WASHINGTON, April 28 (Ticker) -- LeBron James again made history and more importantly, gave the the Cleveland Cavaliers the playoff edge.

James scored 14 of his record-setting 41 points in the fourth quarter, including a tough banker with 5.7 seconds remaining, to help the Cavaliers capture a hard-fought 97-96 triumph over the Washington Wizards in Game Three of their first-round series.

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The heralded 21-year-old James added to his growing legacy by eclipsing the league record for the most points in a road postseason debut - 40 by David Thompson and Kelley Tripucka - while giving fourth-seeded Cleveland a 2-1 edge in the series.

"LeBron James is special," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "Folks, he scored 41 points on 28 field-goal (attempts) with nine free-throw attempts. I'm not a math major, but I don't even know how that can add up to 41 points. A heck of an effort by him."

With the Cavaliers trailing, 96-95, in the waning seconds, James drove past Antonio Daniels and hung in the air before hitting a short banker over Michael Ruffin to give Cleveland the lead in the pivotal contest.

"We ran a play in the first half that looked pretty good," James said. "We came back to it in the fourth quarter, side pick-and-roll, with me and Larry (Hughes). I had Antonio Daniels on me and I didn't want to force the jump shot. I wanted to get into the paint. I was able to get him off his feet and take contact with Michael Ruffin. It was a good play designed by coach."

"At the end of the ballgame, defensively you've got to pick your poison," Brown said. "If you don't come to double him, he's going to make the right play. Nobody came to double. He drove the ball to the rim and he took a hard hit and still finished that shot."

Gilbert Arenas, whose three-point play gave Washington a one-point advantage before James' shot, had a wide-open look at a potential game-winning 3-pointer, but the shot rimmed out and fell into the waiting arms of Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao.

"It went in and came out," Arenas said. "You're going to miss more than you make in your career. I missed that one, but I'm going to have more opportunities to make them. I thought it was going in. It was there, just a little off. It just wasn't our day. We fought all 48 minutes of this basketball game and we deserved this win."

"I thought we got a good look at the basket but it didn't fall," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "We've had a whole lot of these games all year long. It seems that every loss was right at the buzzer, and they are all heartbreakers. But we have to bounce back."

Arenas doesn't want any more games to go down to the last shot against James and the Cavaliers.

"We had 17 turnovers and we still lost the game by one point," Arenas said. "We've just got to beat them. We're not going to beat them in a close game, we've just got to flat-out beat them - let it be known that we're beating them. If it's within two, three, I mean, they have the advantage. We've just got to flat-out beat them."

Arenas finished with 32 points and Caron Butler collected 20 and 11 rebounds for the Wizards, who lost home court advantage after seizing it with an 89-84 road victory in Game Two.

Hughes finished with 16 points, but shot just 6-of-15 from the floor, which was indicative of James' teammates, and resulted in the phenom finishing with just three assists.

"He didn't really look to look for his teammates as often as he did in the first two games," Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said. "I think he really took this game personally and he wanted to really come out and play well."

Cleveland, which had not won a road playoff game since 1995, will try to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game Four here on Sunday.

"We've been knocked on our behinds a few times and our guys have seemed to find a way to respond and it was no different tonight," Brown said. "I thought both teams were physical and in the second half, our defense stepped up a little bit."