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 semifinals.

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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 season.

"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 down."

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 postseason.

"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 the floor.

"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 all about."

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.