It's now a three-game series, and anything can happen. Last night, the Cavaliers evened the best-of-7 series by knocking off Detroit 91-87. We head back to Detroit tomorrow night for Game 5, and Pistons fans have GOT to be nervous now. Where they were talking sweep just 72 hours ago, they're now fearful of a second straight exit from the Eastern Conference Finals.
Last night's game was back-and-forth, as has been the case in every game of this series. But there came a point when the Cavaliers turned it up a notch and tied the series up. And we owe a great deal of gratitude to Drew Gooden.
With 8:07 to play, Gooden let Rasheed Wallace slip by him towards the basket. But Gooden knows not to let that happen, and he yanked back on Wallace and practically leapt on his back to prevent an easy slam dunk.
Wallace freaked out and ran up the sideline begging for justice. He got a little redemption, as Gooden was charged with a technical foul. Chauncey Billups hit the free throw to give Detroit a four-point lead at 75-71, but on the ensuing play, strong defense forced a long miss by Antonio McDyess and Sasha Pavlovic grabbed the rebound.
Lebron brought the ball up the left side, drove to the foul line, then backed off. The defense shifted outward looking for a pass, and immediately LeBron drove in again for an easy layup, and he was fouled by Wallace. It was a picture-perfect play, and the Pistons all fell for it. James hit the free throw and the Cavs were within 1. Furthermore, Wallace continued his whining.
Wallace likes to talk about how he plays better when he's angry. Sometimes that's true. Last night he was desperately trying to prove it, and so on the next play, he stated setting up picks like never before. He got the pass and hit a bucket from 14 feet out to put the Pistons back up by 3.
With 7:05 to play, LeBron took the ball from center-court and drove straight into the teeth of the Piston defense. He skipped through the lane, drove right past Wallace and got the foul call on McDyess. Wallace went a little bit deeper into Idiotville and began whining even more. James hit both free throws and the score was 77-76 in favor of Detroit.
There wasn't much movement on the following Piston possession, and Billups ended up forcing a 24-footer. It missed and LeBron grabbed the board. James brought the ball into the frontcourt and fed Drew Gooden on the left baseline. Gooden raised a jumper in Wallace's face from 18 feet out and nailed it. Cavs lead by 1. Wallace starts trash-talking Gooden on the way up the court.
Detroit's next possession was no better for them. McDyess decided to become the hero, but he's not very good at shooting from beyond 12 feet. His shot bounced high off the rim, and the Pistons ended up swatting the ball towards halfcourt. Normally, this is a wise move because Detroit is excellent at getting back on defense, which means there will be 2 or 3 Detroit players back to retrieve the swat. But this time they swatted it too far, and this time Sasha Pavlovic had retreated to set up the offense. The ball sailed right into Pavs' hands and he raced in for an uncontested layup. Cavs lead by three, and Wallace reverts to his expertise of behaving like a three-year-old. He whips off his headband and throws it into the crowd. The refs give him a technical foul, and the fans refuse to give him his headband back.
Daniel Gibson hit the technical free throw, but the Piston implosion was not yet complete. On the next play, Wallace again tries to prove he plays better when he's angry, and ends up lofting a 25-foot shot that hits absolutely nothing. A scramble for the ball ensues under the basket, and Tayshaun Prince eventually grabs it and hits just as much air as wallace. The shot clock goes off and the Cavs get the ball back again. This time down the floor Wallace is practically crying, and he gives so much attention to the referee that he forgets to pay attention to Drew Gooden, who hits an open 18-footer from the left baseline. Cavaliers lead by 6 points.
Following a missed shot by each team, Prince hit a pair of free throws and the Cavs lead was down to four. But the rally was not over yet.
Once again, Gooden takes a pass from LeBron and buries a jumpshot. He's clearly on fire, and since he rode Wallace's back like a pony he's shown that he's the better player and the better man. Cavs lead by 6 again, and the rally is still not complete.
With 3:40 to play, Z skies high and grabs a Rip Hamilton miss, and the crowd is now deafening. They sense victory and they want it now. The Cavs slow down the offense and spend a little time watching LeBron at the top of the key. Too much time, and as the shot clock winds down, he steps back and launches a 21-footer that should have no chance at all. Somehow, it finds the bottom of the net and the incredible shot invokes pandemonium at The Q. Cavaliers lead 87-79 with 3 minutes to play, and it's all but over at that point.
Cleveland uses a 5-minute span to go on a 16-4 run and the series is tied. The only person left who doesn't think Cleveland has a shot at The Finals is Charles Barkley, and he's a douchebag anyway. Cavs have the momentum, now they have to get two more wins to back it up. I actually think that they must win Game 5. I'd rather win it at home than have to win a Game 7 in Detroit. Tomorrow is huge.
By the way, Wallace's technical was his fifth. On a player's 7th postseason technical foul, they get suspended for the following contest. I say we force him into a pair of Ts tomorrow night and watch him cry from the sidelines for Game 6 at The Q.