CLEVELAND -- LeBron James crossed midcourt and launched the ball toward the basket more than 40 feet away as the horn sounded.
As Cleveland's star, the Detroit Pistons, 20,000 fans and a TV audience watched the shot's arching flight, James never stopped running.
"I was going to chase it until it went in the hoop," he said.
Off the backboard, through the rim, then the net.
It was halftime. It was over.
James banked in a stunning 3-pointer at the end of the first half and finished with 38 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as the Cavaliers embarked on their quest for a first NBA championship with a 102-84 win over the Pistons in Game 1 on Saturday.
James' 41-footer demoralized the Pistons and gave the Cavs the league's most dominant team -- home or away -- during the regular season, momentum and a 12-point halftime lead.
Cleveland held off one second-half surge by Detroit while James was on the bench and closed out the Pistons, who will try to even the best-of-seven series in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
To do that, Detroit will have to devise something to slow the brilliant James, who had his way for 41 minutes. The likely MVP went 13-of-20 from the field, 11-of-14 from the line and didn't commit a turnover. Cleveland had only five miscues, a postseason franchise record.
"It's tough when he is going like that," Pistons forward Antonio McDyess said. "No matter what you do; trap, he's going to make that play; contest shots, he's making shots. He's going to the bucket and being fouled. It's just tough."
Asked about his range afterward, James paused.
"Uh," he said. "Pretty much unlimited."
So, it seems, is everything else about him.
The Pistons have seen James' act in the playoffs before, and still don't know how to deal with him.
"We have to know where LeBron is at all times," Richard Hamilton said. "When you score 38 against us, we can't have that and have a chance. We have to figure out a way to stop him."
Rodney Stuckey scored 20 and Hamilton 15 for Detroit, which came in as a No. 8 seed and could be in for a shorter postseason run after making the Eastern Conference finals the past six years.
Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince had just four points -- 10 below his average -- in 37 minutes. He was wearing a large wrap on his injured back after the game.
James closed the opening half with another one of those plays that defines his greatness.
After Hamilton's jumper brought the Pistons to 54-45 with two seconds left, James took the inbounds on the fly, blew past Prince on the far sideline and dropped his long 3-pointer. By the time it tumbled to the floor, James was nearly under the basket.
He then paused and stood on the baseline, soaking in the love from Cleveland's fans, who have watched him perform similar feats before.
Did he call glass?
"Yeah," he said. "After I hit it."
The Pistons left the floor shaken.
"Man," Stuckey said of James' big shot. "It is what it is. He made it and they got a bit of momentum."
Detroit regrouped and came out hungry after halftime. The Pistons hung around by knocking down jumpers and managed to pull within 80-72 early in the fourth quarter on Will Bynum's basket with 8:50 left, forcing the Cavs to call a timeout.
James checked back in at that point, and when play resumed, guard Mo Williams, who didn't shoot well in his first playoff game with Cleveland, made a 3-pointer and the Cavs were on their way to an easy win.
James, as is almost always the case, was the difference.
When he wasn't scoring, he was setting up his teammates for easy baskets.
"It's contagious," said Williams, who went 5-of-14. "You see that he's the reason why this team is the way that it is. When you have your best player being that unselfish, you find yourself being the same way."
For a large chunk of the first half, an expected defensive struggle between two of the East's roughest teams was an offensive extravaganza. The Cavs and Pistons traded baskets -- most on jumpers -- and threatened to take a game expected to end in the 70s or 80s into triple digits.
When Rasheed Wallace dropped a short shot in the lane to bring the Pistons within 37-36, Detroit was shooting an eye-popping 65 percent (15-of-23) from the floor and getting good looks against the league's best defense. Cleveland was nearly as hot, hanging around the 60 percent mark.
The Pistons finally cooled, and the Cavs took off.
James fed a no-look pass -- left-handed -- across the lane to Smith for a dunk, igniting a 20-9 run that gave Cleveland a 12-point halftime bulge.
Detroit missed 12 of its final 15 shots in the opening half, an untimely drought it never overcame.
"To come in and shoot 46 percent, only have seven turnovers and be that close on the boards, it should have been closer than an 18-point game," Pistons coach Michael Curry said.
The Cavs have won five straight over the Pistons in the playoffs. ... Cleveland C/F Ben Wallace, who missed the final two regular-season games with a strained knee, played 11 minutes. ... The NBA coach's association has dedicated the playoffs to former Pistons and Olympic coach Chuck Daly, who is battling pancreatic cancer. Both Cavs coach Mike Brown and Pistons coach Michael Curry reflected on Daly before the game. "He has touched a lot of different coaches," Curry said. "His impact is felt around the league, and I think honoring him now so he can see it, is a tremendous honor."