The Cleveland Cavaliers reached the National Basketball
Association Finals for the first time on Saturday, sealing the
Eastern Conference title with a 98-82 victory over the Detroit
Rookie Daniel Gibson scored a season-high 31 points and fueled a
second-half surge as the Cavaliers completed a 4-2 victory over the
Pistons in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
"We're off to the Finals just like I promised," Cleveland
superstar LeBron James said as Cleveland fans erupted in joy. "This
is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me."
James had 20 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists and Zydrunas
Ilgauskas added 11 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland, who will
vie for the NBA crown for the first time in their 37-year
The Cavaliers, who will play the San Antonio Spurs in game one
on Thursday, have a chance to win a major championship for the city
for the first time since the Browns won the National Football
League championship in 1964.
"I believe it was just our time," James said. "Something had to
go right for Cleveland sports, something just had to go right."
Gibson was 7-of-9 from the field, including 5-of-5 from 3-point
range. He scored 22 of the Cavs' 29 points at one stretch in the
second half and was also 12-of-15 from the free-throw line.
"I took a couple of notes from LeBron last game," Gibson said.
"LeBron just told me to step into my shot."
Even without a fantastic performance by James, who shot just
3-of-11, the Cavaliers expunged the memory of last year's
conference semi-final loss to Detroit.
In that series the Cavs won three straight to take a 3-2 series
lead but lost games six and seven.
On Thursday, James had one of the greatest performances in NBA
playoff history, scoring a playoff-high 48 points, including his
team's last 25, in the 109-107 double-overtime win.
The winning basket came when the three-time All-Star penetrated
down the lane and scooped in a layup with 2.2 seconds to play.
On Saturday, the Pistons focused on keeping the ball out of his
hands, a strategy that backfired thanks to Gibson.
"We really tried to get the ball out of LeBron's hands and make
other guys make plays," said Detroit's Tayshaun Prince. "We got the
ball out of LeBron's hands when we wanted to, but we didn't get to
the shooters quick enough and Gibson made us pay for it.
"In crucial situations, when we needed stops, it was Gibson that
hurt us. He was definitely the difference tonight."
"If we're playing a team that is going to junk the game up, we
had to keep moving the ball, and we knew sooner or later someone
was going to hit," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "What Boobie
(Gibson) did, that was Bron-esque."
The Cavaliers finished the first quarter on a 12-2 run and shot
57 percent for the period to take a 27-21 lead despite James having
just two points.
(China Daily via AFP June 4, 2007)