AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 21 (Ticker) -- The Detroit Pistons taught
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson about what it
takes to win a Game 7.
Flashing their trademark defense to slow down James in the
second half while shutting down the rest of his teammates the
entire way, the Pistons grinded out a 79-61 victory over the
Cavaliers in the decisive seventh game of the Eastern Conference
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Tayshaun Prince scored 20 points and Richard Hamilton 15 for the
top-seeded Pistons, who won the final two games of the series
to advance to the conference finals for the fourth straight
"It was just will," said Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, who had
12 points and eight rebounds. "Anytime you get to a Game
7, it's just will. You're not going to trick them with
anything you do, they're not going to trick us with any plays.
We know them inside out."
Playing their fourth Game 7 in the last three seasons, the
Pistons used a tenacious defensive effort in the second half to
finally shake the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, who were not even
expected to be in a decisive game against the NBA's best team
during the regular season.
"That's a group that has been there and done that, and they
played a great series," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "This
was a learning experience for LeBron and for all of us."
In the second half, the Pistons held the Cavaliers to just 23
points, tying the lowest mark in a second half in playoff
history. Utah scored 23 points against Chicago in Game 3 of
the 1998 NBA Finals.
Cleveland shot just 19 percent (5-of-26) after the break, when
Detroit showed its championship mettle.
"In a pressure situation, you do what you do best, and for us,
that's defending," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "We locked
The 61 points was the lowest mark in a Game 7 in NBA history
and the third-lowest total all-time.
The inexperienced Cavs were carried to the decisive game by the
21-year-old James, who had been brilliant throughout his first
"There's nobody on his level that can get his teammates involved
like he does," Prince said of James. "He sees the plays before
they even happen, and no one else does that. That's the reason
this went seven games."
James got off to a strong start in the biggest game of his young
career, scoring 21 of his 27 points in the first half that
ended with the Pistons holding a 40-38 lead.
However, the Pistons' constant double-teams finally began to
take their toll on James, who missed his first seven shots and
went just 1-of-9 from the floor in the second half.
"In the first half we were playing the pick and roll a certain
way and he was coming off, getting to the basket," Billups said.
"He had 21 points but had only made one jump shot. So we
changed it up, tried to make him make some jumpers. He wasn't
comfortable with that, I guess."
James made 11-of-24 shots overall and never really got any help
from the rest of his teammates who went a combined 9-of-41 from
"They came at me as soon as I came across halfcourt, and being
the person I am and the player I am, I had to give the ball up,"
James said. "They did a great job."
James acknowledged that his team missed their opportunity in
Game 6 in Cleveland.
"You have to take positives out of this," James said. "There's
no reason for us to hang our heads about this series. I'm
disappointed that we lost, because we had it right there for the
taking, especially at home, but things happen. That's why
Detroit worked so hard all year for home-court advantage."
Despite the struggles, the Cavs were within 46-45 with 5:58 left
in the third quarter following two free throws by Drew Gooden.
Hamilton drilled a jumper at the 5:18 mark to trigger a 12-3
surge to close the quarter that gave the Pistons a 58-48
advantage. Veteran Lindsey Hunter provided a spark in the surge
by making a jumper and scoring on a hard drive to the basket.
"I just came out being aggressive," said Hunter, who scored
seven points. I wanted to be really aggressive, on both ends of
the court. It was a big lift for us. We all responded, we all
felt the energy in the building. That's what Game 7s are
Larry Hughes, who missed the previous four games of the series
following the death of his brother, made a 3-pointer 21 seconds
into the fourth quarter to pull the Cavs within 58-51. But the
Pistons took control for good from there.
Hunter sank a 3-pointer at the 9:16 mark, Prince followed in his
own miss and Hamilton hit from the outside in a 9-1 burst that
made it 67-52 with 5:37 remaining. James' three-point play
with 4:42 left was his only basket of the second half.
Rasheed Wallace scored 13 points for Detroit, which will face
second-seeded Miami in the conference finals starting Tuesday
night. Detroit rallied from a 3-2 deficit to beat Miami in the
conference finals last season.
The Pistons, who never trailed, scored the game's first seven
points and built a 19-6 advantage after two free throws by
Wallace at the 3:30 mark. But the Cavs were able to close to
21-15 after one quarter.