James scored eight of his 31 points in the second overtime, and pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds to lead Cleveland to a 113-106 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
"My team needs me to make big plays down the stretch and that's what I did," said James, who played 49 minutes. "It wasn't just me, though. Everybody made plays."
But the biggest were made by James, whose 30-footer gave Cleveland a 103-102 lead early in the second overtime. He followed with a free throw and a jumper before Damon Jones' 3-pointer from the corner gave Cleveland a 109-102 lead with 1:27 left, putting the game away.
Jones, who refers to himself as the greatest shooter in the world, hit the basket that sealed the win, a 3 from deep in the left corner.
"Anytime you get open looks and you call yourself a shooter, you have to be confident in your ability to make the shot," he said.
Jones also received some instruction from James.
"He passed up a few and I told him not to pass them up if I was going to throw him the ball," James said.
Gerald Wallace led Charlotte with 27 points, and Nazr Mohammed added 21. Jason Richardson, who scored 15 points in the first 7:07 of the game, finished with 19. After making six of his first seven shots, Richardson made one of his last 19 attempts from the field.
"We just contested his shots," James said. "Early on we were playing lax and let him dictate what he wanted to do."
Raymond Felton's 3-pointer from the top of the key with .03 seconds left forced overtime.
Matt Carroll's 3-pointer with 1:25 left put Charlotte ahead 100-97 in the first overtime, but Jones responded with a 3 to tie the game. After a Bobcats turnover, James missed a runner along the baseline and Varejao missed two tip-ins before Charlotte got the rebound and called timeout with 15.4 seconds left. Felton missed a jumper and the game went to a second OT.
Felton left the game in the second overtime after spraining his right ankle while driving to the basket and was helped to the lockerroom.
"We got sloppy and lost a lot of our mental focus at the end," Wallace said. "It was a win that was right there for us to steal and I think we ran out of gas when it came time for us to steal it."
For most of the second half, it appeared the Bobcats would post their third impressive road win in a week. Charlotte won in New Jersey on Jan. 4 and in Boston on Wednesday night, handing the Celtics just their fourth loss of the season.
The Cavaliers built a 10-point lead late in the second quarter and led 58-51 at halftime. Cleveland has had problems in the third quarter throughout the season, though, and the Bobcats started the period with a 12-4 run and took a 63-62 lead on two free throws by Emeka Okafor with 8:14 left. The Cavaliers committed seven turnovers in the third quarter.
"We played hard and we had a chance to win the game," Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said.
The lead exchanged hands throughout the final minutes, and Hughes' drive with 1:08 left gave the Cavaliers a 91-90 lead.
After both teams missed, the Bobcats called timeout to set up a shot, but James knocked the ball away from Richardson. James and Carroll dove for the ball, which rolled out of bounds at the other end of the floor. After first awarding the ball to Cleveland, the referees conferred and called for a jump ball at center court. James admitted he knocked the ball out of bounds, but the referees didn't see it.
James won the tip and Hughes was fouled with 5.7 seconds left, then made both free throws for a 93-90 lead. With no timeouts, Felton drove the length of the floor and hit his jump shot over Hughes and Varejao to tie the game.
- Varejao, who held out in a contract dispute until early December, was questionable going into the game because of knee and Achilles' tendon injuries. The 6-foot-10 forward wound up playing 41 minutes.
- The Cavaliers sent G Shannon Brown to Rio Grande Valley of the NBA Development League and recalled F Cedric Simmons from the same team on Friday.
- The Cavaliers don't play at home again until Jan. 23. They start a three game trip Tuesday in Memphis.
- The Bobcats host Detroit on Saturday night.