James leads way, especially in fourth, as Cavs get big win
cavaliers 88, pistons 82
CLEVELAND — LeBron James started fading — and fading and fading — but the Cavaliers did not.
Behind a series of fadeaway jumpers from James — not to mention a couple of resounding dunks and numerous great passes — the Cavaliers defeated the Detroit Pistons 88-82 Sunday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Detroit still leads the best-of-seven series 2-1, with Game 4 slated for Tuesday at 8 p.m. at The Q.
“We ain’t done yet,” said James, who finished with 32 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. “We’ve still got to hold down our home court and make it a three-game series.”
Twelve of James’ points came in the fourth quarter, the biggest a 14-foot pull-up jumper over Richard Hamilton that gave the Cavaliers an 86-82 lead with 16.3 seconds to go. That halted a 6-0 Detroit run that appeared to have the Cavaliers on the verge of crumbling.
“I didn’t want to force it to the basket,” said James, whose point total was three more than he scored in the first two games of the series combined. “I was able to take a very comfortable mid-range jump shot.”
Tayshaun Prince missed a wide-open
3-poiner on Detroit’s next possession, with Drew Gooden icing the game for the Cavaliers with a pair of free throws.
“LeBron stepped up, put us on his shoulders and said, ‘Come along for the ride,’” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “We all hopped on.”
James had just one point and attempted only one field goal in the third period as the Cavaliers were outscored 20-16 and fell behind by one, but he started the fourth quarter by making a step-back three from the left corner.
That fadeaway was followed by a resounding dunk over Rasheed Wallace, two more fadeaway jumpers, including a 3-pointer that put the Cavaliers up 84-76 with 2:34 to go, and three assists as James did anything and everything his team needed down the stretch.
“Words can’t describe that one,” Cleveland rookie Daniel Gibson said of James’ dunk. “It was sick. It really sparked the ballclub when he did it.”
Gibson, who played 29 huge minutes because Larry Hughes (six points, 22 minutes) sprained his foot late in the first quarter and was ineffective after returning, had nine points off the bench and a key strip of the ball from Prince with 2:58 to go.
No other Cleveland reserve scored, but it didn’t matter because of James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (16 points, seven rebounds), Sasha Pavlovic (13 points, five assists) and Gooden (12 points, six boards).
“It’s all or nothing at this point,” said James, who was 12-of-21 from the field, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, and 6-of-9 at the line. “You either make it a series and make it 2-1 or make it the impossible and go down 3-0.”
For a while in the third period, always a trouble spot for the Cavaliers, it looked like the latter was going to occur.
Cleveland actually outscored Detroit 7-2 at the start of the period to go up eight, but the Pistons came right back with a 12-2 run to grab a two-point lead, much to the delight of Kid Rock, who was in attendance.
After watching Wallace bang in back-to-back 3-pointers and Chauncey Billups hit another, Brown called a timeout. This time, the Cavaliers responded, unlike their debacles in the first two games in Detroit.
The Cavaliers were down one after three, but they had managed to regroup behind Ilgauskas (eight points) and Pavlovic (five), who combined for 13 of the team’s 16 points. Ilgauskas, who had just three points in Game 2, had six in rapid-fire succession when his team needed him most in the third period.
Once the Cavaliers pushed ahead in the fourth quarter, a very verbal James would not let his team be overtaken.
“You don’t want to let one slip away again,” the 22-year-old said. “I could just tell that if we could get over the hump, we could win this ballgame.”
An aggressive James had 19 points in the first half — that matched his Game 2 total and was nine more than he had in all of Game 1 — as the Cavaliers took a 46-43 lead.
James attacked from the opening tip, as he got Cleveland on the board with a dunk in transition just 47 seconds into the game. He added another fast-break dunk with 9:54 to go in the opening quarter, then split a pair of free throws 49 seconds later after being fouled on a hard drive to the hoop.
The second quarter was one of runs, with the Cavaliers making the last one — a 9-2 spurt over the final four minutes — to take the lead at halftime.
James was 7-of-12 from the field and 5-of-6 at the line in the opening half as the Cavaliers shot a sizzling 52.9 percent from the field (18-of-34).
The Pistons were still in the game, however, as Prince, 1-of-19 from the field over the first two games, and Chris Webber had nine points apiece.
Former Cavaliers guard Flip Murray also gave Detroit a lift with eight second-quarter points, helping make up for the fact starting guards Hamilton and Billups had two points on a combined 0-of-7 shooting in the first half.
Wallace led the Pistons with 16 points, while Webber had 15 and Prince and Billups finished with 13 each. Hamilton had just seven as he and Billups finished 6-of-22 from the field.
The game was stopped on two occasions in the first quarter as material splattered onto the court from high above, apparently a result of the Cavaliers’ pregame festivities.
Hughes limped to the locker room late in the first quarter and was diagnosed with a strained foot, but returned in the second period. He started in the third period, but was not moving well and played just seven minutes in the second half.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.
WHO: Detroit at Cleveland
WHAT: Eastern Conference final, Game 4 (Pistons lead best-of-seven series, 2-1)
WHEN: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Quicken Loans Arena
TV/RADIO: TNT, WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM