Saturday , May , 20 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Wallace backs up the talk; Pistons defeat Cavs to force Game 7

Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) – Rasheed Wallace dropped in 24 points, and the
Pistons came up with three straight huge offensive rebounds in the final
minute to steal an 84-82 win over Cleveland in Game 6 of their Eastern
Conference semifinal set at Quicken Loans Arena.

Richard Hamilton added 17 points for the Pistons, who snapped a three-game
skid in the series and forced a Game 7 to be played on Sunday at The Palace,
with the winner to face Miami.

Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince each chipped in with 15 points apiece for
Detroit.

“We can be down sometimes but never out,” said Billups. “That is the
personality of our team.”

The Cavaliers were down 84-81 with 1.4 ticks left and LeBron James on the
line. The Cleveland superstar made the first free throw and missed the second
on purpose.

As players from both teams crashed the boards hard, Billups tipped the ball
back towards his own basket, but it fell harmlessly off the rim as Detroit
survived.

“We kept fighting,” said Billups. “The last play of the game I went up tried
my best to get it and damn near tipped it in. Its like that. Its great
playoff basketball.”

James finished with a game-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for
the Cavaliers, who are attempting to reach the Eastern Conference finals for
the first time since 1992.

“Nobody thought we would be here,” James said. “Nobody thought we would be in
a Game 7 against the Pistons. We proved the doubters wrong. We have to prove
some more wrong.”

Zydrunas Ilgauskas tallied 16 points while Drew Gooden had 13 for Cleveland.

“I felt like we competed and they competed and when you have two teams that
compete that hard, there is a fine line between winning and losing a
basketball game,” said Cleveland coach Mike Brown. “The team that makes the
most mistakes down the stretch is going to be the team that loses and that was
us tonight.”

The game was closely contested throughout and Detroit entered the fourth
quarter with a slim two-point edge.

Donyell Marshall’s three from the right corner put Cleveland back on top,
69-67, with 7:51 remaining.

The Pistons flashed their championship mettle and hung tough. Billups
connected on a three-point play, with 4:33 left, to give Detroit a 76-73
advantage.

The see-saw continued. Ilgauskas drained a jumper and James hit a pair from
the charity stripe to make it, 77-76, with 3:15 on the clock.

Detroit immediately went to Wallace on the blocks, and the long forward came
through with a turnaround jumper while drawing contact. Wallace, whose bold
prediction of a Detroit win in Game 4 blew up in his face, made the ensuing
free throw to complete the three-point play and put the Pistons back up,
79-77, with 3:02 left.

After a James turnover, his seventh of the game, Billups silenced the crowd
with a jumper as the shot clock was expiring and Detroit had a 81-77 advantage
with 2:20 on the clock.

James and Billups exchanged a pair of free throws over the next minute and the
score was 83-79.

The parade to the line continued and James made two more to make it a one-
possession game, 83-81, with 1:04 remaining.

The Pistons immediately went to the high pick-and-roll. Wallace took a long
three from the top. The shot was off the mark, but Hamilton corralled it and
reset the offense.

This time, Detroit went to Wallace on the blocks and the enigmatic big man was
again off the mark. Hamilton pulled down his second straight offensive board
and kicked the ball back outside.

The Pistons went for the three-pointer, with Wallace getting another attempt.
This time, he drew contact, but missed two from the line. Flip Murray got his
hands on the rebound, but couldn’t hold on and Ben Wallace tracked it down
with less than 15 seconds remaining.

“Ben was phenomenal on the offensive glass, just keeping the ball alive,” said
Detroit coach Flip Saunders. “Sheed was good. In some of their switches, we
told our bigs if they get a small guy and want a place to go get near the
glass you have a chance to get an offensive rebound. I just thought we had
good energy. Like I said before, this is a team thats battle-tested. I
guarantee you Sunday its going to be a very energetic and entertaining game
and a loud crowd.”

Cleveland was forced to foul Billups, who made 1-of-2 from the line to put
Detroit up 84-81 and set-up the dramatic final seconds.

“Throughout most of the game we did a solid job on the backboards,” said
Brown. “But, in the fourth quarter we let that get away from us. That was a
big problem for us.”

The Cavs fed off their energetic home crowd and jumped to an early 13-6 edge
in the first five minutes of the game. Gooden highlighted the early spurt with
a slam and a jumper.

The Pistons settled down and clawed their way back in the game. Hamilton’s
layup put Detroit on top, 18-17, with two minutes left in the frame. The
Pistons held on to a slim 20-19 advantage after the first 12 minutes.

Both teams struggled offensively in the second quarter and Detroit held the
same precarious one-point edge, 38-37, at intermission.

The Cavs forged ahead, 52-47, midway through the third quarter. James ignited
the crowd with a poke-steal from Rasheed Wallace at the defensive end. The
Cavaliers star then finished the play with a driving lay-in after taking a
beautiful behind-the-back pass from Eric Snow.

Detroit regained its footing and finished the frame strongly with a 16-9 mini-
spurt. Rasheed Wallace dropped in two treys to highlight the burst and Detroit
took a 63-61 lead into the final frame.

Game Notes

Cavs guard Larry Hughes rejoined the team for Game 6. He was dressed and
active to support his teammates, but did not play. Hughes has missed the last
four games in the series after the death of his younger brother, Justin.
Justin Hughes was born with a heart defect and succumbed to the ailment on
Thursday of last week…Cleveland actually won the battle of the boards,
42-35, but couldn’t get the big rebound when it counted…Rasheed Wallace, who
was battling a sprained ankle, rode a stationary bike to keep loose when he
was out of the game…The Cavaliers are now 4-2 at home in this year’s
playoffs…Cleveland has never come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a playoff
series… The Cavaliers are 1-5 all-time in Game 6s in the playoffs…The
Pistons have won nine straight Game 6s in the postseason…Detroit has never
lost a playoff series after winning Games 1 and 2. The Pistons have won six of
their last seven games when facing elimination…Ben Wallace has had 10 or
more rebounds in all six games in the series.

CLE DET