Friday , Jun , 01 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

James, Cavs edge series lead in double-OT thriller

Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) – LeBron James put together one of the
great postseason performances in NBA history as he willed Cleveland past
Detroit, 109-107, in double overtime to take the pivotal Game 5 of the Eastern
Conference finals at The Palace.

James scored a playoff career-high 48 points, pulled down nine rebounds and
dished out seven assists for the Cavaliers, who won their third straight in
the series to take a 3-2 lead. The superstar scored the final 25 points of the
game for Cleveland and netted all 18 points the team scored in the two extra
frames. Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 16 points and eight boards before fouling
out.

Richard Hamilton tallied 26 points for the Pistons, who now face elimination.
Game 6 of the set is scheduled for Saturday in Cleveland.

Chauncey Billups chipped in with 21 points and seven rebounds while Chris
Webber finished with 20 points and seven boards.

With the game even at 104, Webber took Ilgauskas on the blocks and converted a
conventional three-point play to give Detroit a 107-104 advantage with 1:28
left in the second overtime.

But, fourteen seconds later, James had the answer and buried a triple from
deep on the left wing to deadlock things again at 107. The teams then
exchanged misses before Detroit found Rasheed Wallace down low. Anderson
Varejao came up big and blocked the shot, giving James a chance to seal it.
The superstar responded and drove down the lane for a layup with 2.2 seconds
remaining.

The Pistons had one last chance but Billups’ tear-drop jumper over Varejao
went in and out.

Both teams struggled to score in the first overtime and were even at 96 with
under two minutes to go. James tried to take over and drove hard down the
lane, inducing contact and drilling a pair from the line to make it 98-96 with
just 1:17 left.

After a Detroit turnover, James went back to work and gave the Cavs some
breathing room by draining a brilliant off-balance jumper over Billups with
33.7 ticks remaining.

Down four, 100-96, the Pistons immediately went to Wallace on the blocks
against Varejao. The former North Carolina star drew a foul and nailed two
from the line to make it a one-possession game with 30 seconds on the clock.

James tried to punctuate his brilliant performance with a step-back jumper
over Hamilton with 6.6 ticks left. But, this time he came up empty and Detroit
had a chance to win it or tie.

Billups drove the lane and was hacked by James with 3.1 seconds left. One of
the great clutch free throw shooters in history, Billups calmly sunk both and
sent things to a second overtime.

The game was tied entering the final frame and remained nip-and-tuck early.
The Cavs went on top by three, 81-78, with 6:05 remaining after James drained
a jumper.

The Pistons responded with an 10-0 run, featuring eight points from Hamilton,
over the next three minutes. Hamilton fueled the run with a mid-range jumper
from the right baseline and six free throws to put the Pistons back in front,
88-81.

James finally stopped the bleeding by depositing a driving layup while drawing
contact with 3:02 on the clock. The All-Star missed the ensuing free throw but
the Cavs corralled the rebound and Drew Gooden went hard to the hoop and drew
a foul. The forward was just 1-of-2, however, and Cleveland was down four,
88-84, with just 2:49 left.

After Hamilton missed a jumper, James dropped in a three from the top of the
circle to make it a one-point game, 88-87, with 2:17 left.

Both teams tightened up at that point. The Pistons turned it over three
consecutive times while James missed a pair from the line that would have
given the Cavs a lead.

The third Detroit turnover gave James a chance at redemption and the superstar
took it. He drove down the middle of the lane and threw down a thunderous slam
that stunned the crowd and gave Cleveland an 89-88 edge with just 31 ticks
left.

Billups shook it off quickly and deposited a long three from the right wing
less than eight seconds later to put Detroit back in front, 91-89.

James then responded again with another driving dunk to deadlock things at 91
with 9.5 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Pistons milked the clock and went for the win at that point. Billups
used a head fake and pulled up for a three but the ball came up just short
and the game headed to overtime.

Things got really heated in the game late in the opening quarter when Antonio
McDyess was ejected with 28.6 ticks left. James hit a diving Varejao in the
lane with a no look pass and McDyess met him with a hard foul. The officials
huddled and whistled the Pistons big man for a Flagrant 2 foul which carries
with it an automatic ejection. James, who was cut off trying to get at McDyess
after he saw the foul, was also nabbed for a technical foul.

Meanwhile, the Pistons shot 55 percent in the quarter and led by as many as
seven points in the frame before taking a 29-23 lead into the second stanza.

The Cavs hung around in the second and went back on top, 47-46, after Varejao
converted a dunk with less than three minutes left. The teams remained on the
see-saw from there and a pair of Jason Maxiell free throws capped the scoring
in the quarter with Detroit holding a precarious 52-51 edge at intermission.

The Pistons tried to shake Cleveland early in the third and came out of the
locker room firing. Tayshaun Prince finished a 9-2 run to start the quarter
with a lay-in and a three to give Detroit a 61-53 advantage.

The Cavs refused to fold, however, and managed to deadlock things at 65 after
Varejao converted a layup with just under four minutes left in the frame.
Daniel Gibson then finished the quarter by dropping in a three to even it at
70.

Game Notes

Detroit is now 6-2 as the host in the postseason and has dropped five of its
last seven Game 5s in the playoffs, while the Cavaliers have won four of
their last five Game 5s….History will be made if Cleveland goes on to win
the series. The Pistons are 18-0 when they win the first two games of a
playoff series, while the Cavaliers are 0-10 when they drop Games 1 and 2 in a
series.

CLE DET