National Basketball Association News
Gibson, not LeBron, leads Cavs past Pistons and into finals
Jun 3, 2007, 4:00 GMT
Cleveland, OH - Rookie Daniel Gibson stepped up again, scoring 19 of his career-high 31 points in the final quarter, as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history with a 98-82 win over Detroit.
James, who had a playoff career-high 48 points in a double-overtime win on Thursday, had 20 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in the clinching Game 6 win of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Cavaliers, on their maiden voyage to the title series, will face a team that has never lost in the NBA Finals in three tries - the Spurs. The series starts Thursday night in San Antonio.
'I think it was just our time,' James said. 'We're going to enjoy tonight, enjoy our day off tomorrow and get back to work on Monday and get ready for the big bad wolf of the West.'
Gibson, who had 21 points in a Game 4 victory on Tuesday, finished 7-of-9 from the field, and made all five of his three-point tries. Four of those came in the fourth quarter. He also went 12-of-15 at the foul line, as he and James combined to go 26-of-34 at the charity stripe.
'There is no way we would be here in the Eastern Conference finals or winning the Eastern Conference finals if it was a one-man show,' James said. 'It's never happened in NBA history, it would never happen in the NBA where a team has one guy and he does it all.'
Gibson nailed three long-distance shots in the first 2:17 of the fourth, as the Cavaliers widened a one-point lead from the end of three periods to 79-67 with 9:43 remaining.
'I told Daniel before the game, I said, 'I believe Detroit is going to double- team me, triple me before I cross halfcourt, so get that gun and get it locked and loaded and just shoot it, don't second guess yourself, just shoot it,'' James said. 'And that's exactly what happened, and guys stepped up. Boobie (Gibson) stepped in, knocked big shots down.'
It's the longest an active franchise had to wait for a trip to the NBA Finals, and in the case of the Cavs it took them 37 years. Cleveland became just the third team all-time to rally from a 2-0 series deficit in the conference finals to capture the seven-game series.
The 22-year-old James went 3-for-11 from the field, but in the end he yielded to Gibson as the Cavs made a remarkable turnaround from an embarrassing 17-65 mark in 2002-03. That summer the team selected James as the top overall draft pick, and four years later the Cavs are in the championship series.
'From day one LeBron has been in my corner,' Gibson said. 'He told me from day one he was going to make me something special, he was going to do whatever he could to make me better. When I took shots, he told me to keep shooting, don't hesitate, don't worry about anything else.'
Richard Hamilton had 29 points for the Pistons, who lost a series for the first time in franchise history (1-18) when winning the first two games. Chris Webber scored 13 for Detroit.
Rasheed Wallace had 11 points in a losing cause, and was ejected with 7:44 remaining after receiving a pair of technical fouls. He was called for a fifth personal foul for grabbing James in the lane and was then called for a technical for complaining about a previous offensive foul on the possession before that when he bowled over Anderson Varejao. Wallace then had to be restrained from going after official Eddie Rush.
Wallace reached the seven technical foul limit in the postseason, meaning he would have been automatically suspended even if there was a Game 7.
The Pistons failed to get production from Chauncey Billups or Tayshaun Prince, as the two combined for 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
Last year, the Pistons lost the pivotal Game 5 of the East semis, but came back to win the final two games and beat the Cavs in seven, but in 2007 it was not to be.
'Some of the key guys didn't play their best series,' Prince said. 'We played up and down. That was the case last year in the series, but when people were in slumps, other guys picked them up. This year, when guys were hot we tried to stay with them.'
In an odd set of circumstances, the game was delayed 21 minutes between the first and second quarters by a clock malfunction. The public address announcer was forced to count down the 24 second shot clock, signaling when there was 10 seconds left, and then counting down from five to one. The shot clocks were working by the third quarter.
The Pistons were behind 81-69 at the time of Wallace's ejection and Detroit never got its deficit under double digits the rest of the game. Gibson's three from the left corner pushed the advantage to 86-71 with just under seven minutes left, and the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena continued to roar at the end when the Cavs made franchise history.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who held a 53-33 advantage on the glass. Larry Hughes, playing despite a foot injury, had nine points.
Cleveland fell behind 6-0 at the start of the game, but ended with the final five points of the opening quarter for a 27-21 lead.
Donyell Marshall's three to start the second extended Cleveland's lead, but Detroit responded with a 9-1 run, getting within 31-30 on Wallace's three- point play.
Without the benefit of a shot clock, both teams looked like they were rushing on offense in the second. After falling behind by six again later in the period, the Pistons stormed back and went ahead 46-45 on a pair of Webber free throws.
James, who was 0-for-2 from the field at the half, hit two free throws in the final seconds of the half to tie the game at 48. He had nine points at the at the break.
It was tight throughout the third before Lindsey Hunter's three-pointer closed the Pistons within 67-66 going into the fourth, but it was Gibson's big finish that catapulted the Cavs. Gibson had 11 straight Cleveland points, bridging the end of the third into the fourth.
'LeBron kills you one game and you want to not let him totally get off,' Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. 'You give him a little bit - more people running at him, and Daniel made every big shot.'
The 1971 Baltimore Bullets and 1993 Chicago Bulls are the only other teams to rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a conference finals...James had a career-low field goal tries in the first half...Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown surpassed Lenny Wilkens for the most playoff wins for a Cavs head coach with 19...James has dished out at least seven assists in 15 of 16 playoff games this season.
© 2007 The Sports Network