LOS ANGELES: LeBron James drained a buzzer-beating game-winner on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) as the Cleveland Cavaliers set aside their troubles with a 140-138 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A Cavs team in free-fall got a desperately needed win thanks to “King” James. With a second remaining in overtime he swatted away a shot by Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler.
He then seized an inbounds pass from Jeff Green, turned and fired over Butler for the desperately needed victory.
“It was a great win for us,” said James, who threw both arms in the air in triumph when his game-winner fell — capping a triple-double performance of 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds.
“The way we’ve been playing we needed that from him tonight,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “He was very special.”
The Cavs are now just 7-13 since Christmas.
Amid speculation the Cavs will make a significant move by Thursday’s trade deadline, the current team pulled out all the stops in avenging their 28-point loss to Minnesota on January 8.
Seven Cavaliers players scored in double figures in a see-saw battle that saw 34 lead changes and 16 ties, evolving into a shootout in which the teams combined for an NBA record 40 three-pointers.
Butler led the Timberwolves with 35 and Karl-Anthony Towns added 30.
Andrew Wiggins’ jump shot with 1:25 left in overtime put Minnesota up 138-136. James’s layup knotted the score at 138-138 with 24 seconds remaining.
Butler drove to the basket against Cavs rookie Cedi Osman with a chance to win it, but James came from the weak side and rose to swat the shot away.
JR Smith came up with the rebound to set the stage for the winning play.
“Coach Lue called up a great play,” James said. “Jeff Green gave me a heck of a pass and I just trusted my instincts to let it go.”
While one win won’t solve all the Cavs’ problems, Lue welcomed the sight of his players celebrating.
“When you make a big shot like that and the whole team is running the floor chest-bumping that’s a great sign,” Lue said. “That’s how we’ve got to be. I think we’ve got to enjoy the game more.”
Rockets burn Heat
Houston’s MVP candidate James Harden torched the Heat in Miami, pouring in 41 points in the Rockets’ 109-101 victory.
Harden, the league’s leading scorer, connected on 13 of 25 shots from the field, including five of 12 from three-point range, as the Rockets notched a sixth straight victory.
Chris Paul added 22 points for the Rockets, who withstood a career-high 30 points from Miami’s Josh Richardson and 30 points from Goran Dragic.
The Heat had edged ahead 87-85 early in the fourth quarter, but Houston answered with nine straight points.
A three-pointer from Richardson pulled the Heat within 94-90, but Paul answered with a three-pointer and Harden drained another pair of threes to effectively seal the victory — Rockets’ 10th in their last 11 games.
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said he could see some signs of fatigue as his team wrapped up a four-game road trip.
“James and Chris, again, found some extra juice and just finished it off,” he said.
In Detroit, Blake Griffin scored 11 of his team-high 25 points after he re-entered the game in the fourth quarter to propel the Pistons to a 115-106 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Pistons won their fifth straight — and their fourth since Griffin arrived via a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In New Orleans, the Pelicans’ game against the Indiana Pacers was postponed because of a leaky roof at the Smoothie King Center that led to puddling water on the court.
Tip-off was delayed, but eventually the NBA opted to postpone the contest, a move the Pelicans said was made “out of an abundance of caution for players’ safety.”