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Pistons dust off their defense to send Cavs home

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Job well done.

Who said these Pistons couldn't play defense?

LeBron James ripped through the Pistons for 21 points in the first half, bringing the Cavs back from an early 13-point deficit in the first quarter. After Cleveland outscored Detroit 23-19 in the second quarter, the Cavs entered halftime down just two points.

Unfortunately for Nike, ABC, Sprite and the rest of corporate America, the Pistons showed their true colors in the second half, limiting Bron-Bron to just six more points while allowing the Cavs to score just 23, tying an NBA playoff-history low for points in a second half. Detroit's offense was never completely in full gear, either, but on a day where their defense held the opposition to just 30.8% shooting, 79 points was enough for an 18-point victory.

Of course, the game shouldn't have even been as close as it was, but the Pistons failed to put an end to a running theme so far in the playoffs: struggling from the free throw line. Detroit went just 18-for-32 from the line, finishing a dismal 56.3%. Even if you take out Ben Wallace's 0-4 performance, they still barely topped 64%. That's something that needs to be addressed, but not today.

Remember when some of us were wondering if Tayshaun Prince was worth that big contract extension? He led the Pistons with 20 points while grabbing seven rebounds with three assists and a block. He was easily the most consistent option the entire game, especially considering he played all but one minute the past three games.

Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace celebrateRasheed Wallace, on the other hand, failed to match his Game 6 heroics, scoring 13 points on 4-16 shooting, though he did help his case with eight rebounds and a block. The backcourt didn't come through with the big game I was expecting, but again, they got the job done. Rip Hamilton turned in 15 points on 5-10 shooting, chipping in four boards, four dimes, two assists a steal and a block. Chauncey Billups scored 12 on 4-10 shooting (including 1-5 from three-point land) but added eight boards, three assists and a steal. Count on Chauncey having a lot more success in the next round against Miami, against whom he averaged 24.5 points in four regular-season games.

The bench also provided a nice spark, especially Antonio McDyess, who chipped in six points and eight boards in 17 minutes, and Lindsey Hunter, who was instrumental in turning a slim three-point with three minutes left in the third to a 10-point lead entering the fourth. Hunter entered the game with 2:45 left to play in the quarter, and he quickly hit a 20-foot jumper, scored on a layup and grabbed an offensive board which led to another layup by Prince. Hunter finished with seven points and four boards in 13 minutes.

Plus, Hunter's pesky defense against LeBron was invaluable. The refs weren't easy on him (he had four fouls in just 13 minutes), but that was kind of the point, playing him extremely tight and making him work for everything. The Cavs tried to take advantage of the matchup by finally sending LeBron down into the post for a couple of alley-oops, but even then The Chosen One showed his lack of polish by pushing off to create space (and yes, the fact it wasn't called by the refs is completely irrelevant.)

LeBron proved he could make some spectacular plays, but it became painfully obvious to those watching the game (the series, really) that he lacks a good supporting cast. Larry Hughes was the only other Cleveland player to crack double-digits, and he had just 10 points. After LeBron's 27 points, the other four starters combined for 16. Drew Gooden will be looking for a new contract in a few weeks, and you have to imagine his agent won't be mentioning his Game 7 two-point no-show.

And one more thing: after seeing this, methinks Cleveland fans have no room to talk about Jake the Dancing Kid. Jake is seven years old; what's their excuse?

Pistons 79, Cavs 61 box score [ESPN]