LeBron sparks Cavs' win over Thunder
The Cavaliers are down to their third point guard. Their fourth
might be the best in the NBA.
LeBron James had 37 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds and Daniel Gibson hit a 3-pointer with 8.7 seconds left to carry Cleveland to a 100-99 win against Oklahoma City on Saturday night. It was the Thunder's second loss in two nights in the final seconds.
Shaquille O'Neal had a season-high 22 points for Cleveland (34-11).
Injuries to Mo Williams and Delonte West forced Gibson into a starting role for the first time since Dec. 23, 2007. But James ran the Cavs' offense most of the night, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter and sealing the win with a huge block on Kevin Durant with 0.9 seconds remaining.
"It's just timing. You have to time it up perfect," James said. "I jumped when he jumped, and luckily he landed a little bit before I did."
Durant had 34 points, and Russell Westbrook added 23 for Oklahoma City, which concluded its longest trip of the season by playing for the third time in four nights. The Thunder (24-20) lost to Memphis on Friday night when Rudy Gay hit a 20-foot jumper with 1.3 seconds remaining.
Oklahoma City's last four losses have come by a combined five points.
"It's a tough league," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Our guys believe in themselves. These are tough losses, but you have to go through some tough losses to understand what it is to win in this league and win big in this league."
Cleveland trailed by a point when James grabbed a rebound and drove the length of the floor. When the defense collapsed on him, he fired to a wide open Gibson, even though Gibson had struggled most of the night. He finished with 13 points.
He failed to record an assist and missed open looks early, but James still had faith in Gibson, who routinely hit big shots as a rookie during the Cavaliers' march to the NBA finals three years ago. Gibson's 3-pointer put the Cavaliers up 98-96 with 8.7 seconds remaining.
"That guy [James] is unbelievable," Gibson said. "He seems to always make those plays where he trusts his teammates. I'm happy I knocked it down for him."
The Thunder had one final chance to tie, but James guarded Durant for the first time all night and forced him left. James said he had watched Durant go to his right all night and wanted to make him try something new.
James and Durant entered the night second and third in the league in scoring, but they didn't face off until the final seconds. Famous for his chasedown blocks, James took on Durant straight up and swatted away the potential game-tying basket.
"I had tunnel vision," Durant said. "I was looking at the basket. I didn't see who was behind me."
Durant is one of the league's brightest stars, but he is still learning how to win big games. He missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would've given the Thunder a win on Friday. His final shot on Saturday was swatted away by the reigning MVP.
"I'm learning each time I do that," Durant said. "That's all I can say. I made a good move and shot a good shot, but it got blocked. Against Memphis, I shot a good shot and missed. Hopefully, I'll start to make shots."
James was fouled after blocking Durant and made a pair of free throws. Durant followed with a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Cleveland won despite shooting 20 of 40 from the free throw line and turning it over 17 times.
"It was one of the bigger wins," James said. "To be down to of our point guards, it's huge."
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is used to watching James carry the Cavaliers, but Brown said James has been even better recently.
"He's playing fantastic basketball," Brown said. "He's playing like he's head and shoulders above a lot of people right now."
Notes: The Cavaliers signed G Cedric Jackson to a 10-day contract Saturday. ... West is expected to travel with the team to Miami for Monday's game, but he hasn't been cleared to play. ... Jawad Williams had 12 points off the bench for Cleveland, including nine in the first quarter. ... The Thunder are 15-5 against the East. The 15 wins are the most by any Western Conference team this season. ... Durant has scored at least 25 points in 18 straight games.