- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Detroit Pistons couldn’t contain LeBron James again. And this time, they didn’t stop his teammates until it was too late.

James, showing no regard for a defensive plan Detroit spent three days preparing for him, scored 29 points and Mo Williams added 21 as the Cleveland Cavaliers withstood a stirring comeback for a 94-82 win on Tuesday night to open a 2-0 lead over the Pistons in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Delonte West scored 20 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas 12 for the top-seeded Cavs, who built a 29-point lead in the fourth but lost their edge and let the Pistons get within seven in the closing minutes before finally putting Detroit away.

James added 13 rebounds, six assists and an unforgettable, wind-mill dunk before pulling on his warmups and sitting the first 4:45 of the fourth quarter.

But as Cleveland’s star was resting up for Game 3 on Friday night at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., the Pistons, showing more fight than they had in two games, closed within 14 and forced Cavs coach Mike Brown to put James and Cleveland’s other starters back in.

Detroit eventually closed within seven on Antonio McDyess’ jumper with 3:51 left, but James restored order down the stretch.

Richard Hamilton scored 17 and Rodney Stuckey 14 for the Pistons, who are going home down 0-2 but with hope after their fourth quarter.

Despite the win, the Cavs, who took 43 free throws to 16 for Detroit, aren’t feeling so good.

“We’re getting out of here with a sour taste in our mouths,” Williams said.

Holding a steady 15-point lead in the third, the Cavs pushed it to 64-46 on a 3-pointer by Williams.

James, who scored 38 points in the opener, then got behind Detroit’s defense for a breakaway dunk. As he approached the basket, James rose in the lane and circled the ball in front of him before rocking it through the rim. He strutted back on defense as 20,562 fans began to celebrate what appeared to be another Quicken Loans Arena rout.

But down 79-50 in the first minute of the fourth, the Pistons reserves got Detroit back in it.

They beat Cleveland’s backups to loose balls, and before long, a seemingly insurmountable lead by the Cavaliers was gone in a 27-5 run.

After McDyess’ basket made it 84-77, James, West and Williams each made two free throws apiece to put Cleveland ahead 90-77.

James then grabbed a rebound, and in one motion fired a pass down the floor to Williams, whose layup officially ended the Pistons’ rally.

Detroit coach Michael Curry wanted his team to be more aggressive with James. The plan was to run defenders at him on the perimeter to keep Cleveland’s star from getting into the foul lane, where he destroyed Detroit in Game 1 with short jumpers, layups and easy baskets.

It worked, but only a little.

James took only two shots inside the paint in the first half, but he was able to draw fouls and finished with 16 points _ 6 on free throws _ as the Cavs opened a 46-32 lead following a ragged 24 minutes, which included pushing, shoving and three technical fouls.

The Pistons double teamed James the moment he touched the ball as Hamilton and McDyess pinned him into the left corner. But James was able to pass over the top of Detroit’s defense to West on the opposite side. The Cavs swung the ball around to Williams, who knocked down his first jumper and the Cavs started 6-of-7 from the floor to take a quick 12-2 lead.

Cleveland cooled off, and with James sitting, the Pistons were able to pull within 30-21.

The Cavs were up by 13 when James returned, and Detroit quickly welcomed him back with a mugging in the lane as McDyess, Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson all made contact with James, who took exception to Johnson raking him across the face.

Johnson was slapped with a technical, and as the first half closed Cleveland’s Darnell Jackson and Detroit’s Kwame Brown exchanged shoves and were assessed “Ts.”

Sticking to his routine before big games at home, James was the first player to arrive and was on the floor more than three hours before tip-off.

In front of only a few TV production crew members and a handful of arena workers, James worked with assistant coach Chris Jent and practiced an assortment of shots, moves and free throws he planned to use to counter whatever Detroit had in store.

Notes:@ Cavs coach Mike Brown was presented with the Red Auerbach trophy as NBA coach of the year during a pregame ceremony. … James finished second to Orlando’s Dwight Howard in defensive player of the year voting, an almost sure sign that he will make the league’s all-defensive first team. James’ defense has improved each year, and this season he made it a priority, leading the Cavs with 137 steals and a career-high 93 blocks. “It’s all about pride,” James said. “It’s whether you want to cover a guy or not.”

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