James scored 32 more points than Cleveland’s second-leading scorer, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who fouled out with 16 points. Rookie Daniel Gibson, who also fouled out, was the only other double-digit scorer, with 11.
“Somebody told me in the locker room that he scored 29 of our last 30 points and I could not believe it,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “Everybody keeps asking for more, and he keeps giving more.
“I feel bad that my words don’t do justice for what he did.”
James’ previous playoff high, in just two postseasons, was a 45-point performance against Washington in the first round last year that set a franchise record.
The Pistons, meanwhile, seemed to finally put a complete game together and each of their starters scored at least 10.
Richard Hamilton scored 26, Chauncey Billups had 21 and Chris Webber scored 20. Rasheed Wallace had 17 points and Tayshaun Prince added 10.
It wasn’t enough to deny James.
“It’s frustrating,” Billups said. “He put on an unbelievable display out there. It’s probably the best I have seen against us ever in the playoffs.”
Notes: Both teams were slowed by foul trouble and Detroit had to play the final three quarters without its top reserve, forward Antonio McDyess, because his right arm appeared to hit Anderson Varejao’s neck as he went in for a layup and he was automatically ejected with a flagrant-two foul. ... James averaged 28½ points in two games at home after scoring 29 total in the first two games, including a playoff-low 10 points in the series opener. ... The Cavs won two games in their previous conference finals appearances, in 1976 and 1992. ... Cleveland PG Larry Hughes started for the second straight game, despite a foot injury, and provided a lift in the first quarter with eight points. ... Faces in the crowd included Anita Baker, New Orleans point guard Chris Paul and Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hasek, who said he still doesn’t know if he will retire or return to Detroit.
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Reason for optimism after Game 1 loss?
PBT Extra: The Heat snuck past the Pacers in the final seconds of overtime in Game 1, and PBT’s Kurt Helin breaks down where the Pacers can go from here. Paul George had a monster game, and Helin believes the Pacers have a real chance at upsetting the top-seeded Heat.
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