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James helps Cavs to 3-0 series lead over Pistons

Cleveland's LeBron James celebrates after dunking against Detroit during Friday's playoff game. The Cavaliers won 79-68 to take a 3-0 series lead.

Cleveland's LeBron James celebrates after dunking against Detroit during Friday's playoff game. The Cavaliers won 79-68 to take a 3-0 series lead.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – LeBron James huffed and puffed about being pushed and shoved by the Detroit Pistons.

Then, he stopped lobbying for help from the officials and blew the Pistons down – and almost out of the playoffs.

James scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, lifting the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 79-68 victory Friday night over Detroit and a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.

“Once he decided to say, ‘Hey, I’m not getting calls. I’m going to will this team to a win,’ our whole team changed,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “Watching him flip that switch, it was very exciting.

“I just get a rush thinking about it.”

The Pistons played hard for three-plus quarters before being rendered helpless by James.

He had an alley-oop slam midway through the fourth quarter during an 18-2 run that started after the sixth tie of the game.

“Big-time players make plays, and that’s what he did,” Detroit coach Michael Curry said.

James had 11 rebounds and nine assists. He said he learned he was just short of a triple-double after looking at the stat sheet.

“When I got to the locker room, I blamed Mo Williams,” James joked.

James did get some help from his teammates.

Joe Smith had a career playoff-high 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 13 points.

The Pistons will host Game 4 on Sunday, needing a surprising showing to be able to extend the series.

Detroit has advanced to at least the Eastern Conference finals the previous six seasons – the longest such streak in the NBA since the Los Angeles Lakers’ run two decades ago – but now it’s an eighth-seeded team with virtually no chance to survive the first round.

“This is killing me,” Detroit’s Richard Hamilton said. “I can’t even lie.”

Curry said before the game the Pistons needed both Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince to play well to have a chance to win, and neither did Friday.

The 34-year-old Wallace scored just five points, looking past his prime, banged up and uninterested. Prince scored seven points in the first quarter and was held scoreless the rest of the game, laboring with a sore back.

“Tay is not going to say anything about his back,” Curry said. “But I could tell as the game went on he wasn’t moving as well.”

Hamilton had 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Rodney Stuckey contributed 12 points and five assists.

Rockets go up 2-1

HOUSTON – Luis Scola scored 19 points, Houston’s defense bottled up Brandon Roy, and the Rockets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 86-83 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Shane Battier added 16 points and the Rockets got away with a quiet night from Yao Ming to beat the Blazers for the 11th time in the last 12 meetings in Houston. Game 4 is Sunday at the Toyota Center.

Roy, who scored 42 points in Portland’s 107-103 win in Game 2, had 19 points, but went 6 for 18 from the field. Steve Blake scored 16 and had 10 assists, and Rudy Fernandez sank five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points for the Blazers, who trailed by 17 in the second half before rallying in the final quarter.

With Portland down three in the final seconds, Blake badly missed a 3-point try and the Rockets sealed the win from the free-throw line.

Ron Artest and Battier teamed up to blanket Roy all night, bumping him almost every time he touched the ball.

The Rockets outrebounded Portland 41-32 to win for just the second time in their last five home playoff games.

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