Thursday , May , 18 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Gooden, Cavaliers down Pistons in Game 5 thriller

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) – Drew Gooden’s basket with 27.8 seconds
left gave Cleveland the lead and the Cavaliers held on for a dramatic 86-84
win over the Detroit Pistons in pivotal Game 5 of their Eastern Conference
semifinal series at The Palace.

LeBron James scored 22 of his game-high 32 points in the second half for the
Cavs, who have won the last three games of this best-of-seven set to take a
3-2 lead. Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 14 points, 10 rebounds and had a franchise
playoff-record six blocks for Cleveland, which can close out the two-time
defending conference champion in Game 6 at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday.

Donyell Marshall, who had a key block in the final seconds, added 14 points
and 13 boards, as the Cavs are on the verge of advancing to the conference
finals for the first time since losing to the Bulls in six games in 1992.

Tayshaun Prince had 21 points and eight boards for Detroit, which picked a bad
time to suffer its first three-game losing streak of the season. Chauncey
Billups added 17 points and Richard Hamilton had 15 for the Pistons, who
trailed for most of the contest but kept it close the entire time.

With the Cavs ahead 74-66 after Marshall hit a free throw, the Pistons came to
life and put together an 11-3 run that drew the two clubs even. Antonio
McDyess had six points during the run, which he capped with a bucket at the
5:09 mark to tie the game at 77-77.

Just over 1 1/2 minutes later, Damon Jones drained a three-pointer for an
82-79 edge and was fouled by Billups, giving the Cavs a shot at a four-
point lead. However, he missed the free throw and Billups converted a
transition layup to cut the deficit to 82-81 with 3:18 left.

Cleveland increased the lead to 84-81 on a free throw each by Anderson Varejao
and James, but the Pistons again stormed back courtesy of McDyess. His free
throw with 1:56 left cut the deficit to two points. He then converted a
running layup with 1:20 on the clock to tie the contest at 84-84.

The game remained that way until Gooden received a James pass in the paint and
converted a layup with 27.8 seconds left.

Prince had a chance for the tie, but his shot with 11 seconds left was blocked
by Marshall. Lindsey Hunter then misfired on a long jumper with eight
seconds remaining. With 1.9 seconds on the clock, the Pistons got an inbounds
pass to Hamilton, but he couldn’t get a shot off.

“Detroit’s the best team in the NBA, and this doesn’t change that,” said
James. “But they aren’t the Big Bad Wolf, and we aren’t the Three Little Pigs.
We are all grown men, and we know we can beat them.”

McDyess ended with 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons, who last faced
an elimination game prior to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference playoffs in
the semifinal round in 2004. However, Detroit won the final two games of that
series against the Nets to advance to the finals. the Pistons won the NBA
title that year.

“We’re in a situation where we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” said Detroit
head coach Flip Saunders. “We know we have a tough road. Cleveland is playing
extremely well and LeBron is unbelievable, but the series isn’t over. We have
to get back to what we did during the season and find ways to win on the road
and close it out.”

Gooden had only four points.

After a first quarter that saw the two teams play to a 20-20 deadlock, Detroit
went ahead 25-22 following a three-point play by Hamilton two minutes into the
second.

Cleveland, though, answered by scoring 10 of the next 13 points to take a
32-28 lead. Marshall’s three-pointer during the surge gave the Cavs the lead,
27-25, and Jones ended the run on a trey with just over 3 1/2 minutes
elapsed.

Later in the quarter, ahead 42-41, Cleveland went on an 8-2 run to grab its
largest lead of the half, 50-43. James scored the final four points of the
burst, hitting a basket with a minute to play and Cleveland cruised into the
break with a 50-45 advantage.

The Cavs continued to lead for most of the third quarter as well. Early in the
stanza Cleveland jumped out to a 58-49 lead when Flip Murray capped a 6-2
surge with a free throw nearly four minutes into the quarter.

Detroit chipped away from there and eventually tied the game at 66-66 when
Hamilton hit a running jumper with 53 seconds left. However, Murray gave
Cleveland a 68-66 lead going into the final quarter when he hit a long jumper
as time expired.

James was held in check during the third quarter, being held to 2-of-5
shooting and was without a free throw attempt. This after hitting 9-of-17
shots for 22 points in the first half.

Game Notes

The Cavs’ Larry Hughes missed his third straight games due to the death of his
brother, Justin, who was buried on Tuesday…Detroit head coach Flip Saunders
was hit with a technical foul with 7:03 left in the fourth quarter for arguing
with officials that James should have been called for a foul against Billups
when going for a loose ball in front of the Pistons’ bench…Rasheed Wallace
had 10 points and nine rebounds.

CLE DET