An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: Young LeBron beats the Pistons
Day 7 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers franchise has never won an NBA title, and has 11 playoff appearance since the 1991-92 season.
Date: May 31, 2007
Situation: The No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers and No. 1 Detroit Pistons are tied, 2-2, heading to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Context: After a seven-year playoff drought that spanned from 1998-2005, young forward LeBron James had Cleveland back in contention in the Eastern Conference. One year after falling in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Cavs went 50-32 in the regular season, making the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. The Cavs had little problem in the first two rounds, first sweeping the Washington Wizards, then taking care of the Nets in six games. Taking on the Detroit Pistons — the same team that eliminated them the year before — the Cavs fell down 2-0 before winning back-to-back games in Cleveland to tie the series up, 2-2.
Recap: Fast forward to the start of the fourth quarter, the two teams knotted at 70 apiece, and the Cavs switched to a simple game plan: Give LeBron James the ball. Through the second half of the fourth quarter and both overtime periods, James put on one of the greatest playoff displays in league history, scoring 29 of the Cavs’ final 30 points. Behind the 22-year-old phenom, the Cavs managed to squeak out the win, and take a 3-2 series lead. Cleveland won, 109-107 in double-overtime.
Top players: In addition to his 48 points, LeBron James had nine rebounds, seven assists and just two turnovers. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (16 points) and Daniel Gibson (11 points) were the only other two Cavs to score in double figures. Each of Detroit’s starters scored at least 10 points, led by Richard Hamilton’s 26.
After the game: Cleveland romped Detroit in Game 7, 98-82, to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. They were quickly disposed of by the Spurs in four games, though. Cleveland made the playoffs each of the next three seasons, including a 66-win season in 2008-09 and a 61-win season in 2009-10, but never advanced past the East finals. After their playoff exit in 2010, LeBron James left for Miami, and the Cavs entered rebuilding mode.
Check back tomorrow for the Magic.
You can view the whole series back clicking the "Flashback" tag below.