LeBron James nailed a 19-footer as time expired to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to a thrilling 106-105 road victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
James scored eight of his game-high 32 points in the final five minutes including the game-clinching jumper, the first buzzer-beater of his career.
“We knew it was going to the wire, I guess tonight whoever had the ball last was going to win the ball game,” James told reporters after a hard-fought encounter that witnessed six lead changes in the final 90 seconds. “The Warriors are a very explosive team but we got the win.”
Cleveland’s victory spoiled the return of Warriors guard Monta Ellis, who played in his first game of the season — after missing 43 games with an ankle injury.
Ellis had 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting while Stephen Jackson led Golden State (13-31) with 24 points and gave his team a 105-104 lead after putting in a 23-foot shot with six seconds remaining.
However, James had the final say and added nine rebounds and eight assists as Cleveland (33-8) won its second game in a row of a West Coast road trip.
The Cavaliers entered the game with a defense that allowed the least points per game in the NBA (89.6) but were challenged by a potent Golden State offense that thrives in transition.
“It’s difficult, you find yourself guarding different guys on every possession because they get out and have five ball handlers,” James said. “We had to do a good job of getting back in transition and we got a good win.”
The Cavaliers had four players in double figures scoring including Mo Williams’ 14 points.
Corey Maggette recorded 23 points and eight rebounds for the Warriors, who lost their second straight despite getting a boost from the arrival of Ellis.
Ellis sustained an ankle injury in a motorcycle accident during the offseason, shortly after signing a six-year US$66 million extension with the Warriors. He was suspended 30 games without pay for the incident, which violated team conduct rules, and served the penalty while sidelined with injury.
MAVERICKS 112, PISTONS 91
In Auburn Hills, Michigan, the Dallas Mavericks hit back after their worst loss of the season to trounce the Detroit Pistons.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points and Josh Howard added 22 as Dallas responded to the 133-99 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Brandon Bass added a season-high 18 points, and Jason Kidd had 11 points and 10 assists for Dallas. Richard Hamilton, coming off the bench for just the second time in his Detroit career, led the Pistons with 17 points.
SPURS 94, NETS 91
In San Antonio, Michael Finley hit a pivotal 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to give San Antonio a narrow victory over New Jersey.
San Antonio’s fourth straight win, combined with New Orleans’ loss, put the Spurs two games clear atop the Southwest Division.
Tim Duncan had 30 points and 15 rebounds.
HAWKS 117, BUCKS 87
In Atlanta, the home side raced away to their biggest win of the season, thrashing Milwaukee.
Flip Murray scored a season-high 25 points and Josh Smith had 24 for the Hawks, who shot 56 percent from the field to bring up a third straight victory.
In Friday’s other games it was:
• Pacers 107, Rockets 102
• Bobcats 98, Suns 76
• T’wolves 116, Hornets 108
• Raptors 114, Bulls 94
• Knicks 108, Grizzlies 88
• Clippers 107, Thunder 104