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James, Cavaliers denied by Pistons

LeBron James of the Cavaliers loses the ball, with help from Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, as he drives through the lane in Game 2. (GREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Shooting or passing, LeBron James is having a hard time beating the Detroit Pistons.

James missed a shot with 7.9 seconds left, allowing Detroit to escape again with a 79-76 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

On the previous possession, Rasheed Wallace made a fadeaway jumper on the baseline over James to put Detroit ahead.

James, who passed up a shot in the final seconds of Monday's series opener, dribbled into the lane and missed a spinning shot with Richard Hamilton draped on him.

"I believe there was some contact, but there's been a lot of contact throughout this series," James said. "We're a no-excuse team and we can't look at the last play as why we lost. We just have to get better."

Larry Hughes grabbed the rebound after James missed, couldn't make a 10-footer, and Anderson Varejao was just off on a tip. After Wallace grabbed the rebound, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was called for a technical foul after arguing that James was fouled on his shot.

"I'm sure we feel lucky and they feel unlucky," Detroit coach Flip Saunders said.

Wallace didn't feel he needed fortune, however, to avoid getting called for a push-off foul against Varejao before making his go-ahead shot.

"All that flopping, they need to make that a technical foul for next year," Wallace said. "That's not defense in the fourth quarter and I'm glad we have veteran officials to see that."

Varejao walked out of the locker room without speaking to reporters.

Game 3 is Sunday night in Cleveland.

Wallace scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, had 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.

"Down the stretch, he wanted the ball in a lot of situations," Saunders said. "He made some big plays in the fourth quarter."

Hamilton and Chauncey Billups had 13 points apiece and Jason Maxiell provided a boost off the bench with a playoff-high 15 for the Pistons .

James finished with 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting and had 7 assists, 6 turnovers, and 6 rebounds. He scored a playoff-low 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting in Game 1.

For the second straight game, he didn't have much help offensively.

Sasha Pavlovic and Varejao each scored 14 points, but key players Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Hughes combined for just 11 points. Rookie Daniel Gibson added a playoff-high 9 points.

The Cavaliers led, 50-38, after a dominant second quarter, before a lackluster third allowed Detroit to come back.

Cleveland, following a trend of playing poorly right after halftime, had just 7 points in the third until making two 3-pointers in the final 39 seconds to take a 63-60 lead.

The Pistons seemed to take control with a 14-4 run in the fourth quarter that gave them a 74-69 lead, but Cleveland scored 6 straight to go back ahead in another ugly, close game.

"That was definitely an Eastern Conference grind-it-out game, where both teams were hitting each other and battling," Saunders said. " I thought it was almost the same game as [Game 1] and the scoring ends up the same."