|Cavaliers not in foul mood despite 0-2 deficit|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 25 May 2007 11:59|
``This one's from my teammates,'' he said Friday.
The Detroit Pistons have left deeper wounds.
Two games and two last-play losses into his first trip to the Eastern Conference finals, James refused to offer any excuses for himself or the Cleveland Cavaliers, who find themselves in an 0-2 hole going into Sunday's Game 3.
James, criticized for passing up the final shot in Game 1, didn't complain about a non-call in the closing seconds of Game 2 when it appeared he was fouled while driving on Rip Hamilton for a shot in the lane.
Instead, James chalked up Cleveland's second consecutive 79-76 loss as another step he and his teammates have to take.
``It's about us paying our dues,'' he said.
On Friday, the Cavaliers were talkative and loose as they prepared to study film and get in a light practice following Thursday night's punch-in-the-gut loss, which followed an eerily similar script down the stretch as the final act of Game 1.
Once again, James had the ball in his hands with the game on the line. But unlike the series opener, when he drove and dished to a wide-open Donyell Marshall in the corner, James took it upon himself to take the last shot.
The superstar was stepping up - like everyone wanted.
He drove to the left on a backpedalling Hamilton, whose first reaction was to reach and grab at James. On the initial contact, Cleveland's superstar forward said he expected to hear a whistle for a foul.
``You are not allowed to use your hands on the perimeter once the guy starts penetrating toward the basket,'' James said. ``There was a lot of physical contact throughout the game, so I don't want to look back at that one play - but it could have made a difference.''
James' shot came cleanly off the glass to Larry Hughes, who had a chance to erase what has been a mostly disastrous postseason for Cleveland's point guard. But Hughes, shooting just 27 percent (6-of-22) in this series, misfired from 10 feet and Anderson Varejao couldn't direct in a last-gasp tip.
James stopped short of complaining about the officiating. However, in describing the climactic play again, he made it clear that he felt he had done enough to earn a trip to the free-throw line.
``Once I went up for my shot, I felt some more contact,'' he said. ``But I guess you call this playoff basketball. I do the best I can do and hopefully we get some respect at some point.''
The Pistons earned theirs long ago.
Although they needed late comebacks - and some good luck - to win the first two games, the bottom line is that they won.
Detroit's defense, doing all it can to disrupt James, gave up 34 points in the second quarter of Game 2 but then held the Cavs to 13 points in the third and 13 in the fourth. On offense, the Pistons made the key shots when they had to, the biggest coming on Rasheed Wallace's turnaround baseline jumper with 24 seconds to go.
There has been little margin for error, and so far, the Pistons haven't strayed to the wrong side.
``No matter where you play, there's a fine line between winning and losing,'' Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. ``It boils down to two or three possessions. There's some things that we haven't done, that they've either forced us to not play well at times or forced a turnover.
``We've shot ourselves in the foot. The one thing you can't take away is the defense that we played in the second half in both games. When you hold a team to 26 points, I don't care who you're playing or where you're playing, that's pretty good defense.''
And that was also Saunders' assessment of Hamilton's blanket-like job against James with Detroit protecting a 1-point lead. Saunders doesn't think Hamilton was guilty of anything other than playing hard.
``There's a lot of talk, fouls, no-fouls, whatever,'' he said. ``But I thought Rip did a pretty good defensive job. There was contact by both people, initiated by both people.''
James did what he was supposed to and was more aggressive in Game 2. He drove to the basket, took just one 3-pointer and took seven free throws after failing to get to the line at all in the opener.
Still, it wasn't enough and James knows he must do more in the next two home games to get the Cavaliers back into the series.
``I have to or we're not going to win,'' he said. ``It's as simple as that. I'm the leader of this team and I have to do more, make better decisions down the stretch and learn from some of the mistakes I've made.
``We still have time. We have to win four out of five. It's not impossible, but we have to do it now.''