CLEVELAND -- LeBron James and his teammates flashed only a
few smiles after practice Thursday.
The Cavaliers are confident and feeling good about taking a 3-2
lead against the Detroit Pistons, but they've learned how quickly
things can change in the playoffs.
"We're not surprised that we're up and I think Detroit's a
little surprised that they're down," James said.
The Pistons aren't the only ones stunned by the course of this
Eastern Conference series.
After being pounded in the first two games on Detroit's home
floor, Cleveland has a chance to close out the Pistons at home
Friday night and reach the conference finals for the first time
"We're shocking the world right now," Cavaliers forward Drew
Gooden said. "It's a great feeling to be leading this series."
The Pistons, though, are in a familiar spot. They've faced down
elimination in the postseason before.
The Cavaliers are taking nothing for granted going into Game 6
after winning 86-84 Wednesday night at The Palace in Auburn Hills,
Friday night's game is shaping up to be the franchise's biggest
in more than a decade. While the Cavaliers aren't facing
elimination, they feel an urgency to end the series at home, where
they've won 15 of 16, the only loss coming in Game 2 of their
playoff series against Washington.
"It's going to be very difficult especially because we're
playing one of the best teams in the NBA," James said of Game 6.
"What helps is that we're on our homecourt. We've got to protect
Cleveland's win in The Palace -- just the Pistons' fifth home
loss all season -- came a night after the Cavaliers traveled to St.
Louis to attend the funeral of guard Larry Hughes' brother, Justin.
"Since the tragic death of Justin, this whole thing has been
dedicated to Larry and his family and Justin," James said. "It
added more energy, added more will to want to win for him."
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown didn't know if Hughes, who hasn't
played since Game 2, would be back Friday night. But James was
"I would love to have Larry back, and I know he would love to
be back," James said. "I think there's going to be a good chance
he will be back (Friday)."
The Cavaliers played 45 games without Hughes, who had a broken
finger. And they haven't had to rely on James to do it all the past
They've gotten contributions from all their starters, including
center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who finally stepped up (14 points, 10
rebounds, six blocks) Wednesday night. Anderson Varejao, Damon
Jones and Donyell Marshall have come off the bench to provide
"We're starting to find a way to win games," said Gooden, who
had the game-winning shot Wednesday night. "We know what LeBron's
going to do night in and night out. It's anybody's night after
Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace, who guaranteed the Cavaliers
wouldn't get to a Game 6, apparently doesn't agree.
"I still say that one man ain't going to beat five," he said
after Game 5.
Wallace rolled his ankle in Game 4 and didn't practice Thursday.
The Pistons, while admittedly playing tight, haven't lost their
"There's a good mind-set," coach Flip Saunders said. "They've
been there before, and I've been in these situations in Minnesota.
We just have to think about winning one game."
Detroit has plenty of experience facing postseason elimination
and prevailing. The Pistons trailed 3-2 and went on to win against
Miami in the Eastern Conference finals in 2005.
They did the same thing in the semifinals against New Jersey in
2004 and against Orlando in the first round in 2003.
The Pistons trailed the Magic 3-1 before winning, something
Gooden, then a rookie with Orlando, doesn't like to recall.
"I'm not even trying to think about that," he said. "This is
a whole different situation."
On Thursday, James repeated his mantra that the Cavaliers' three
straight wins mean nothing if they fail to take the series.
The Pistons know it, too.
"These are the moments that define teams," Detroit guard
Lindsey Hunter said. "It's going to be fun."