- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — LeBron James rolled his eyes, slumped his shoulders and looked toward his coaches and teammates.

It was another frustrating night for the Cleveland Cavaliers and their star. James and the Cavaliers tried to attack the Detroit Pistons differently but came away with the same result.

Rasheed Wallace scored 10 of his 16 points in the final quarter and made a go-ahead, fadeaway jumper over James on the baseline with 24 seconds left, lifting Detroit to a 79-76 victory and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

“Down the stretch, he wanted the ball in a lot of situations,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “He made some big plays in the fourth quarter.”

James, who passed up a shot in the final seconds of the series opener, took and missed a spinning shot in the lane with Richard Hamilton draped on him on the ensuing possession.

“I believe there was some contact, but there’s been a lot of contact throughout this series,” James said. “We’re a no-excuse team, and we can’t look at the last play as why we lost. We just have to get better.”

Larry Hughes grabbed the offensive rebound and missed a shot. Anderson Varejao missed a tip, and after Wallace grabbed the rebound, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was called for a technical foul after arguing that James was fouled on his shot attempt.

“I’m sure we feel lucky and they feel unlucky,” Saunders said.

Wallace didn’t feel fortunate, however, to get his shot off without being called for a push-off foul against Varejao.

“All that flopping, they need to make that a technical foul for next year,” he said. “That’s not defense in the fourth quarter, and I’m glad we have veteran officials to see that.”

Varejao walked out of the locker room without speaking to reporters.

Game 3 is Sunday night in Cleveland.

Detroit started 2-0 against the Cavaliers in the second round last year, but the Cavaliers responded by winning three straight before losing Game 7 on the road.

James finished with 19 points on 7-for-19 shooting and had seven assists, six turnovers and six blocks. He scored a playoff-low 10 points on 5-for-15 shooting in Game 1.

For the second straight game, he didn’t have much help offensively.

Sasha Pavlovic and reserve Varejao each scored 14, but key players Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Larry Hughes combined for just 11 points. Rookie Daniel Gibson added a playoff-high nine points.

Hamilton and Chauncey Billups, Detroit’s starting guards, had 13 points apiece, and Jason Maxiell provided a boost off the bench with a playoff-high 15.

The Cavaliers led 50-38 after a dominant second quarter before a lackluster third allowed Detroit to come back.

Cleveland, following a trend of playing poorly right after halftime, had just seven points in the third until making two 3-pointers in the final 39 seconds to take a 63-60 lead into the fourth.

The Pistons seemed to take control with a 14-4 run in the fourth quarter that gave them a 74-69 lead, but Cleveland scored six straight to go back ahead in another ugly, close game.

Detroit won the series opener 79-76.

The Pistons expected James to be much more aggressive last night, and he was.

James went right at the basket the first time Cleveland had the ball and made a layup. A couple of possessions later, he was fouled as he drove into the lane and went to the line after not attempting one free throw Monday night.

Wallace went to the bench with two fouls 31/2 minutes into the game, and Maxiell made the most of the opportunity to play.

In exactly a minute, he blocked James’ shot, dunked off an offensive rebound and had an alley-oop slam.

Maxiell finished the quarter with seven points, four rebounds and two blocks to help Detroit take a 20-16 lead.

James made three of seven shots for seven points in the first quarter after taking just two shots, missing both of them, in a scoreless opening quarter of Game 1.

The 22-year-old star walked off the court shaking his head from side to side after missing a 3-pointer to end the first quarter last night, but he had a lot to be encouraged about in the next quarter.

Cleveland outscored the Pistons 34-18 in the second to take a 12-point lead at halftime.

Cavaliers reserves scored 19 in the second, led by Varejao’s 10 points, and James had seven for the second straight quarter.

The Pistons played with much more energy after halftime and a 19-5 gave them a two-point lead. In the pivotal quarter, James took only one shot and was scoreless.

Notes — Prince played strong defense against James, but it seemed to cost him offensively again. He had one point on 0-for-8 shooting after missing 10 of 11 shots in Game 1. …

James said he’s not closer to deciding whether he will play for Team USA this summer. …

The San Antonio Spurs sent a scout to the game. …

Faces in the crowd included Michael Phelps, Lions receiver Roy Williams, Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen and Kid Rock. …

Christopher Roumaueh of Lake Orion made $50,000 for making a shot from midcourt during a timeout in a promotion sponsored by Rock Financial, a company owned by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who attended the game.

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