- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

CLEVELAND. — It was not just about LeBron James in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals last night, although he had his moments that whipped the home crowd into a frenzy again.

And no moment was larger than his two made free throws with four seconds left.

Those two free throws came after Richard Hamilton walked up to James and tried to get into his head, as James did to Gilbert Arenas in the playoffs last season.

James nudged Hamilton out of the way, converted both free throw attempts, and that was the game.

As good as James was again, this also was about Drew Gooden hitting a series of baseline jumpers as the Cavaliers started to pull away from the Pistons in the fourth quarter.

And it also was about a first-year player who was a second-round pick in the NBA Draft last June.

Daniel Gibson may be listed as 6-foot-2 in the team’s media guide, but he is an inch or two shy of being a 6-footer.

Gibson is a “little fellow,” as Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has said.

Gibson did not act his age or size in scoring a career-high 21 points as the Cavaliers defeated the Pistons 91-87 to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-2.

Gibson is going against a player, Chauncey Billups, whom he has tried to emulate going back to his collegiate days.

“I am just trying to step up and do some of the things that he does,” Gibson said. “I understand it’s not over yet. We’ve taken care of our business at home, but we still have to go to their place and get a game.”

Gibson was averaging 4.1 points going into the game, but he is becoming increasingly valuable to the Cavaliers, especially with Larry Hughes nursing a bum left foot.

“He definitively gave us a lift in attacking the rim,” James said. “I told you guys about Daniel. Maybe I will be a general manager one day.”

Pistons coach Flip Saunders said his team could not stop Gibson’s forays to the basket.

“He was one of the difference-makers in the game,” Saunders said.

The Cavaliers do not have a reliable second scorer after James, who finished with 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

His help on this night came from the rookie from Texas and Gooden, who overcame his playoff inconsistencies with 19 points and eight rebounds.

“Drew Gooden was especially good in the second half,” Brown said. “He hit some big baskets for us, and he made their big guys work on defense.”

James had another big fourth quarter, and his exchange with Hamilton before the two free throw attempts that decided the affair.

“That was the same thing I did to Gilbert last year,” James said. “I invented that — no, no. Scottie Pippen invented that with Karl Malone. But [Hamilton] tried to mess with me, and I was able to stay focused. We still have to do a better job of executing to get a game in Detroit.”

The Pistons look vulnerable now after scratching out a pair three-point victories in the first two games of the series before succumbing to the 32-point outburst of LeBron James in Game 3.

Their vulnerability includes a steaming Rasheed Wallace, who earned a technical foul with 6:07 left.

Saunders disagreed with the call because Wallace was not upset with the referees but with Hamilton.

“He was upset with Rip after tipping the ball back to him, and Rip didn’t go after the ball with full force,” Saunders said. “So that is what that was all about.”

The Cavaliers squandered a 12-point lead late in the second quarter. They then struggled through yet another third quarter.

“The Pistons are a veteran team, and they are very good at jumping on you at the start of the third quarter,” Brown said. “We just haven’t done a good job yet of responding to it.”

Bad third quarters notwithstanding, the Cavaliers are back in the series.

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