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CAVALIERS 86, PISTONS 84

James, Cavaliers get serious

Pistons on brink of elimination

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- All series long, the Detroit Pistons huffed and puffed. Last night, it was LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers who blew their house in.

A stunning role reversal on the Cavaliers' fairy tale ride?

Maybe not.

''It's just basketball," James said. ''They're not the big, bad wolf. And we're not the three little pigs."

The Pistons, on the brink of elimination after two straight trips to the NBA Finals, have not been giving much respect to the Cavaliers, who are in the second round for the first time since 1993.

That should change now, but will it be too late for the Pistons?

Game 6 in the best-of-seven series is tomorrow night in Cleveland, and if the Pistons force a Game 7, they will be back on their home court Sunday.

''LeBron is playing unbelievably, and they're playing with a lot of confidence," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. ''But it doesn't mean the series is over, we just have to revert to what we did for much of the season."

Ben Wallace blew a chance to give the Pistons the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter when he missed two free throws with 40 seconds left. That left one of the NBA's worst free throw shooters 0 for 7 for the game, which remained tied at 84.

James deferred to Gooden on the ensuing possession, and the forward came through with a low-post basket to put the Cavaliers ahead by 2 with 27 seconds left.

After a timeout, Donyell Marshall blocked Tayshaun Prince's shot in the lane and James tipped a rebound -- off Lindsey Hunter's missed jumper -- to teammate Eric Snow, who tossed the ball down the court to kill time.

The Pistons had the ball back with 1.9 seconds left, but could not get a shot off to try to force overtime -- or win the game they didn't seem to deserve.

''That was about as perfect a game of basketball as you can play against that team," Marshall said.

Cleveland beat Detroit, 74-72, and, 86-77, to even the series after being routed in Game 1 and losing Game 2 by 6 points after a big early deficit.

After losing Game 3 in Cleveland, Rasheed Wallace guaranteed Game 4 would be the last game played there because the Pistons would close out the series in Game 5. Oops.

''Everybody wrote us off, but we started to get some confidence in the second half of Game 2 and we've just kept it going," Cavaliers reserve Damon Jones said.

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