James scored 26 points, added 10 assists and provided everything Cleveland needed in the final minutes, rallying the Cavaliers to a 95-91 win over Toronto on Wednesday night.
With Cleveland trailing 84-77, James dished out three assists -- two for consecutive 3-pointers -- grabbed a rebound and scored five points, two on a thundering dunk, during a 13-0 burst to put the Cavs ahead by four.
"When you got a guy like LeBron you really don't sweat it," said rookie Daniel Gibson, who finished with 18 points and five rebounds, and contained T.J. Ford in his first NBA start. "You know that moment is going to come."
After Chris Bosh scored and Fred Jones made a 3-pointer to bring Toronto within one with 39.6 seconds left, James drove the lane and fed Donyell Marshall for a 3 to make it 93-89 with 17.9 seconds remaining.
By pushing the ball into the lane, James forced the Raptors to collapse their defense, which allowed him to find wide-open teammates.
"It's pick your poison," Marshall said.
And James made the Raptors pay.
"I was taking what was there," James said. "There aren't too many defenses that can force me to do anything. They doubled me, they downed me and did what they wanted and I just took advantage of it."
Ford's basket cut it to 93-91 but Gibson made two free throws with 11.4 seconds left to help seal it for the Cavs, who turned up their defensive intensity late after allowing the Raptors too many easy baskets.
As he walked back to Cleveland's bench, Gibson, a second-round pick, was hugged by James, who is gaining more confidence in his young teammate.
"I told him early in the season that he's going to be a good guard in this league, and he's going to be good for our team," James said. "We needed a guy to step up and show some poise and he did."
Marshall added 19 points and Eric Snow 12 for Cleveland.
That's when James took over, accounting for 16 straight points as the Cavaliers stormed back.
He first passed to Damon Jones and Marshall for 3s. Then, he drove into the lane to draw help and passed underneath to Anderson Varejao for an easy layup to give Cleveland an 85-84 lead with 3:43 left.
On Cleveland's next trip, James drove baseline for a dunk, dropped a free throw 32 seconds later and scored on another layin to make it 90-84 with 2:09 left.
"That's why he's mentioned for league MVP," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "It's either him driving through the lane or getting it to other guys and them hitting contested shots."
The Raptors went cold from the floor and 3:04 without a point before Bosh scored and Fred Jones hit a 3-pointer to pull them within 90-89. But James found Marshall for Cleveland's 10th 3, and Gibson helped put it away at the line.
Gibson's 3-pointer in the final second gave the Cavaliers, who trailed by nine in the third quarter, a 68-67 lead entering the fourth.
Coming off a horrible performance at Houston when they scored just 63, the Cavaliers managed just 18 in the first quarter and trailed by 10 when James hit a 3-pointer with 6:36 left before halftime.
Cleveland made two more 3s, and James scored six points in the final 1:36 - he had 19 in the first half - as the Cavs closed within 47-44 at halftime.
|In his first career start, Daniel Gibson makes two key free throws and finishes with 18 points. (AP)|
|Cleveland (11-7) «||18||26||24||27||95|
|TOR:A. Parker 18 Pts
TOR:C. Bosh 12 Reb
TOR:T. Ford 10 Ast
|CLE:L. James 26 Pts
CLE:A. Varejao 11 Reb
CLE:L. James 10 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|C. Bosh, PF||42||8-22||2-4||12||3||1||18|
|A. Parker, SF||34||8-14||2-2||5||3||2||18|
|T. Ford, PG||31||4-10||0-0||4||10||2||8|
|J. Garbajosa, C||31||3-8||2-2||2||0||1||8|
|R. Nesterovic, C||18||2-5||0-0||3||0||2||4|
|A. Bargnani, PF||29||6-11||0-0||3||2||0||14|
|F. Jones, SG||21||5-7||3-4||3||2||2||14|
|J. Calderon, PG||17||1-3||0-0||2||6||3||2|
|J. Graham, SF||12||2-2||1-1||1||0||4||5|
|K. Humphries, PF||5||0-3||0-0||2||0||1||0|
|D. Martin, PG||Did Not Play|
|M. Peterson, SG||Did Not Play|
|P. Sow, PF||Did Not Play|
|U. Slokar, PF||Did Not Play|
|P. Tucker, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|L. James, SF||41||11-18||3-5||6||10||1||26|
|D. Gibson, PG||36||6-12||3-5||5||2||2||18|
|E. Snow, PG||32||6-9||0-2||6||6||3||12|
|Z. Ilgauskas, C||26||2-7||0-0||6||1||2||4|
|D. Gooden, PF||21||0-3||0-0||7||0||2||0|
|D. Jones, PG||29||3-9||1-2||2||3||0||10|
|D. Marshall, PF||28||8-14||0-0||6||0||1||19|
|A. Varejao, PF||20||2-7||0-0||11||0||2||4|
|S. Pavlovic, SF||6||0-4||2-2||0||0||2||2|
|D. Wesley, SG||1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|S. Pollard, C||Did Not Play|
|L. Hughes, SG||Did Not Play|
|I. Newble, SF||Did Not Play|
|D. Jones, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Brown, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|