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LeBron's 41 points help Cavs fight off Pistons in OT

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- LeBron James was unstoppable.

Then, he said the Cleveland Cavaliers can be, too.

James scored a season-high 41 points, leading the Cavaliers to a 101-97 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.

"If we play well, nobody can beat us," James said. "We believe that."

James almost won the game in regulation with a 27-footer, but a video review negated the dramatic shot.

He set the tone early in the overtime, making free throws and blocking Richard Hamilton's shot with a fantastic block in front of the rim.

James had a chance to make it a two-possession game with 17 seconds left, but missed the first of two free throws.

Rasheed Wallace -- after missing three games with a sprained left foot -- missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. Cleveland's Anderson Varejao grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made one of two free throws to seal the win.

"If you are a fan and you didn't enjoy that, I don't know," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "It was a great game. Bottom line, we found a way to win."

Cleveland pulled within two games of the Pistons for the top spot in the Central Division and Eastern Conference with its fourth win in five games.

"Big win," James said.

The Cavs pushed Detroit to seven games in the conference semifinals last year, and the two teams could meet in the playoffs again in a couple of months.

"It does helps sometimes in the regular season to get wins against teams that you might see in the playoffs," James said. "For some guys' psyche, it really helps to know we can compete against some of these teams."

Detroit won the previous two meetings at Cleveland by an average of 14 points.

"The way they handled us so far this year, it was very big to come on their court and get a win," James said.

Hamilton scored 29 points, Chris Webber had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Chauncey Billups had 16 points and 14 assists, and Tayshaun Prince added 12 points.

The Pistons have lost three of four after winning 11 of 12 games.

As Detroit often does, it dug a big hole in the first quarter -- trailing by as much as 12 -- and spent a lot of energy trying to erase it.

"We're spotting teams too much early," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. "When you fight so much to get back, it can catch up to you."

James led the way, but his team reached a season-high 11 games over .500 because the star had plenty of help. Drew Gooden had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 14 points and 10 boards, and Larry Hughes added 12 points.

Free throws kept the Pistons in the game, and perhaps prevented Cleveland from winning in regulation.

Detroit was 33-of-42 from the line before overtime while the Cavs -- the NBA's worst free throw shooting team -- were 9-of-18 entering overtime. Cleveland was 4-of-6 in overtime at the line.

After leading only once -- briefly -- through three quarters, Detroit opened the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run to take a 81-72 lead.

"We didn't let that affect us," James said. "That shows growth. I'm proud of the guys. We could've easily tanked it. We've done that in the past. Tonight, we definitely didn't do that and we got a big win on the road."

The Pistons knew James would try to take the game over in the end, but they couldn't stop him as he seemed to be going downhill as he attacked the basket.

James made three go-ahead baskets in the final 2 1/2 minutes and made it 93-all on a dunk with 5.7 seconds left.

"He had it going, hitting some tough, tough shots," Billups said. "That's what makes him a great player."

Hamilton missed a 16-footer with 2 seconds left and after a timeout, James had the ball a split second too long on his deep shot that was waved off after a review.

"If we had one second, instead of point-nine, it would've been good," James said.

James scored 14 points in the opening quarter, helping the Cavs go ahead 34-24 -- one point away from the season high allowed by Detroit in the first quarter.

Cleveland clung to a 52-50 lead at halftime and it was 70-all after three quarters.

Game notes
James' previous season high was 39 points. ... The Pistons were without reserve point guard Lindsey Hunter, who was suspended Wednesday for 10 games for taking a banned substance primarily used for weight loss. Seldom-used reserve Flip Murray took his place in the rotation. ... Brown was called for a technical with 16 seconds left in the first half, upset about the foul disparity. Detroit shot 29 free throws to the Cavs' 10 in the first half. ... The Pistons begin a season-high five-game road trip Friday at Denver. ... Kid Rock and Lions linebacker Boss Bailey were among the faces in the crowd. ... The Pistons are 6-5 in the Central Division, and 31-16 against the rest of the league.