- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — All series long, the Detroit Pistons huffed and puffed. Last night, it was LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers who blew their house in with an 86-84 victory.

A stunning role reversal on the Cavaliers’ fairy tale ride?

Maybe not.

“It’s just basketball,” James said. “They’re not the Big, Bad Wolf. And, we’re not the Three Little Pigs.”

The Pistons, on the brink of elimination after two straight trips to the NBA Finals, have not been giving much respect to the Cavaliers, who are in the second round for the first time since 1993.

That should change now, but will it be too late for the big, bad Pistons?

Game 6 in the best-of-seven series is tomorrow night in Cleveland, and if the Pistons force a Game 7, they will be back on their home court Sunday.

“LeBron is playing unbelievably, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. “But it doesn’t mean the series is over, we just have to revert to what we did for much of the season.”

Ben Wallace blew a chance to give the Pistons the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter when he missed two free throws with 40 seconds left. That left one of the NBA’s worst free-throw shooters 0-for-7 for the game, which remained tied 84-84.

James deferred to Gooden on the ensuing possession, and the power forward came through with a low-post basket to put the Cavaliers ahead by two with 27 seconds left.

“I took a picture of the basket,” Gooden said. “That’s what my freshman coach in high school used to tell me, take my time and make the shot.”

After a timeout, Donyell Marshall blocked Tayshaun Prince’s shot in the lane and James tipped a rebound — off Lindsey Hunter’s missed jumper — to teammate Eric Snow, who tossed the ball down the court to kill time.

The Pistons had the ball back with 1.9 seconds left, but could not get a shot off to try to force overtime — or win the game they didn’t seem to deserve.

“That was about as perfect a game of basketball as you can play against that team,” Marshall said.

Cleveland beat Detroit 74-72 and 86-77 to even the series after being routed in Game 1 and losing Game 2 by six points after a big early deficit.

After losing Game 3 in Cleveland, Rasheed Wallace guaranteed Game 4 would be the last game played there because the Pistons would close out the series in Game 5.

Oops.

“Everybody wrote us off, but we started to get some confidence in the second half of Game 2 and we’ve just kept it going,” Cavaliers reserve Damon Jones said.

Detroit hopes to draw from its postseason experience. Before the Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals, they fell behind New Jersey 3-2 — with three straight losses — before winning on the road and at home to advance to the conference finals.

“I’m still not concerned because I know what we’re capable of,” Chauncey Billups said. “We’ve been there before.

“We can’t be looking for a Game 7 because if you’re not careful, there won’t be one.”

James played like a star — again — and many of his teammates chipped in throughout Game 5.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 14 before fouling out, Marshall had 14 points and 13 rebounds off the bench and three other players added at least six points apiece.

Prince scored 21, Billups had 17 before fouling out, Richard Hamilton scored 15, Rasheed Wallace added 10 while battling foul trouble and reserve Antonio McDyess chipped in with 11 points.

The Cavaliers went ahead 63-53 midway through the third quarter on James’ 3, leaving Prince holding his jaw. Then, the Pistons punched back, perhaps fearing elimination for the first time in the series.

A 13-3 run tied the game before Cleveland went back ahead 68-66.

The Cavaliers scored the first six points of the fourth, the last point coming on a free throw when Rasheed Wallace was called for a technical after his fifth foul.

McDyess — who was held to six total points in Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland — made three straight shots to tie the game 77-77 with 5:10 left.

After the score was knotted again, Jones was fouled as he made a 3-point shot, but he missed the ensuing free throw, then had a shot blocked, leading to Billups’ layup that made it 82-81.

McDyess sat on the bench for several minutes following the game — putting his hands behind his head, staring across the court in disbelief.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide