for this game

Hamilton, Pistons top sluggish James, Cavaliers

May 22, 2007 - 5:22 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- LeBron James passed up an opportunity to win the game in the final minutes. Richard Hamilton and the Detroit Pistons were extremely grateful.

Hamilton scored 24 points and Rasheed Wallace added 15 and 12 rebounds for the tough-minded Pistons, who eked out yet another hard-fought win, posting a 79-76 victory over James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday.

Chauncey Billups collected 13 points and five assists for the Pistons, who beat the Cavaliers in seven games in their conference semifinal matchup last season. It was yet another close battle this time around.

"It was a bad game but it was a good win, though," Billups said. "It was about as ugly a game as I've seen us play in a long, long time. You come away with a win and that's great."

Despite the outcome, James thinks his team can take some positives from the loss.

"We definitely played pretty well," James said. "Both teams are going to make adjustments, you just do that in the playoffs. But as a whole we played pretty well. You can't ask for nothing more than what we did tonight.

"We always want to win the ballgame, but we always say if we play as hard as we did tonight for 48 minutes, like we did, we're not satisfied but we can look back and say, 'OK, we're OK with this loss tonight.'"

In a virtuoso performance Friday, James collected 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Cleveland advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 1992 with an 88-72 victory over the New Jersey Nets in Game Six.

But this time around, with a trip to the NBA Finals up for grabs in a meeting between the East's top two seeds, James looked sluggish. The superstar forward scored a career playoff-low 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting without attempting a free throw.

"It was definitely a physical game tonight," James said. "You know, fouls were called at times and weren't called at times. This is what it's all about. You can't look to get fouls and you've got to try to be as aggressive as possible."

Trailing by two points with 36 seconds left, James posted up Pistons defensive specialist Tayshaun Prince on the left block and seemingly waited for a double-team before kicking to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who front-rimmed a jumper.

Larry Hughes flew across the lane, anticipating the miss to snatch the offensive rebound, and called a timeout.

After the break, James took the ball to the basket - looking like he had a clear path to the basket - but instead whipped a pass to Donyell Marshall, who bricked a 3-pointer from the right corner.

"Nothing to it, I missed. It was a great shot," Marshall said. "I was just telling Eric (Snow) that probably felt better than any (3-pointers) that I hit in New Jersey but that's the way the game goes sometimes. You're going to miss those.

"Unfortunately, that one was to win the game. I'm going to have many more chances, my teammates believe in me. They came to me, and I'm going to get more opportunities and continue to try to knock them down."

James would not budge, saying that he would continue to make the right play instead of worrying about taking shots down the stretch.

"I go for the winning play," James said. "If two guys come at you and your teammate is open, then give it up, simple as that. You've just got to take what's there. It's not about taking a high volume of shots, it's about trying to win the basketball game.

"You've got to take what's there. We had an opportunity to me with me taking three shots in the fourth quarter. My game is not solely on taking a lot of shots. I'm going to continue to say that. That's the only answer I can give you. We had an opportunity to win."

Billups then was fouled in pursuit of the long rebound and nailed 1-of-2 free throws with 2.8 seconds left. Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao misfired on a desperation heave from beyond half-court as time expired.

Despite its sub-par performance, Cleveland stayed in the game by doing its best impersonation of Detroit, grinding each possession defensively and crashing the boards to outrebound the Pistons, 49-41.

"Well, the only thing we didn't do, which I was disappointed, was we didn't rebound, and they jumped out and got a big rebound late, so we dodged a bullet there," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said.

Midway through the fourth quarter, normally even-keeled Cavaliers coach Mike Brown hastily called a timeout after a defensive lapse by Cleveland guard Sasha Pavlovic - the first sign of the Cavaliers faltering down the stretch.

Billups tied the game with a acrobatic three-point play with 6:30 left. On Detroit's next possession, the veteran guard was left wide open on the right wing by Pavlovic - who did not recover after the Pistons grabbed an offensive rebound - and he nailed a 3-pointer to make it 71-68 with 5:45 left.

The Cavaliers then leaned on Ilgauskas, who nailed two jumpers off pick-and-rolls with James and two free throws after a nimble back-door cut to give Cleveland a 76-75 lead with 2:08 left.

But Billups, known as "Mr. Big Shot" for his clutch plays down the stretch, nailed yet another shot from the arc to make it 78-76 and give the Pistons the lead for good with 1:50 left.

"The one thing that I love about Chauncey, regardless of how the game is going, he can be 0-of-20, I know in the last three, four minutes of the game he's still the same player," Hamilton said. "He's never rattled, he's always, 'I want to make the great play.'"

Hamilton was 11-of-21, Wallace shot 7-of-13 and Billups 4-of-6, including 2-of-4 on 3-pointers, for the Pistons. But Billups also committed seven turnovers and Prince was 1-of-11 from the field, making the squad look out of sync.

"Point blank, two of our key players as far as keying what we do, not turning the ball over, is Chauncey and Tay, and they both struggled tonight offensively," Saunders said. "Defensively, I thought they were good, but offensively they struggled in areas. Chauncey has the ball as much as he does in our offense and struggles like he did, we're going to look out of sync."

However, no one on the Pistons seemed concerned.

"Chauncey is the least of my worries," Wallace said. "He had some turnovers, but he came through in the stretch when we needed. That's what he does. This was a rare game with the turnovers, but he'll be better in Game Two."

Detroit shot just 43 percent (31-of-72) from the field, including 5-of-14 from the arc, but escaped with the win.

"As a player, we feel like we gave this one away," Hughes said. "You can't take away from those guys making tough shots like (Wallace) stepping back and hitting threes. Rip (Hamilton) had a one-foot floater in the paint that hit the rim hard, floated and rolled in. We understand where we made our mistakes and we will definitely give a better effort on Thursday."

Ilgauskas had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Hughes and Varejao netted 13 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who shot a miserable 37 percent (32-of-86) from the field, including 1-of-10 on 3-pointers.

"It is just one game and it is a long series," Ilgauskas said. "Everybody realizes that and this game is just a mirror of what I think is going to come here or in Cleveland. It is great for the fans and these teams know each other really well, and we match up well and it will be an interesting series."








  • PLAYOFFS
    NBA PLAYOFFS
    CLEVELAND 76
    DETROIT 79 FINAL

    May 21 10:53 PM
  • 73
    roots
    RUWTbot Added 34 roots (Close Finish)

    Cavaliers vs. PistonsMay 21 10:43 PM
  • 39
    roots
    RUWTbot Added 34 roots (Close Finish)

    Cavaliers vs. PistonsMay 21 10:38 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NBA PLAYOFFS
    CLEVELAND 55
    DETROIT 56 END, 3RD QTR

    May 21 10:09 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NBA PLAYOFFS
    CLEVELAND 41
    DETROIT 35 HALFTIME

    May 21 9:22 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NBA END 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    CLEVELAND 24 24
    DETROIT 19 19 END 1ST QTR
    HIGH SCORERS AFTER 1ST QUARTER
    CLE - LARRY HUGHES 7, ZYDRUNAS ILGAUSKAS 6,
    ALEKSANDAR PAVLOVIC 6
    DET - RICHARD HAMILTON 9, DALE DAVIS 5, TWO
    PLAYERS WITH 2

    May 21 8:51 PM
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    Cavaliers vs. PistonsMay 21 5:08 PM