CHICAGO -- With so much on the line and the game slipping away, LeBron James wasn't going to take a back seat.
Trailing 108-104 with a minute left in overtime, James drove toward the basket. He banked in the jumper, was fouled and converted the three-point play to make it 108-107 with 42.3 seconds left. Then Ben Gordon drove to the lane and missed with a wild shot. James got the rebound and put Cleveland ahead for good with a jumper in the lane that made it 109-108 lead with 20.7 seconds left.
"We were down four and I was just wanted to be aggressive," James said. "I didn't want to settle. I got a switch with Kirk Hinrich on the first one and got an and-one, and we came up with a good defensive stop and I was able to get into the lane and shoot a floater off the backboard to put us up one with 20 seconds to go."
Cleveland leads Chicago by 1½ games for second place in the Eastern Conference. The three division winners are guaranteed spots in the top four playoff seeds, meaning the Bulls would be seeded fifth despite holding the third-best record in the conference.
"This was a playoff-type game. I said it before the game. We knew it. They knew it. We showed our mental toughness and got the job done," James said. "We want homecourt advantage, see if we can try to get it throughout the playoffs, if not, for the first and second round. We're in that position right now. We just got to continue to do the things we've been doing lately and win basketball games."
After James' short jumper, the Bulls didn't get a shot off on the ensuing possession when Gordon was trapped and threw the ball away.
"They were doing it the whole game," Gordon said. "I tried to string them out as well as I could. I tried to pass it to one of my teammates, but I came up short."
The Bulls fouled Larry Hughes, who hit one of two free throws to make it 110-108. Gordon missed a 3 with 1.9 seconds left. Hughes rebounded and was immediately fouled, making both free throws.
"This is about as big as it gets for the regular season," Hinrich said. "It was definitely disappointing."
Gordon knocked down a 22-footer to put the Bulls up 106-104 with 1:26 left in overtime. Then James missed a 3, and Ben Wallace picked up the loose the ball and was fouled. Wallace hit both free throws, putting Chicago ahead 108-104 with 1:01 left.
Gordon finished with 37 points and Tyrus Thomas had a career-high 27 points with eight rebounds.
Sasha Pavlovic scored 21 points for Cleveland, which won for the third time in its last seven games
James gave Cleveland a 98-91 lead on a pair of free throws with 5:07 left in the fourth quarter. The Bulls came back when Gordon made two free throws and a nice pass to Thomas for an easy dunk to get to 98-95 with 4:03 left. Thomas cut the Cavs' lead to 100-99 on another dunk off Wallace's pass. Then Thomas came up big on the defensive end. James tried to drive to the basket, but Thomas cut off his angle, James lost control of the ball and Thomas stole it.
Gordon tied the game at 100 with 39.7 seconds left. The Bulls had chances to take the lead in the final seconds of regulation, but Gordon missed a jumper and later committed a turnover.
Hinrich had 22 points and 11 assists and Deng finished with 12.
"I can't fault our overall effort from a physical standpoint," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "There are some mental situations out there where our focus is not exactly where it needed to be in a game like this. And we still had chances to win."
Cleveland built a 10-point lead to start the fourth quarter. Zydrunas Ilgauskas' basket and Pavlovic's 3 gave Cleveland a 77-72 lead and James ended the quarter with back-to-back baskets to make it 83-73.
- Bulls reserve forward Adrian Griffin missed the game with back spasms.
- Official Bennett Salvatore issued Hinrich a technical for arguing a no-call in the third quarter after his missed layup.
- Ilgauskas had 14 points and five rebounds.