- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — LeBron James used one of the most spectacular performances in playoff history to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to the verge of their greatest season.

James’ career playoff-high 48 points — including 29 of his team’s final 30 — carried the Cavaliers to within a win of the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history with a 109-107 double-overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons last night.

James made a go-ahead layup with 2.2 seconds left, and Detroit’s Chauncey Billups missed a shot in the lane on the ensuing possession.

The Pistons blew a seven-point lead with 3:15 left in regulation and lost the third straight game in the series after winning the first two at home.

Game 6 is tomorrow night in Cleveland, and if necessary Game 7 will be Monday night back at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The San Antonio Spurs, who eliminated Utah on Wednesday, have a week off before playing host to Game 1 of the finals.

Detroit only can hope the series ends like its last postseason matchup with the Cavaliers.

The Pistons won the first two games of the conference semifinals last year, then lost three straight and needed to win on the road and then at home in Game 7.

James was 18-for-33 from the field, making both of his 3-pointers, and 10-for-14 from the free throw line. He also had nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals in a performance that might end up be a defining game of his career.

The 22-year-old star showed he’s human, though, airballing a shot just before the shot clock expired with 6.6 seconds left in the first overtime that gave Detroit a chance to force another period.

James put Billups on the line with 3.1 seconds left and he made two free throws to make it 100-100.

The Cavaliers have prided themselves on not being a one-man show, but James just about did it alone against a team in the conference finals for the fifth straight year.

He simply took over late in regulation and in both overtimes, choosing to attack the basket with driving layups and dunks instead of deferring to teammates.

James scored 31 more points than Cleveland’s second-leading scorer, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who fouled out with 16 points. Rookie Daniel Gibson, who also fouled out, was the only other double-digit scorer with 11.

The Pistons, meanwhile, seemed finally to put a complete game together, and each of their starters scored at least 10.

Richard Hamilton scored 26, Chauncey Billups had 21 and Chris Webber scored 20. Rasheed Wallace had 17 points, and Tayshaun Prince added 10.

It wasn’t enough.

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