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 series.

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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 special."

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 us."

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 teammates.

"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 remaining.

"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 77 points."

"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."