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Published: Sunday, 6/3/2007

Finals fling for Cavs: Gibson leads way with 31

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Detroit's Nazr Mohammed knocks down Cleveland's Anderson Varejao while being guarded by Donyell Marshall. Detroit's Nazr Mohammed knocks down Cleveland's Anderson Varejao while being guarded by Donyell Marshall.
MARK DUNCAN / AP Enlarge

CLEVELAND The Cavaliers needed no last-second shots, no heroic performances.

Their first trip to the NBA finals came courtesy of a hot-shooting rookie and a dominant fourth quarter.

The Cavs beat the Pistons 98-82 in front of overjoyed, championship-starved fans at Quicken Loans Arena last night to wrap up the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-2 series win.

To win the conference championship, Cleveland beat No. 1 seed Detroit four straight times to become the third team in history to come back from a 0-2 deficit in the conference finals.

The [fans] deserve it, LeBron James said. Our fans deserve it more than any fans in the United States of America right now.

Rookie Daniel Gibson rained 3-pointers in the fourth quarter en route to a career-high 31 points.

James had 20 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.

The Cavs will face San Antonio, the Western Conference winner, in Game 1 Thursday night.

This is the best thing that ever happened to me, James said. But look here, it doesn t stop. We re on to the finals.

After fighting for three quarters, the Pistons boiled over, Rasheed Wallace fouling out and getting ejected in the fourth quarter.

Rip Hamilton had 29 points to lead the Pistons, but Chauncey Billups scored just nine to end a disappointing series.

The Cavs entered the fourth quarter up 67-66. Gibson hit two 3-pointers in the first 1:16 of the period to put the Cavs up six and force the Pistons to call a timeout. Out of the break, James stole a pass and made a layup, drawing a foul from Lindsey Hunter. He rolled over, jumped up and pointed to the frenzied crowd.

The Pistons couldn t score despite two offensive rebounds, and Gibson came down and hit another 3, putting the Cavs up 12. The Pistons never got within single digits after that.

Gibson eclipsed his career-high set in Game 4, when he scored 21.

I knew Detroit was going to try to double me and triple me because of what I did in Game 5, James said of his 48-point performance. Everybody stepped up. Boobie [Gibson], oh my God, he was on fire.

Wallace was called for three quick fouls in the fourth, the second an offensive foul drawn by Anderson Varejao, and the third a shooting foul on James. He argued with an official, was called for a technical, his seventh of the playoffs, and was ejected.

The Cavs had the rebounding edge throughout, Zydrunas Ilgauskas contributing 11 points and 12 rebounds.

The Pistons entered the game 4-1 in Game 6 closeouts since 2002. But they suffered their second straight conference finals loss after Miami knocked them out last year.

The Pistons defense in the first half forced the ball away from James. The score was tied at 48 at the half, but not one Cavalier had scored in double figures.

Wallace and Chris Webber combined for 26 first-half points.

The Cavs second quarter was like their recent third quarters. They shot just 4-of-18 in the second quarter to give up a six-point lead.

James did not have a basket in the first half, but scored nine points on free throws.

His first basket came on a driving layup with 8:02 left in the third quarter.

Webber was animated throughout. In the second quarter, after he was called for a shooting foul on Varejao, he made a show of flopping to an official as he was walking off the court. He was called for a technical in the first for shoving Varejao.

The Pistons went cold in the third quarter, making just 6 of 22 shots, but the Cavs five turnovers meant they couldn t pull away.

They saved it for the fourth.

I d like to thank every last 20,000-plus in here, James said immediately after the game. This is special, really special.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:mfulton@theblade.comor 419-724-6160.



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