Tuesday , May , 22 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Billups boosts Pistons over Cavs in Game 1

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) – Chauncey Billups’ three-pointer with 1:52
left put Detroit ahead and Cleveland came up empty on a pair of chances inside
the final 20 seconds, as the Pistons beat the Cavaliers, 79-76, in the opener
of the Eastern Conference finals at the Palace.

Richard Hamilton ended with a game-high 24 points and dished out seven assists
for the Pistons, who are appearing in the conference finals for a fifth
straight year. Billups scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter for
Detroit, which will seek to take a two-game lead in this best-of-seven set on
Thursday.

“We dodged one, there’s no question,” said Detroit head coach Flip Saunders.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 22 points and 13 rebounds, but his missed a potential
go-ahead jumper with 15 seconds left for Cleveland, which failed to score a
single point over the final 2:08 of the game.

LeBron James ended with just 10 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the
Cavs, who are in the conference finals for the first time since 1992. James
shot just 5-of-15 from the field and with a chance to tie the game with under
10 seconds left, he kicked a pass out to Donyell Marshall, who missed a wide-
open three-pointer.

“It’s one game,” said Cleveland head coach Mike Brown. “We understand it’s one
game. It’s going to be a long series, but we have to be better for a longer
period of time than what we were tonight.”

After Billups tied the game at 68 with a traditional three-point play with
6:42 left, he followed it up with a three-pointer from beyond the arc at the
5:48 mark for a 71-68 edge.

Ilgauskas then took over for the Cavs, hitting consecutive baskets for a one-
point lead with 3:38 left.

The game went back and forth for the next minute until Billups hit the go-
ahead three-pointer with 1:52 left.

“The one thing that I love about Chauncey, regardless of how the game is
going, he can be 0-for-20, I know in the last three, four minutes of the game
he’s still the same player,” said Hamilton. “He’s never rattled, he’s always
wants to make the great play. He’s still the one to lead us, so I have no
worries. Those last couple minutes is a new game for him.”

Both teams came up empty until Billups hit 1-of-2 free throws with under three
seconds left.

The key possession for the Cavs came with 36 seconds left. Coming out of a
timeout, James found himself with the ball, backing down his defender in the
paint. As the help defense came, James kicked the ball to Ilgauskas, who
missed a jumper from just inside the arc.

Larry Hughes kept the ball alive and Cleveland got the rebound, calling
another timeout with 12.2 ticks left.

This time, James got the ball directly off the inbounds pass and drove the
lane. He probably could’ve put up a potential game-tying runner, but instead
hit a wide-open Marshall in the right corner. Marshall missed, Billups ended
up with the board and was fouled.

“I go for the winning play,” said James. “If two guys come at you and your
teammate is open, then give it up. Simple as that.”

“It looked like everybody had collapsed because there was nobody near
Donyell,” said Brown. “I mean, he could have sat and had a cup of coffee
before he even shot the basketball. LeBron trusts his teammates, his teammates
trust him, and if he’s put in that situation, you’ve just got to step up and
knock the shot down.”

Anderson Varejao’s desperation heave from the other end of the court missed as
time expired.

Varejao and Hughes each ended with 13 points for the Cavs, who shot only 37.2
percent for the game and hit only one three-pointer.

Rasheed Wallace had 15 points and 12 boards for the Pistons, who hit 43.1
percent of their shots, including 5-of-14 from three-point range.

Cleveland led 24-19 after one quarter and continued to hold a 41-35 advantage
going into the break.

In the third, Detroit scored the first seven points to grab a 42-41 lead and
the game virtually went back and forth from there with the Pistons going into
the fourth with a 56-55 edge.

Game Notes

Detroit improved to 9-2 in the playoffs this season, going 5-1 at
home…Cleveland fell to 8-3 in the postseason…Detroit won three of the four
meetings in the regular season versus Cleveland…Chris Webber had 10 points
for the Pistons…The Cavs’ bench outscored the Pistons’ 16-9…Cleveland also
held a 49-41 advantage on the boards.

CLE DET