AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) – It’s time to start taking the Cleveland Cavaliers seriously. Even the Pistons must realize that by now.
LeBron James scored 32 points and assisted on Drew Gooden’s game-winning shot Wednesday night to lead the Cavs to an 86-84 victory over Detroit – Cleveland’s third straight win en route to a 3-2 lead in the second round series.
The Pistons, on the brink of elimination after two straight trips to the NBA Finals, have not been giving much respect to the Cavs, who are in the second round for the first time since 1993.
That should change now, but will it be too late for the confident Pistons? Game 6 of the series is Friday night in Cleveland, and if the Pistons force a Game 7, they will be back on their home court Sunday.
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, then he came through with a low-post basket to put the Cavs ahead by two 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.
Cleveland beat Detroit 74-72 and 86-77 to even the series after being routed in Game 1 and losing Game 2 by six points after a big early deficit.
James played like a star – again – in his first postseason appearance, and many of his teammates chipped in throughout Game 5.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 14 before fouling out, Marshall had 14 points and 13 rebounds off the bench and three other players added at least six points apiece.
Spurs 98, Mavericks 97
SAN ANTONIO – Just when it seemed the Dallas-San Antonio series couldn’t get any more amazing or intense, the closing seconds of a thrilling Game 5 ratcheted everything up another level.
And thanks to Tim Duncan, there will be a Game 6.
Duncan tied an NBA postseason record by making his first 12 shots and scored 36 points, Tony Parker scored 27, and the Spurs withstood losing two jump balls in the final 6.3 seconds to keep their title defense alive with a 98-97 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday night.
The Spurs still trail 3-2, but the way they played this game – shooting more than 60 percent into the fourth quarter – anything is possible. The Mavericks will get a second chance at advancing to the conference finals on Friday night at home. If they can’t do it, the Spurs will host Game 7 on Monday night.
Dirk Nowitzki scored a series-high 31 points for Dallas, including his first 3-pointer, which tied it at 95.