NEW YORK: LeBron James shrugged off five absent players and an ill coach with a virtuoso performance Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), rallying the host Cleveland Cavaliers over NBA Eastern Conference leader Toronto 132-129.
The three-time NBA champion and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player scored 35 points, passed out 17 assists and had seven rebounds with no turnovers, making the most assists in any NBA game by a player without losing the ball.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, to be perfectly honest with you—17 assists, 35 points and no turnovers. It’s just amazing,” said Cavaliers associate coach Larry Drew, filling in as Tyronn Lue fights health issues.
“What he does night in and night out, how he sustains it, it’s mind-boggling.”
The Cavaliers, who made four deals to revamp the roster, remain a threat in the East at 42-29, well back of the Raptors’ record of 53-19 but able to spot them a 79-64 half-time lead before rallying to win.
“We’re working our tails off to keep this ship above water, to keep it running tight with all the changes and all the injuries,” James said.
“We just dug deep, came back in the third quarter offensively and defensively. Everybody on the court contributed to this victory.”
None did more than James, whose final assist was a pass to Kevin Love to set up a 3-pointer from the corner for a 128-124 Cleveland lead.
It was only Love’s second game back after missing 21 contests with a broken left hand, but he managed 23 points and 12 rebounds.
“He’s somebody I can always count on,” James said of Love. “We’re all glad to have him back. I saw him in the corner and he knocked it down.”
George Hill added 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting for the Cavaliers. Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 24 points while DeMar DeRozan added 21.