A stunning role reversal on the Cavs' fairy tale ride?
"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
Cavs, 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
Game 6 in the best-of-seven series is Friday night in Cleveland,
and if the Pistons force a Game 7, they will be back on their home
"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 at
James deferred to Gooden on the ensuing possession, and the
power forward came through with a low-post basket to put the Cavs
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
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.
"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," Cavs
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
"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 (a Game 7)."
James played like a star -- again -- in his first postseason
appearance, 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 Cavs 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 Cavs 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 3-4 in
Cleveland -- made three straight shots to tie the game at 77 with
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
The Pistons began the playoffs as the favorites to win it all
after falling just short of repeating as champions last year in
Game 7 at San Antonio.
The first quarter Wednesday ended 20-all, the fifth tie of the
game after 10 lead changes.
Cleveland went ahead on Marshall's 3-pointer with 8:57 left in
the first half, and the Pistons didn't have the lead the rest of
The Cavs led 50-45 at halftime.
Ilgauskas gave James plenty of support in the first half. He had
nine points -- surpassing his point totals from the previous two
games -- and seven rebounds along with four blocks, which tied a
Cleveland playoff record for blocked shots in a half. Ilgauskas
finished with six blocks, tying a franchise postseason record.
While the Cavs were warming up at halftime with a 50-45 lead,
James leaned against the scorer's table checking out the box score.
He had to like what he saw.
The 21-year-old phenom scored 22 first-half points on 9-of-17
shooting; Ilgauskas was off to a strong start; and the Cavs'
reserves were outscoring Detroit's 17-2.
For the third straight game, the Cavs were without starting
shooting guard Larry Hughes, who has been with his family since the
death of his 20-year-old brother. The entire team attended Justin
Hughes' funeral in St. Louis on Tuesday, the morning after winning
Game 4, then flew to suburban Detroit without a practice between
games. Cavs general manager Danny Ferry said there was still no
timetable for Hughes to return.
James led the league in votes for the All-NBA team, and he
called it the best achievement of his career. ... The Pistons had
two All-NBA players for the first time in franchise history, with
Billups and Ben Wallace earning spots on the second team. ...
Saunders was called for a technical midway through the fourth,
screaming for a foul to be called against James.