CLEVELAND, May 29 – LeBron James had a triple double as Cleveland staved off elimination by beating Orlando 112-102 on Thursday in game five of the Eastern Conference championship series.
James and the Cavaliers clamped down in the fourth quarter after blowing a 22 point first half lead to cut the Magic’s best-of-seven series lead to three games to two.
"It was a big game for us," said James, who had 37 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists. "You never want to disappoint by not playing as hard as you can. It is win or go home."
Dwight Howard had 24 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out for the Magic who are trying to end a 14 year finals drought. Hedo Turkoglu led the Magic with 29 points.
James carried the Cavaliers on his back in the fourth as he had a hand in 29 of the 34 points Cleveland scored in the final 12 minutes.
He had 17 points in the final quarter and 24 in the first half.
"That’s what great players do. They put teams on their back," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown.
Game six is Saturday in Orlando with game seven if necessary Monday in Cleveland.
"We have got to play the same way," said James, whose triple double was his first of the post-season. "Play gritty, get the ball up the court, attack and bring it back here."
Mo Williams had 24 points for Cleveland who are trying to become the ninth team since 1947 to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a series.
The Cavaliers are also attempting to bring a title to the drought starved city of Cleveland.
Orlando’s Howard fouled out with 2:22 remaining while trying to stop one of James’ drives to the basket. James got the basket then balled his fists and clenched his teeth while the Cleveland crowd celebrated. He made the free throw to give Cleveland a 102-93 lead.
"He (James) is great player, an MVP," said the Magic’s Mickael Pietrus. "The way we started in the first and second quarter is not acceptable.
"He (James) took over in the fourth quarter. That is what great players do. Kobe does the same things. Hopefully we will play better at home."
Orlando was looking to close out an opponent for the third time in the playoffs on the road. They beat Philadelphia in game six and won the seventh and deciding game in Boston.
Orlando led Thursday 79-78 at the end of the third quarter but couldn’t close the deal.
"There is no need to hang our heads but understand what we have to do to win," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy told his players behind closed doors immediately following the game.
Van Gundy was called for a technical in the second quarter.
"The game is basically all LeBron, all the time," he said at the post-game news conference. "If he gets in the paint, it’s automatically a foul. One of the things we have to do, we can’t keep putting him on the line 20 times a game. We have to find a way to stop that."