CLEVELAND -- Saddened by an unexpected death in their
family, the Cavaliers prepared to play their biggest game in years
not knowing if starting guard Larry Hughes will be back for Game 3.
Hughes left the team on Thursday after his 20-year-old brother,
Justin, died after battling complications from a 1997 heart
transplant. He was born with a heart defect and endured a lifetime
of health issues.
Hughes, who helped raise Justin and honored him by having "I Am
My Brother's Keeper" tattooed on his neck, was with his family in
St. Louis. Justin's funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.
"Honestly, no," James said. "I don't expect him to come back.
It would be a big surprise if he did."
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown had not spoken to Hughes since before
he left town and has no plans to contact him.
"The only thing that I'm concerned about is Larry Hughes being
with his family, and on top of that, we'll just figure it out as we
go along," Brown said. "If I need to get in touch with him, I'll
reach out to him. But right now, he needs time to be with his
"I have not attempted to call him, and I'm not going to attempt
to call him right now. He was extremely close to his brother, he's
got a lot going on."
Being without Hughes is nothing new for the Cavaliers. He missed
45 games during the regular season after undergoing two surgeries
on his right middle finger. Hughes is not completely healed and his
finger has bothered him during the postseason.
Cleveland went 26-19 while Hughes was sidelined, but if their
best defender isn't available for Games 3 or 4, the Cavaliers'
chances of coming back against the powerful Pistons will be even
Flip Murray, who averaged 13.7 points in 25 starts since coming
to Cleveland in a Feb. 26 trade with Seattle, likely will start if
Hughes is not back.
"The only good thing about it is that we played 40-some games
without him so we kind of know how to play without him," James
said. "You hate to lose a defender, great scorer and team leader
like that, but we know how to play without him."
Playing with a pad on his finger, Hughes has scored just 16
points on 8-of-24 shooting against the Pistons. With Detroit's
defensive focus on James, the Pistons are giving some of the other
Cavaliers a chance to step up their scoring. So far, none has.
Murray could provide a spark. The Cavs were 18-7 with him in the
"If it comes down to me starting and Larry not here, I just
have to be ready to come and play," Murray said.
Justin Hughes' passing has affected the Cavaliers as well as the
Pistons, who offered their condolences.
"That's tough," Detroit guard Chauncey Billups said. "I know
Larry, and I've met his brother. They are a great family, and I
really feel bad for them. It's been obvious that Larry hasn't been
Larry in this series, and I know he's been coming back from the
injury and trying to get into a rhythm, but this has to have made
things even worse.
"You can't expect that something like that isn't going to
The odds of the Cavaliers coming back on the Pistons are long,
but not impossible.
Since 1969, 10 teams have rallied from an 0-2 hole to win a
best-of-seven playoff series. Last season, both Dallas and
Washington did it to advance past the first round.
There's also a chance that the Cavs, who are in second round for
the first time since 1993, may only have two games left. Detroit
has lost nine of its last 10 road playoff Game 3s, but James knows
there's a possibility of a sweep.
"You hate to think about that, but it is a reality that it
might happen," James said. "But it's also possible we can come
back from 0-2. There a lot of different scenarios. If that [sweep]
may happen, which I don't intend it to, it doesn't take anything
away from this season.
"We're confident. No one's head is down about this series."