James watches as Cavaliers rally to beat Pistons 96-90 in overtime
CLEVELAND (AP)—Standing alone at the foul line, Dwayne Jones had confidence. More than 15,000 others weren’t so certain.
Jones, a backup big man trying to make Cleveland’s roster, shook off four straight misses by dropping two free throws in the final second of regulation as the Cavaliers rallied for a 96-90 overtime win against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night.
“I’ve been practicing all summer,” said Jones, who played in just four games for the Cavs last season. “It was good to be able to contribute.”
LeBron James witnessed quite a comeback.
James scored 17 points—all in the first half—but he watched from the bench while icing his knees as Cleveland’s reserves rallied in the second half to beat the Pistons in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
Jones has a chance to make Cleveland’s team with free agent Anderson Varejao still unsigned, and he made the most of extended minutes by adding 13 rebounds for the Cavs, who outscored the Pistons 11-5 in OT.
“We’ve got enough scorers,” Jones said. “We need role players and I’m trying to be one of them.”
The Cavaliers trailed 64-50 when James was replaced with 3:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Cleveland’s chances of coming back seemed bleak without its superstar, but the Cavs’ bench of mostly no-names stormed back and grabbed a 72-70 lead on Devin Brown’s 3-pointer with 9:37 left.
Cleveland tried to set up a game-winning 3-pointer on its last possession, but Jones got the ball down low and was fouled by Jason Maxiell with .04 seconds remaining.
As Jones walked to the line, James covered his face with his warmup top and several other Cavaliers braced themselves for the attempts.
But Jones surprised everyone by making both shots and the teams went to overtime tied at 85-all.
“To see him knock down those two free throws was a big step for him,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “I’m tickled to death for him.”
Afterward as reporters gathered around waiting for Jones, Donyell Marshall joked about his teammate’s new-found fame.
“He wanted to go to the (interview) podium,” Marshall said.
After Ronald Dupree’s free throw following a flagrant-1 foul by Cleveland’s Darius Rice gave the Pistons an 86-85 lead, Devin Brown hit a jumper and Shannon Brown made a 3-pointer in an 11-0 run that put it away for Cleveland.
James scored his 17 in 24 minutes for the Cavs, who rallied from an 0-2 deficit in last season’s playoffs to advance to the NBA finals for the first time.
That seven-game series will be best remembered for James’ incredible performance in Game 5 when he scored a career playoff-high 48 points—including Cleveland’s final 25, and 29 of its last 30—in a double-overtime win.
In the climactic Game 6, then-rookie Daniel Gibson scored 31 points and single-handedly outscored the Pistons 19-16 in the fourth quarter. In the closing minutes, Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace was slapped with two technicals and ejected.
Guess who was starting trouble again? Wallace, of course.
Wallace and Drew Gooden got into an exchange while Cleveland’s forward was at the free-throw line in the third quarter. When play resumed, Wallace backed Gooden down in the lane with the intent of scoring over him when James flew in from the weak side and blocked the shot.
Wallace was replaced, but as he was pulled off the floor by teammates with plenty of practice at calming him down, he jawed at James, who laughed.
And what was the beef between he and Gooden?
“Just the usual, young punks thinking they really did something,” said the always outspoken Wallace. “So now we gonna have to put those young cats in their place. You know, he got a little bit out of control with his mouth; that’s all. The normal junk talk.”