LeBron and Co. put Pistons in 3-2 hole

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- All series long, the Detroit Pistons

huffed and puffed. On Wednesday night, it was LeBron James and the

Cleveland Cavaliers who blew their house in.

A stunning role reversal on the Cavs' fairy tale ride?

Maybe not.

Daily Dime

The mighty Detroit Pistons are on the brink of going home for the summer, and all of their swagger, overconfidence and nonchalance has suddenly turned into fear, tightness and despair.

To read more of Chris Sheridan's analysis in the Wednesday night Daily Dime, click here.

"It's just basketball," James said. "They're not the Big, Bad

Wolf. And we're not the Three Little Pigs."

The Pistons, on the brink of elimination after two straight

trips to the NBA Finals, have not been giving much respect to the

Cavs, who are in the second round for the first time since 1993.

That should change now, but will it be too late for the big, bad


Game 6 in the best-of-seven series is Friday night in Cleveland,

and if the Pistons force a Game 7, they will be back on their home

court Sunday.

"LeBron is playing unbelievably, and they're playing with a lot

of confidence," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "But it doesn't

mean the series is over, we just have to revert to what we did for

much of the season."

Ben Wallace blew a chance to give the Pistons the lead for the

first time since early in the second quarter when he missed two

free throws with 40 seconds left. That left one of the NBA's worst

free-throw shooters 0-for-7 for the game, which remained tied at


James deferred to Gooden on the ensuing possession, and the

power forward came through with a low-post basket to put the Cavs

ahead by two with 27 seconds left.

"I took a picture of the basket," Gooden said. "That's what

my freshman coach in high school used to tell me, take my time and

make the shot."

After a timeout, Donyell Marshall blocked Tayshaun Prince's shot

in the lane and James tipped a rebound -- off Lindsey Hunter's

missed jumper -- to teammate Eric Snow, who tossed the ball down the

court to kill time.

The Pistons had the ball back with 1.9 seconds left, but could

not get a shot off to try to force overtime -- or win the game they

didn't seem to deserve.

"That was about as perfect a game of basketball as you can play

against that team," Marshall said.

Cleveland beat Detroit 74-72 and 86-77 to even the series after

being routed in Game 1 and losing Game 2 by six points after a big

early deficit.

After losing Game 3 in Cleveland, Rasheed Wallace guaranteed

Game 4 would be the last game played there because the Pistons

would close out the series in Game 5.


"Everybody wrote us off, but we started to get some confidence

in the second half of Game 2 and we've just kept it going," Cavs

reserve Damon Jones said.

Detroit hopes to draw from its postseason experience. Before the

Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals, they

fell behind New Jersey 3-2 -- with three straight losses -- before

winning on the road and at home to advance to the conference


"I'm still not concerned because I know what we're capable

of," Chauncey Billups said. "We've been there before.

"We can't be looking for a Game 7 because if you're not

careful, there won't be (a Game 7)."

James played like a star -- again -- in his first postseason

appearance, and many of his teammates chipped in throughout Game 5.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 14 before fouling out, Marshall had 14

points and 13 rebounds off the bench and three other players added

at least six points apiece.

Prince scored 21, Billups had 17 before fouling out, Richard

Hamilton scored 15, Rasheed Wallace added 10 while battling foul

trouble and reserve Antonio McDyess chipped in with 11 points.

The Cavs went ahead 63-53 midway through the third quarter on

James' 3, leaving Prince holding his jaw. Then, the Pistons punched

back, perhaps fearing elimination for the first time in the series.

A 13-3 run tied the game before Cleveland went back ahead 68-66.

The Cavs scored the first six points of the fourth, the last

point coming on a free throw when Rasheed Wallace was called for a

technical after his fifth foul.

McDyess -- who was held to six total points in Games 3-4 in

Cleveland -- made three straight shots to tie the game at 77 with

5:10 left.

After the score was knotted again, Jones was fouled as he made a

3-point shot, but he missed the ensuing free throw, then had a shot

blocked, leading to Billups' layup that made it 82-81.

McDyess sat on the bench for several minutes following the game

-- putting his hands behind his head, staring across the court in


The Pistons began the playoffs as the favorites to win it all

after falling just short of repeating as champions last year in

Game 7 at San Antonio.

The first quarter Wednesday ended 20-all, the fifth tie of the

game after 10 lead changes.

Cleveland went ahead on Marshall's 3-pointer with 8:57 left in

the first half, and the Pistons didn't have the lead the rest of

the game.

The Cavs led 50-45 at halftime.

Ilgauskas gave James plenty of support in the first half. He had

nine points -- surpassing his point totals from the previous two

games -- and seven rebounds along with four blocks, which tied a

Cleveland playoff record for blocked shots in a half. Ilgauskas

finished with six blocks, tying a franchise postseason record.

While the Cavs were warming up at halftime with a 50-45 lead,

James leaned against the scorer's table checking out the box score.

He had to like what he saw.

The 21-year-old phenom scored 22 first-half points on 9-of-17

shooting; Ilgauskas was off to a strong start; and the Cavs'

reserves were outscoring Detroit's 17-2.

For the third straight game, the Cavs were without starting

shooting guard Larry Hughes, who has been with his family since the

death of his 20-year-old brother. The entire team attended Justin

Hughes' funeral in St. Louis on Tuesday, the morning after winning

Game 4, then flew to suburban Detroit without a practice between

games. Cavs general manager Danny Ferry said there was still no

timetable for Hughes to return.Game notes
James led the league in votes for the All-NBA team, and he

called it the best achievement of his career. ... The Pistons had

two All-NBA players for the first time in franchise history, with

Billups and Ben Wallace earning spots on the second team. ...

Saunders was called for a technical midway through the fourth,

screaming for a foul to be called against James.