CLEVELAND - The country spent yesterday gaping at highlights of LeBron James' Game 5 dominance. The Cavaliers hope that after one more game, the national attention will center on the rare feat they have accomplished.
Only two teams out of 58 have ever come back from down 2-0 in a seven-game conference finals series to win. Cleveland is on the brink of adding its name to the list. The Cavs are up 3-2 on the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals and can clinch the series tonight with a win at Quicken Loans Arena.
Also at stake is team history. In the 37-year history of the franchise, the Cavs have never played in the NBA Finals.
Tonight at 8:30, the Cavs have a chance to do what they couldn't last year, beat the Pistons at home to close out the series.
"They are a tough team to beat once, let alone four times in a row," Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. "The next game is going to be even harder, but we look forward to the challenge. We are going to be ready."
Moving past the emotional road win in Game 5 will be a challenge for the Cavs, both mentally and physically. As a precautionary measure, James received an IV after the game before the Cavs traveled back to Cleveland to make sure he wouldn't get dehydrated.
"He's a young guy and that's part of the reason why we wanted to take the day off and to get away from it," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "Because it was an emotional and draining game last night. And we believe that rest now is more important than anything else, not only for him but for the rest of the team."
James' 48 points at the Palace, including the last 25 for the Cavs in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, has been mentioned as one of the top 10 feats in NBA playoff history. But the performance could seem wasted if the Cavs can't win the series.
The Pistons will do everything they can to avoid a performance from him that even comes close to Thursday night's.
"They're going to jump him with two guys, and stay on him until he passes the ball," Brown said. "They're going to try to make somebody else beat them."
Pistons coach Flip Saunders said he focused on the team's experience in his postgame speech to the dejected players. Faced with the same adversity in the second round last year, the Pistons won in Cleveland 84-82.
"The message was that we've been here before and we've got to regroup and get it done," Saunders said.
The Pistons were the best road team in the Eastern Conference in the regular season. But the atmosphere they face in championship-starved Cleveland tonight will be hard to ignore.
"It's always difficult when you're down so it's not going to be any different than it was when we were down last year," Lindsey Hunter said.
"You just have to come out playing. There's nothing else to say about it.
Either you play to win or you go home."
MCDYESS BACK: Antonio McDyess was not suspended by the NBA for tonight's game following his rough foul on Anderson Varejao in the first quarter of Game 5. McDyess was assessed a flagrant-2 foul and was ejected for clotheslining Varejao on his way to the basket.
If the NBA had determined the foul was done in malice, McDyess could have been suspended for a game.
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