AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The Detroit Pistons seemed to seize control of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference finals, scoring eight straight points to take a seven-point lead in regulation.
Then, LeBron James took over.
James scored a career playoff-high 48 points _ including his team's final 25 points, and 29 of its last 30 _ to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 109-107 double-overtime victory Thursday night and within a win of the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history.
"I was able to will my team to victory," he said. "This is definitely a big win, one of the biggest wins in Cavaliers' franchise history. For me and my teammates, it's definitely the biggest win.
"But we have a goal, we can't dwell on this when we have another game on Saturday. We have got to do our best to try to win that ballgame and get where we wanted to be all year."
Game 6 is Saturday night in Cleveland and if necessary, Game 7 will be Monday night back at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
If James can come remotely close to what he did Thursday night, the series might not return to Michigan.
The San Antonio Spurs, who eliminated Utah on Wednesday, have a week off before hosting Game 1 of the NBA finals.
After James' breathtaking display of talent and determination, the 22-year-old star said he felt terrible.
"I'm banged up. I'm winded. I'm fatigued," he said. "I've got all day tomorrow. It's going to be tough to get some rest when you got a crazy, 2-year-old running around the house. So hopefully, I can take him to one of his grandma's house."
James has the playoff-tested Pistons on the brink of going home.
He made a go-ahead layup with 2.2 seconds left and Detroit's Chauncey Billups missed a shot in the lane on the ensuing possession.
The Pistons have lost three straight in the series after winning the first two at home, and appear to have only history to comfort them. Detroit won the first two games of the conference semifinals last year, then lost three straight and needed to win on the road and then at home in Game 7.
The Pistons, with four of the same starters, also advanced in the 2004 and 2005 playoffs after trailing 3-2.
"We've been in these waters before," Billups said. "We can handle ourselves in these situations. We've got to get one win, period."
It's difficult to envision the Pistons winning another game if they can't figure out how to slow down James.
After he combined to score 29 points in the first two games _ including a playoff-low 10 _ he averaged 28¿ points as the Cavs evened the series with a pair of wins at home.
In a performance that might end up being a defining game of his career, James was 18-of-33 from the field, made two 3-pointers and 10-of-14 free throws. He also had nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
He was the only Cavs player to make a field goal in the last 17:48 and the only one to score in the final 12:49.
"We tried to trap him and get it out of his hands, but he attacked," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "We'll definitely have to do something different next time."
Billups said the Pistons need to get on the same page defensively against James.
"We changed it up a lot and as we started subbing and subbing, some guys were thinking we were doing one thing when we were trying to do another thing," Billups said. "Because of that, he was getting those backdoors and getting those dunks. It's frustrating to not be locked in when the stakes are so high."
The Cavs have prided themselves on not being a one-man show, but James just about did it alone against a team in the conference finals for the fifth straight year.
"We threw everything we had at him," Billups said. "We just couldn't stop him."
James simply took over late in regulation and in both overtimes, choosing to attack the basket with driving layups and dunks instead of deferring to teammates.
He scored 32 more points than Cleveland's second-leading scorer, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who fouled out with 16 points. Rookie Daniel Gibson, who also fouled out, was the only other double-digit scorer, with 11.
"Somebody told me in the locker room that he scored 29 of our last 30 points and I could not believe it," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "Everybody keeps asking for more, and he keeps giving more.
"I feel bad that my words don't do justice for what he did."
James' previous playoff high, in just two postseasons, was a 45-point performance against Washington in the first round last year that set a franchise record.
The Pistons, meanwhile, seemed to finally put a complete game together and each of their starters scored at least 10.
Richard Hamilton scored 26, Billups had 21 and Chris Webber scored 20. Rasheed Wallace had 17 points and Tayshaun Prince added 10.
It wasn't enough to deny James.
"It's frustrating," Billups said. "He put on an unbelievable display out there. It's probably the best I have seen against us ever in the playoffs.