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Wrap-Up -- Now THAT was just what the doctor ordered.
For a team that had been struggling through a string of sluggish, lethargic performances, the Cavaliers got exactly what they needed – a monster performance by their unquestioned leader and a thrilling team victory that finally injected some life into what had been a lifeless stretch of basketball – taking the 140-138 nail-biter in overtime on Wednesday night at The Q.
With 1.3 to play in the extra-session, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler worked his way past Cedi Osman and attempted a short floater to take the lead. Instead, LeBron James came across the lane and crushed Butler’s offering. JR Smith grabbed the loose ball and immediately called timeout.
On the final possession, Jeff Green fired a perfect inbounds pass to James – waiting at the foul line in the frontcourt. The four-time MVP spun, rocked back and splashed home the game-winner at the buzzer, snapping Cleveland’s two-game skid and, more importantly, giving his struggling squad some inspiration with three games remaining before the Break.
One night after posting one of their worst performances of the year – losing a 21-point and falling to a shorthanded Magic squad – the Wine & Gold got strong performances up and down the rotation.
The biggest performance came from the conquering hero, with LeBron notching his ninth triple-double of the season and 64th of his career – going off for 37 points, 15 assists and 10 boards in the victory.
James – whose 30-point effort was his first since an MLK Day loss to Golden State at The Q – went 16-for-22 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from long-range, adding a steal and possibly the biggest blocked shot of the Cavaliers’ season.
Wednesday’s effort was significant for the four-time MVP, who tallied just 11 points the previous evening in Orlando and notched just 10 the last time these two teams squared off in Minnesota.
JR Smith had another strong outing – following up with 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting from beyond the arc, the fifth time in his last seven games that he’s drilled at least three, three-pointers.
Tristan Thompson provided excellent energy despite having his hands full with Minnesota’s All-Star big man, Karl-Anthony Towns – finishing with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, adding five boards and a steal.
Isaiah Thomas added 13 points and seven helpers in the win – going 4-of-8 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from long-range. Jae Crowder added 10 points while doing a solid job on Taj Gibson, who’s tormented the Wine & Gold on several occasions in the past.
Cleveland got excellent production from its bench on Wednesday.
Balanced scoring effort helps propel Cavs over Wolves in overtime.
Kyle Korver had his best game since Cleveland’s last meeting in Minnesota – only with much better results – going 5-of-7 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from deep, to finish with 14 points. Jeff Green was rock-solid once again – finishing with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting, adding six boards and a pair of assists, including the game-winning feed to LeBron at the buzzer.
The Cavs also got an infusion of youthful energy from their versatile rookie, Cedi Osman, who went 3-of-5 from the floor for nine points and four boards while doing a solid job checking All-Star guard Jeff Teague.
The Timberwolves had some big performances of their own on Wednesday night.
Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns combined for 65 points in the loss. Butler finished with 35 points, going 14-of-21 from the floor and 4-of-5 from deep. Towns was just as good, going 10-of-12 from the field, including a perfect 6-of-6 from three-point range, to go with a team-high 10 boards and a pair of blocks.
The thriller was anything but a defensive struggle. The Cavaliers shot 59 percent from the floor, going 21-of-41 from beyond the arc. Minnesota shot 58 percent and was 19-of-33 from deep as the two squads set an NBA record for combined triples in a single game.
Turning Point -- In a game in which neither team led by double-figures at any point, with 16 ties and 34 lead-changes, there was barely time for a turning point.
The Wine & Gold almost wound up on the wrong end of turning point when they surrendered an eight-point edge with less than four minutes to play, watching Minnesota use an 8-0 run to tie the game with just over two minutes to play.
Towns’ long three-pointer with 54.6 to play could have spelled disaster for the Cavaliers. Instead, LeBron drilled a triple of his own on Cleveland’s next possession – tying the affair and eventually sending it to overtime.
By the Numbers – 5,907 … rebounds LeBron James has snagged as a Cavalier, moving him past Zydrunas Ilgauskas as the franchise’s all-time leader. James is now one of just three players (Michael Jordan, Bulls / Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves) to lead his franchise in all-time points, assists and rebounds.
Quotable – LeBron James, on Wednesday’s win over Minnesota …
”When the ball is flying around, you’re playing for one another, even when you’re making mistakes but you’re playing for one another and you’re helping each other – just want to play the game the right way, and that’s what I’ve always done in my career over my life of basketball. Just trying to play the right way, and I think we did that tonight, so everybody was feeling a part of the game and it was fun to be a part of.”
Up Next -- After edging the Timberwolves in OT on Wednesday night at The Q, only a three-game road trip stands between the Cavaliers and a much-needed All-Star Break. On Friday night, the Wine & Gold travel to Atlanta for their final meeting with the Hawks this season. On Sunday afternoon, it’s a key Eastern Conference matchup against the Celtics in Boston followed by a trip to Oklahoma City for a marquee matchup with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder to wrap up the season’s first half.