Cavaliers roll over Pistons

CLEVELAND (AP) " "One Goal" is the Cleveland Cavaliers' new playoff theme. On Saturday, one field goal is about all they needed.

LeBron James banked in a 3-pointer at the halftime horn and Cleveland's superstar finished with 38 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as the Cavaliers embarked on their quest for a first NBA championship with a 102-84 win over the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 on Saturday.

James' 41-foot runner stunned the Pistons and gave Cleveland, the league's most dominant team " home or away " during the regular season, a 12-point halftime lead. The Cavaliers held off one second-half push by Detroit while James was on the bench and closed out the Pistons, who will try to even the best-of-seven series in Game 2 on Tuesday night.

To do that, Detroit will have to devise something to slow James, who had his way for 41 minutes.

Joe Smith scored 13 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 12 and 10 rebounds for Cleveland.

Rodney Stuckey scored 20 and Richard Hamilton 15 for the Pistons, who came in as a No. 8 seed and could be in for a shorter postseason run after making the Eastern Conference final the past six years.

James closed the first half with another one of those plays that separates him from other players.

After Hamilton's jumper brought the Pistons to 54-45 with two seconds left, James took the inbounds on the fly, blew past Tayshaun Prince near mid-court and banked in a 41-footer as the horn sounded. By the time the 3-pointer tumbled through the net, James, who never stopped running, was nearly under the basket.

He then paused and stood on the baseline, soaking in the love from Cleveland's fans, who have watched him perform similar feats before.

The Pistons left the floor at halftime demoralized.

But Detroit came out hungry and hung around. The Pistons knocked down jumpers and managed to pull within 80-72 early in the fourth quarter on Will Bynum's basket with 8:50 left.

James checked back in at that point, and the Pistons checked out.

Cleveland's defense tightened and the Cavs pushed their lead to 20 while enjoying another blowout at home, where they are 40-2 this season.

About the only thing that didn't go James' way was that his beloved New York Yankees gave up 14 runs in one inning to the Cleveland Indians.

For a large chunk of the first half, an expected defensive struggle between two of the East's roughest teams was an offensive extravaganza. The Cavs and Pistons traded baskets " most on jump shots " and threatened to take a game expected to end in the 70s or 80s into triple digits.

When Rasheed Wallace dropped a short shot in the lane to bring the Pistons within 37-36, Detroit was shooting an eye-popping 65 percent (15-of-23) from the floor and getting good looks against the league's best defense. Cleveland was nearly as hot, hanging around the 60 percent mark.

The Pistons finally cooled, and the Cavs took off.

James fed a no-look pass " left-handed " across the lane to Smith for a dunk, igniting a 20-9 run that gave Cleveland a 12-point halftime bulge.

Detroit missed 12 of its final 15 shots in the opening half, an untimely drought it never overcame.

As has become his ritual before important games, James was on the floor more than three hours before the opening tip to get in some extra shooting.

He followed his normal routine, meticulously laying out his uniform, head band, wrist bands and sneakers on the floor in front of his locker like a little kid the night before school.

James downplayed the idea that he and the Cavaliers are expected to win a title.

"Great expectations have been placed on the Celtics and Lakers," he said. "Not us. We just got to go out there and do what we've been doing all season."

And so they did.

Notes: Cavs C/F Ben Wallace, who missed Cleveland's final two regular-season games with a strained knee, played 11 minutes. ... The Cavs are only one of five teams to win 39 regular-season home games. ... The NBA coach's association has dedicated the playoffs to former Pistons and Olympic coach Chuck Daly, who is battling pancreatic cancer. Both Cavs coach Mike Brown and Pistons coach Michael Curry reflected on Daly before the game. "He has touched a lot of different coaches," Curry said. "His impact is felt around the league, and I think honoring him now so he can see it, is a tremendous honor."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment