these guys just kept
fighting. We have a bunker mentality, and that's been huge
against this team in this building."
Meanwhile, the Pistons seemed more concerned with arguing with
referees and straying from their style. In the fourth quarter,
and coach Flip Saunders
were hit with technical
fouls and floor leader Chauncey Billups
"You saw those calls," Wallace said. "Every time we got close,
there seemed to be some (stuff). That leads me to think some
other things, but I'm not going to say what those things are."
Right down to the final whistle, Detroit seemed to be looking
for a call. Along the baseline, Richard Hamilton
contact, leaning out of bounds and letting go of the ball as
Detroit has lost three straight games for the first time this
"We were definitely tight tonight," Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince
said. "I didn't think we were in the two games in
Cleveland; they just made plays to beat us. But we were
tonight. We weren't communicating at the worst times."
The Cavaliers can win the series at home Friday. Wallace, whose
guarantees of a win in Game 4 and the series have been
hollow, claims the Pistons aren't worried.
"We've been here in the last couple years," he said. "We've
already been down the road they are trying to travel. It's a
race to four, and they only have three."
A layup by Antonio McDyess
- who came on for Wallace at the
10:26 mark and scored all 11 of his points thereafter - pulled
the Pistons into an 84-84 tie with 1:20 to go.
James missed a runner and Ben Wallace
drew a foul with 40
seconds left. With a chance to give Detroit the lead, he missed
both shots, completing an 0-of-7 showing at the line.
On the ensuing possession, James was double-teamed at the arc,
took a pair of dribbles inside the circle and zipped a pass
underneath to Gooden, who muscled his way for the go-ahead
"I was just trying to be patient," James said. "Ben Wallace
popped out on me, and they had some kind of miscue, and Drew got
open on the baseline. I just wanted to wait to make sure the
ball didn't get tipped out of bounds."
Detroit had a number of chances to tie, but Prince had
a runner swatted by Donyell Marshall
and Lindsey Hunter
came on for Billups - missed a jumper.
"We had the shot we wanted," Prince said. "I just didn't get
the lift I normally do - I don't know if someone stepped on my
foot or if I just didn't plant right."
Cleveland's Eric Snow
grabbed the rebound and passed the ball
into an empty backcourt, where Hunter tracked it down and called
timeout with 1.9 seconds left, setting up Hamilton's flop.
Marshall had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Zydrunas Ilgauskas
added 14 and 10 before fouling out for the Cavaliers, who shot
just 38 percent (31-of-81) from the field but blocked 10 shots.
Hughes again was not with the team due to the death of his
"This is all about Larry," James said. "His strength and spirit
are really helping us."
Prince scored 21 points, Billups added 17 and Hamilton 15 for
the Pistons, who shot 43 percent (32-of-75) but committed 17
"We need to take a look at our turnovers, because we've been the
best in the league and that's not happening right now,"
Cleveland made just 7-of-21 shots in the first quarter but was
even at 20-20 thanks to six blocks, including four by Ilgauskas.
James really got going in the second period with 12 points as
the Cavaliers opened a 50-45 halftime lead.
A 3-pointer by James gave Cleveland its largest lead at 63-53
with 5:22 left in the third quarter before Detroit finally
started showing some concern, responding with a 13-3 surge that
tied the game.
Murray closed the quarter with a jumper, and the Cavs never
trailed again, although the Pistons tied it three times.
A driving lefthanded layup by James snapped a 77-77 tie with
4:02 to go. After two free throws by Prince, James found Damon
Jones for a 3-pointer at the 3:27 mark.