CLEVELAND, May 19 (Ticker) --LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn't capitalize on a golden opportunity.
With a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals just one win away, James scored 32 points, but it was not enough as the Detroit
Pistons got a few clutch shots from Rasheed Wallace and some big
offensive rebounds down the stretch to post an 84-82 victory in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
NBA TV highlights from Pistons-Cavaliers:
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The Pistons have been in this spot before, and it showed Friday
as they improved to 4-1 in road elimination games since the
start of the 2004 postseason. Their only loss in that span was
in Game 7 of the 2005 NBA Finals at San Antonio.
"I told our guys today this is a game where both teams feel that
it's a must win," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "I didn't
know if it was good or bad as far as our guys being very quiet,
very focused (before this game). They are definitely sensing a
sense of urgency."
Mired in its first three-game losing streak of the season,
Detroit is now 9-2 in elimination games over the past three
seasons and will look to return to the conference finals when it
hosts Game 7 on Sunday.
"We're not OK yet," Detroit guard Chauncey Billups said. "That
team beat us on our home court a couple of days ago. We have to
play (Sunday) the way we played the last 18 minutes of this
"(Detroit) shot the ball better (45.6 percent) and that seemed
to help them," Cleveland guard Eric Snow said. "They had more
Wallace has been doing more talking that performing lately but
came to play Friday. After collecting a total of 17 points in
the previous two games, he scored 24 in this one, and his
three-point-play with 3:02 remaining gave Detroit a 79-77 lead.
"You can't be right with (predictions) all of the time, but
that's just the confidence level that I have in myself and my
teammates," Wallace said. "If I didn't have that confidence I
wouldn't talk junk."
On the verge of their first trip to the conference finals in 13
years, the Cavaliers will look back at this one as a missed
opportunity, especially with their inability to crash the boards
down the stretch. The Pistons had eight offensive rebounds in
the fourth quarter, including three in the final 48 seconds.
With Detroit leading, 83-81, Wallace missed a 3-pointer with
just under a minute to play and Richard Hamilton came up with
the loose ball. Wallace then missed a tough jumper from the
baseline, but Hamilton again grabbed the rebound and Wallace was
fouled with 15 seconds to play.
Wallace, who was just 2-of-7 from the line, missed both free
throws. Cleveland guard Ronald Murray was unable to control the
rebound and Detroit again came up with the ball. Billups then
split a pair from the line to make it 84-81.
"Ben (Wallace) was phenomenal on the offensive glass," Saunders
"We just needed to secure a rebound," Snow said. "Those are all
energy plays and they were better at it."
James was fouled just before making a pass to Murray in the
corner for an open 3-point attempt with 1.4 seconds left. He
made the first free throw to make it 84-82 but missed the second
"Of course I didn't want the foul, because I got a good pass to
Flip (Murray) with 1.4 seconds on the clock," James said. "Being
the smart team that they are, they committed the foul. They
wanted to give up two points before they gave up three points."
"LeBron did exactly what I told him," Cleveland coach Mike Brown
said. "With one timeout, I just tried to hold onto it and use
it after we scored."
Billups came in to help on the boards and nearly tipped the ball
in as time expired. But instead, the Cavaliers lost their first
playoff game decided by three points or less this postseason
"I tried to get a hand on it and just tapped it," Billups said.
"The ball bounced around and I almost made the basket for them.
"I'm not sure why we didn't call a timeout (in the final 10
seconds)," James said. "I didn't even know that we had a timeout
until after the game."
Hamilton scored 17 points and Billups added 15 for the Pistons,
10 in the fourth quarter.
"I don't think (Cavaliers) were playing really tight or
nothing," Rasheed Wallace said. "But I know that the only cat
that wanted to shoot (in the fourth quarter) was LeBron, so you
take it for what it's worth."
James scored 24 of his points in the second half and
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 16 for Cleveland.