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Archive for Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pistons force seventh game with Cavs

Spurs trim Mavericks, deadlock series at 3-all

May 20, 2006

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— No NBA team enjoys life on the edge quite like the Detroit Pistons.

Minutes away from witnessing their spectacular season come crashing down Friday night, they stepped up like champions.

They almost always do.

Summoning all their postseason experience and making every big play down the stretch, the Pistons beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 84-82, to even their series and force a decisive Game 7.

"We know what it takes," Detroit's Ben Wallace said. "We've been together a while. We don't panic."

The Pistons' biggest win of 2006 wasn't secure until the final tick of the clock, when a free throw intentionally missed by LeBron James was nearly tipped into the basket by Detroit's Chauncey Billups - another unlucky bounce for the Cavs.

"I got my hand on it, and I almost made the basket for them," Billups said. "When it was in the air, I was like, 'Wow, not like this."'


Detroit's Tayshaun Prince, left, and Lindsey Hunter, right, battle Cleveland's LeBron James for position on a rebound. The Pistons defeated the Cavaliers, 84-82, Friday night in Cleveland to even their series at three games apiece.

Detroit's Tayshaun Prince, left, and Lindsey Hunter, right, battle Cleveland's LeBron James for position on a rebound. The Pistons defeated the Cavaliers, 84-82, Friday night in Cleveland to even their series at three games apiece.

The series finale will take place on Sunday at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., where until Game 5 of this series, the Pistons had looked invincible. Before the closing minutes in Game 6, it appeared Detroit might be headed home for good.

Rasheed Wallace, whose Game 4 prediction of a victory and quick end to the series backfired, scored 24 points, Richard Hamilton had 17 and Billups 15 for the Pistons, who grabbed several key offensive rebounds in the final minutes to deny the Cavaliers a trip to the Eastern Conference finals against Miami.

James finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. But Cleveland's superstar had seven turnovers and he and his teammates weren't able to beat the Pistons to loose balls in the final three minutes.

The underdog Cavaliers, who had won three straight in the series, missed a chance to put away the Pistons and now have to come up with another win in the NBA's toughest arena.

"Nobody thought we would be here," James said. "Nobody thought we'd be in a Game 7 against the Pistons. We proved the doubters wrong. We have to prove some more wrong."

Detroit has made a habit of winning Game 6s with its season on the line.

Last year, the Pistons were down 3-2 in the conference finals before rallying to beat Miami in seven games. In 2004, they won Game 6 at New Jersey and then ousted the Nets in Game 7. A year earlier, Detroit won a Game 6 at Orlando and then ended the Magic's season in the next game.

Spurs 91, Mavericks 86

Dallas - Michael Finley hit back against the Dallas Mavericks, and the San Antonio Spurs are still alive.

After absorbing the low blow that got Mavericks guard Jason Terry suspended, Finley ignored the taunts from the Dallas fans who used to adore him and scored 16 points to help the Spurs force a Game 7 in a series that certainly deserves to end that way.

Finley scored 10 points in the third quarter to help San Antonio hang close, then made the go-ahead basket on a three-pointer from the right corner with 2:45 left - and Dallas' 7-foot star Dirk Nowitzki running at him.

Finley then defended Nowitzki on a missed three-pointer that could've tied it with 6.9 seconds left. The off-balanced shot landed well short. Tony Parker got the rebound, was fouled and hit both shots, sealing the Spurs' second straight salvation of their title defense.

The Spurs could become only the ninth team to overcome a 3-1 deficit - and the second this season. Phoenix did it in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Six of the other winners were at home for Game 7, just like San Antonio will.

The only solace for the Mavs is that they'll get back Terry, their second-leading scorer.

Terry was suspended for punching Finley between his legs during a loose-ball scramble in the closing seconds of Game 5. He joined the team at an afternoon shootaround, but had to watch the game at home.

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