LeBron Heats Up in Cavaliers Victory
Cleveland 115, Miami 107
CLEVELAND, Dec. 17 (Ticker) -- With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the verge of blowing a big lead, LeBron James took matters into his own hands.
James scored 16 of his 41 points in the final 7½ minutes to repel a rally and lift the Cavaliers to a 115-107 victory over the Miami Heat, who lost for the first time since Pat Riley returned to the bench as head coach Monday.
James did not let that happen. The superstar swingman made 12-of-19 shots and 15-of-16 free throws and handed out 10 assists. He was at his best in the fourth quarter, taking over the game by scoring 13 straight points for Cleveland.
"(My teammates) started looking at me like, 'OK, when are you going to start shooting the ball or attacking and trying to make some plays?'" James said. "I saw (Miami) trying to make a run and it was time for me to wake up."
"This is really the first time I've coached against him, the first time we've coached against Cleveland this year, and I'm sure the next time, we'll be a lot more prepared," Riley said. "(James) is a great player. He's like a freight train with Dwyane Wade speed."
Miami put together a 14-0 run with superstars Wade and Shaquille O'Neal on the bench early in the final period, cutting the deficit to 95-87 with 8:14 to go. James responded with a left-handed bank shot and a pull-up jumper.
"(James) hit a lot of tough shots," O'Neal said. "We got ourselves in too deep of a hole."
After a drive by Wade, who scored 33 points, James made a jumper. O'Neal threw in a hook, but James sank two free throws. James Posey drove for a hoop, but James buried a 3-pointer for a 106-93 advantage with 4:31 remaining.
"I've seen too many players like (James)," Riley said. "I see it in Dwyane, I've seen it in Magic (Johnson) and James Worthy. At times, you're helpless. When he's raising on you and freezing you with the dribble, and making four or five in a row, it's sort of a helpless feeling."
"Toward the end of the ballgame, (James) put us on his back, like he has many times before, and carried us," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.
The Heat got within four points in the final minute, but James made three free throws to help seal the win.
"We made a run at them, but we were one or two possessions short," Riley said.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 11 points for Cleveland, which was swept by Miami in last season's series. The Cavaliers have won two straight following a three-game slide.
Alonzo Mourning scored 14 points and Posey added 13 for the Heat, who had won their first three games under Riley -- all on the road -- but were sloppy defensively in this one.
"Our defensive intensity wasn't there like it's been the last three games," Wade said.
Miami also got next to nothing from O'Neal, who continues to labor in the second of back-to-back games since returning from his sprained ankle. He had just 10 points and six rebounds and could not chase Ilgauskas on the perimeter.
The Heat missed eight of their first nine shots but recovered from the slow start to open a 29-27 lead early in the second quarter. The Cavaliers responded with a 14-4 run that included a beautiful, no-look wraparound pass from Ilgauskas to a cutting James, who hammered home a dunk.
Cleveland kept coming, using an 11-0 surge to widen the lead to 56-38 late in the first half. Hughes fueled the run with consecutive 3-pointers, his first in seven games.
Hughes went coast to coast for a floating runner at the buzzer that gave the Cavaliers a 61-44 halftime lead. It was the most first-half points allowed by the Heat this season.
"We didn't play the game with a lot of focused energy in the first half," Riley said. "I thought we were a little slow, we looked tired and (Cleveland) looked sharp and they were good."
Marshall scored 14 points and made four of Cleveland's seven 3-pointers in the third period, helping the Cavs take a 93-73 bulge into the final quarter.
Ilgauskas (head) and forward Drew Gooden (ankle) left the game with injuries and will be evaluated Sunday.