AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Behind a legendary performance from LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers grabbed a hold of the Eastern Conference finals.
James scored 48 points, including 29 of the Cavaliers' last 30, to lift Cleveland to a 109-107 double overtime victory over the Pistons in Game 5 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Cavs went up 3-2 in the series and have a chance to clinch their first ever trip to the NBA finals tomorrow night at home.
James' final points came on a layup with 2.2 seconds left to break the tie. Chauncey Billups missed a runner at the buzzer and left 22,000 fans unhappy.
"He did it all," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "He always does it all for us.
"He kept attacking and he didn't quit. Because he didn't quit, the rest of the team didn't quit. We kept fighting until the final buzzer."
James scored 11 in the fourth quarter and nine in each of the overtimes. Visibly exhausted after the game, he said his motivation was to not let another game get away in Detroit.
"[It was] just the simple fact of coming here in Game 1 and 2 and playing so well and falling short," James said. "Throughout this whole game we played the same way.
"We couldn't leave here without getting at least one win."
James scored the most points of any opponent in Detroit, breaking Elgin Baylor's record of 47 from March, 1961.
"If I did everything I did and we lost, it means nothing," James said. "We're one more win from getting to our goal."
"He was phenomenal," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He was in an unbelievable zone."
Rip Hamilton led Detroit with 26 points and Billups scored 21. Chris Webber had 20 and Rasheed Wallace 17. Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 16 points for the Cavs.
The fourth quarter was where all the other previous games had been decided, but not this time. The Pistons took a seven-point lead with 3:15 to play thanks to a 10-0 run, eight coming from Hamilton. But then James began his stretch of scoring.
First James made a basket and was fouled, missing the free throw. Drew Gooden made one of two free throws for the only non-James point of the final 12 1/2 minutes. James came back down and hit a 3.
The last minute of regulation contained the most drama. James had two dunks in the last 31.3 seconds, the first to give the Cavs the lead and one with 9.5 seconds left to tie.
In between, Billups made a 3-pointer to put Detroit up by two, 91-89. But Billups missed a double-clutch 3 at the buzzer and the game went into overtime.
In the first overtime, James scored all nine of the Cavs' points. James was obviously the only threat for the Cavaliers, but the Pistons couldn't stop him.
"I made a lot of good moves and I was able to finish," James said. "It wasn't like they opened up the rim and let me through there. I just wanted to try to finish. At times I just wanted to try to attack as much as possible."
The Cavs took a four-point lead with 33 seconds to play, but the Pistons hit four free throws to tie it and send the game into double overtime. James airballed a jumper with six seconds left, and Billups made two foul shots with three seconds left to tie it up.
In the second overtime, the Pistons took a three-point lead with 1:28 to play when Webber made a basket over Ilgauskas and was fouled. But James came back down the court and hit a 3-pointer with two men in his face.
Varejao's defense on Wallace gave the Cavs a chance for the lead when he forced Wallace to shoot an airball.
James' layup with 2.2 seconds to play broke the tie for good.
Contact Maureen Fulton at:
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