Sunday , May , 21 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Cavaliers, Pistons battle for a berth in East finals

(Sports Network) – The Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers play for the
right to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, as they battle in the
decisive Game 7 of their semifinals series this afternoon at The Palace of
Auburn Hills.

The winner of today’s contest will meet the Miami Heat in the best-of-seven
conference finals.

Detroit avoided elimination on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena. Rasheed Wallace
finished with 24 points, and the top-seeded Pistons came up with three
straight huge offensive rebounds in the final minute to steal an 84-82 win
over No. 4 Cleveland in Game 6 of the set.

Richard Hamilton ended with 17 points in Game 6’s win for the Pistons, who
snapped a three-game skid in the series. Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince
each chipped in with 15 points apiece for Detroit.

The Cavaliers were down 84-81 with 1.4 ticks left and LeBron James on the foul
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 and
Detroit survived.

James finished with a game-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the
loss for the Cavaliers, while center Zydrunas Ilgauskas contributed 16 points
and forward Drew Gooden netted 13 in defeat.

Cleveland is expected to have guard Larry Hughes back in the lineup today.
Hughes missed the last four games in the series because of the death
of his younger brother. Hughes is averaging 11.3 points and 3.9 assists in
eight postseason contests for the Cavs.

The Pistons, who are 5-1 at home in the postseason, are 4-4 all-time in Game
7s and are 3-0 as the host in the decisive contest.

Detroit, which won the first two games of this set, 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 and have captured 11 of their
last 12 games when they have the chance to eliminate their opponent from the
postseason.

The Pistons, who are in the playoffs for the fifth straight season,
captured the Central Division and home-court advantage throughout the
playoffs because of their franchise-best 64 victories during the regular
season.

Detroit has reached at least the conference semifinals for a fifth straight
year. It was eliminated in five games by Boston in the 2002 semis, lost in
four to New Jersey in the 2003 conference finals, defeated the Lakers in five
to capture the NBA title in 2004 and fell in seven games to San Antonio in
last year’s championship round.

Cleveland, which has never comeback from a 2-0 deficit to win a playoff
series, is 2-0 all-time in Game 7s in the playoffs. The Cavaliers defeated
Washington in Game 7 of the 1976 conference semifinals and Boston in Game 7 of
the 1992 East semis.

The Cavaliers, who are 3-3 as the visitor in this year’s playoffs, would
advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in franchise
history with a victory today. They fell in six games in 1976 to the Boston
Celtics and were ousted in six by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls
in 1992.

Cleveland is 2-1 all-time in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The
Cavs defeated Washington in seven games in 1976 and beat Boston in 1992.
They were swept, 4-0, by the Bulls in 1993.

Cleveland won its first playoff series since 1993 in the first round, as it
knocked off Gilbert Arenas and the fifth-seeded Wizards in six tough
contests. In 1993, the Cavaliers defeated the New Jersey Nets in five games,
3-2, in the first round.

CLE DET