There is a reason the Detroit Pistons have been to five consecutive Eastern Conference finals. They proved it on Saturday, even without their All-Star point guard to hold things together in front of a hostile crowd at Orlando, Fla.
The Pistons became the first team to win on the road in the second round this postseason, and can clinch their sixth consecutive conference finals appearance when this series returns to Detroit on Tuesday.
All of it happened with Chauncey Billups watching in a sport coat on the bench after straining a hamstring during Game 3.
"We just played 'D' -- that's what we do," said Rasheed Wallace, who had 16 points and eight rebounds. "It was a physical game on both sides of the ball. That is our style . . . we like being physical. We just wish we could do that more often."
The Pistons controlled the tempo in the second half after falling behind by 15 in the third quarter, deflated the Magic transition game that helped win Game 3 and pounded Dwight Howard inside.
Still, Orlando had a chance late in the game -- actually a few of them. Down by a point out of the timeout after Prince's basket, Turkoglu held the ball at the top of the key as time wound down, then missed a contested layup in the lane.
Howard's follow also was no good, and neither player drew the foul they wanted. Jameer Nelson also missed one of two foul shots with 44 seconds left, which would've tied the score.
James scored 21 points on another off night shooting, but Delonte West scored 21, Joe Smith had 17 and the Cavaliers raced to a large, early lead in Game 3 to pull to within 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
West, who spent three seasons with the Celtics, carried the scoring load for the Cavaliers, who are attempting to become the 14th team in NBA history to come back from an 0-2 deficit and win a best-of-seven series.
James was only five for 16 from the field, but his teammates stepped it up, going a combined 32 of 54 (59%). Cleveland raced to a 32-13 lead after one quarter, led by 17 at the half, 16 after three and easily held off the Celtics.