Final - 2OT
  for this game

James brilliant in lifting Cavs over Pistons

Jun 1, 2007 - 6:37 AM AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- LeBron James did not disappear at the end this time on Detroit's home court.

James put on a performance for the ages, scoring a playoff career-high 48 points, including the final 25 for his team in leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 109-107 double-overtime victory in Game Five of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday.

The spectacular effort by James gave the Cavaliers a 3-2 lead in the series and the chance to close out the Pistons in Game Six on Saturday in Cleveland.

"LeBron was huge," said Cavs forward Drew Gooden, whose free throw late in regulation was the only one of Cleveland's final 30 points not scored by James. "I fouled out so I was on the bench watching it, but I felt like I was playing a video game out there with the Cavaliers - just watching him take over like in a video game."

The Pistons must have felt the same way, unable to stop James' slashing drives or outside jumpers. On the winning basket, James penetrated down the lane and scooped in a layup with 2.2 seconds to play for a 109-107 lead.

"I thought that obviously LeBron had a terrific game," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "I mean, we've been riding him the whole season. We rode him most the playoffs and tonight for him to score 29 of the last 30 points, somebody told me that in the locker room and I could not believe it. I could not believe he scored 29 of the last 30 points.

"That was a phenomenal performance. Not only that but the guy had seven assists, he has nine rebounds, he did it all. He always does it all for us."

Detroit's Chauncey Billups misses a tying shot that rolled around the rim and spun out as time expired.

The last one I had a real good look, (Anderson) Varejao got a piece of it. He made a good play on it," Billups said. "It's frustrating. (James) put an unbelievable display out there. It was probably the best I've seen against us ever in the playoffs. It was a great one, it was a great win for them.

Maligned for a pair of disappearing acts in tight losses here in the first two games of the series, James is one game away from making the Pistons vanish from the playoffs.

In Game One, James was roundly criticized for not attempting the winning shot, instead passing to teammate Donyell Marshall for a missed 3-pointer. In Game Two, James missed a shot in the lane with 7.9 seconds to play.

He left little to chance Thursday night, repeatedly attacking the rim, including consecutive dunks at the end of regulation.

"I made a lot of good moves and I was able to finish," James said. "It wasn't just like they opened up the lane and let me through there. I made a lot of good moves, my teammates did a good job of spacing the floor and I just wanted to try to finish."

And now James and the Cavaliers may be able to finish the Pistons, something they were not able to do in an identical situation last year.

"He (James) just wouldn't let us go down," Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. "I have played with him for four years and this is probably the best that I've seen him play in a pressure situation and especially since he won the game for us. I am happy for him because he has been having some criticism and he fired back with this."

Last season, the Cavaliers won Game Five on Detroit's home floor to take a 3-2 edge in the Eastern Conference semifinals, only to see the Pistons come back to win the final two games and the series.

"It ain't no different. We've been in a hole before," Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace said. "Believe it or not, the year we won against (New) Jersey, we were down going back to Jersey, same way - 3-2."

Richard Hamilton scored 26 points, Billups 21 and Chris Webber 20 for the Pistons, who have dropped three straight games in the series.

Webber converted a huge three-point play with 1:28 left in the second overtime to give the Pistons a 107-104 lead.

Undaunted, James drilled a 3-pointer 14 seconds later to tie it and set up his last-second heroics.

"He was in a zone tonight," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He made some phenomenal shots. I thought the shot he had in front of our bench to tie it up when we were up three, off to the left and going up, he was in an unbelievable zone."

James scored all of Cleveland's nine points in the first overtime but finally looked human by throwing up an airball with 6.6 seconds left and the Cavs leading, 100-98.

Billups hit a pair of pressure free throws to tie it at 100-100 with 3.1 seconds left in the first overtime after drawing a reach-in foul on a drive down the lane.

A desperation heave by Eric Snow from beyond mid-court was well off the mark.

After Detroit used a 10-0 run to take an 88-81 lead in regulation, James hit a 3-pointer and a thunderous dunk to cap an 8-0 spurt for an 89-88 lead with 31 seconds left in regulation.

Billups answered from the arc to regain the lead for Detroit, at 91-89, with 22 seconds to play, but James drove for a tying dunk with 9.5 seconds left that forced the first extra session.

"The Pistons do a great job of making runs and you kind of never know when it's going to happen, but when it happens it's quick," James said. "So I just wanted to try to be aggressive and not allow them to make too much of a run, and give ourselves an opportunity to win down at the end of regulation.

"And it took two overtimes to do it, but as a team ... this is a gutted-out victory."

Emotions boiled over in the final minute of the opening quarter when Detroit's Antonio McDyess clotheslined Anderson Varejao on a drive down the lane.

McDyess drew a flagrant foul on the play and was ejected from the game, greatly reducing the depth of the Pistons' front line.

"It hurt because he's played so well and given us so much energy and he's one of our better defenders, as far as pick-and-roll," Saunders said. "But I thought Maxie (Jason Maxiell) played well and Webb (Webber)played well, and we had good energy for most of the game."