Friday , May , 25 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Deja vu: Pistons frustrate LeBron again

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) – Rasheed Wallace scored 16 points, pulled
down 11 rebounds and hit the go-ahead jumper with 24.3 seconds left, as
Detroit rallied to beat Cleveland and a frustrated LeBron James again, 79-76,
in a tenacious ending to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Anderson Varejao fell to the floor as Wallace got position in the low post and
then drilled a jumper from the right baseline to give the Pistons a 77-76
lead.

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was screaming for an offensive foul, although after
the game Wallace called Varejao’s move a flop. Brown though drew a technical
on the last crucial offensive sequence for the visitors.

James, who passed up the potential tying shot in Cleveland’s loss by an
identical score in Monday’s Game 1, drove into the lane and made contact with
Richard Hamilton and missed. The ball caromed to Larry Hughes for a short
jumper left of the lane, but that was off the mark and Varejao’s left-handed
tip-in try also missed. Hamilton got the ball and was fouled with a second
left.

Brown was seething about the no-foul call on James and was given a technical.
Chauncey Billups nailed the free throw and Hamilton made 1-of-2 at the line
before Varejao missed a desperation shot nearly under his own basket.

“I believe there was some contact, but there’s been a lot of contact
throughout this series,” James said. “We’re a no-excuse team, and we can’t
look at the last play as why we lost. We’ve just got to get better. But I do
feel there was some contact.”

Jason Maxiell had 15 points, while Hamilton and Billups each scored 13 for the
Pistons, who ended 6-of-11 from three-point range. They won despite an off-
night for Tayshaun Prince, who missed all eight of his shots and ended with
one point.

The bigger story though was Detroit’s defense, which limited James to five
points in the second half.

“One thing about our team is we can win both ways,” Billups said. “We can win
in the 80s, we can win in the 105 to 110 range. That’s just how versatile we
are. We’re used to games like this where our defense has to carry us. We’ve
done it for years.”

James had 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists to lead the Cavaliers, but
he again passed up a shot that would have extended a Cleveland lead in the
final minute.

Game 3 will be Sunday night in Cleveland, but history is well on the side of
the Pistons. Detroit, in the conference finals for a fifth straight year, is
18-0 all-time when going up 2-0 in a playoff series.

“I’m sure we feel lucky and they feel unlucky because both teams had
opportunities to win,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. “It’s one of those
games, the ball bounces funny ways, and that’s why what you have to do is you
want to put yourself in a position to have an opportunity to win. They’ve
played extremely well both games, and we know Sunday is going to be a heck of
a game.”

The Cavaliers led 69-65 with under nine minutes left, but turned the ball over
on five straight possessions. During that stretch, the Pistons scored nine
consecutive points with Hamilton’s left baseline jumper capping the burst.

However, Cleveland came back with six straight points on two buckets from
Sasha Pavlovic and one from Varejao. Wallace and James then exchanged free
throws to leave the score at 76-75 with 1:11 left.

A bad pass from Wallace to Billups led to a turnover, and James then drove
into the lane, but passed up a fadeaway shot in favor of moving the ball to
Pavlovic to the right corner, the same area Donyell Marshall missed a
potential go-ahead three in the closing seconds of Game 1. Pavlovic shuffled
his feet for a travel call, setting up the finish.

Varejao had 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Pavlovic added 14 in a losing
cause.

After the game, Wallace was asked about his so-called battles with Varejao,
specifically the play that led to go-ahead jumper.

“That kid ain’t old enough to be in what you’d want to call a battle,” Wallace
said. “They ain’t had no battles yet. All that flopping, they need to make
that a technical foul for next year. They did everything else do give me
technical fouls. That’s not defense in the fourth quarter, and I’m glad we
have veteran officials to see that.”

Wallace picked up two fouls less than four minutes into the game, but the
Pistons managed to hold a 20-16 lead after one quarter, thanks mostly to
Maxiell, who had seven points. That included two straight jams, including an
alley-oop which boosted the Pistons to a 15-10 lead.

Varejao led the Cleveland surge in the second quarter, as the Cavs moved to a
50-38 lead at the half. Damon Jones’ three culminated a 7-0 spurt to start the
period. The Cavs used a 13-3 flurry to end the second, with James accounting
for five of those points. Varejao had 10 points in the quarter.

The Cavalier lead never got larger than 12 in the second half, and the Pistons
rallied behind strong defense and clutch outside shooting. Billups’ three
capped nine straight Detroit points, drawing the Pistons within 52-49.

“The guys in that locker room, we don’t give up, no matter what the deficit
is,” Wallace said. “If we lose, okay, we will deal with losing, but if we go
hard and losing then it’s fine. But it’s just resilience with the guys in that
locker room. Veterans, guys that don’t want to lose.”

Pavlovic’s bucket finally ended Cleveland’s drought of more than five minutes
without a point, but Chris Webber’s hook shot in the lane gave the Pistons a
58-57 lead, their first advantage since the second quarter.

Daniel Gibson and Marshall hit three-pointers in the final minute of the
third, giving the Cavs a 63-60 edge going into the fourth.

Game Notes

The Pistons shot 44.4 percent from the floor compared to 40 percent for
Cleveland…The Cavaliers have lost 16 of their last 19 games at the Palace.

CLE DET