LOS ANGELES, United States, Dec 3 – The Cleveland Cavaliers stretched their NBA winning streak to 11 games Saturday as LeBron James poured it on in the fourth quarter to keep the depleted but desperate Memphis Grizzlies at bay.
James, who leads the league in fourth quarter points, scored 15 of his 34 points in the final period as the Cavs held on for a 116-111 victory in Cleveland.
He scored Cleveland’s last 13 points — and delivered the final dagger with a jump shot from just inside the three-point line with five seconds remaining.
Cleveland, their rocky start to the season a more distant memory with every win, solidified their hold on second place in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Celtics — who became the first team this season to reach 20 wins with a 116-111 home victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Memphis endured their 11th straight defeat as Cleveland erased a 12-point first quarter deficit and then repelled the Grizzlies’ fourth-quarter rally bid.
James added 12 assists in 30 minutes on the floor, drawing chants of “M-V-P” from Cleveland fans.
Kevin Love added 20 points along with 11 rebounds. J.R. Smith scored 17 points and Dwyane Waded added 16 points and four assists off the bench for Cleveland.
Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks drained a three-pointer that tied the score at 109-109 with 2:10 to play.
James then drove for a layup and the Grizzlies’ Tyreke Evans missed slashed to the rim for another.
Brooks made two free throws before James drained his jump shot to seal it.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue praised the team effort in a “tricky game.”
“We just kept our composure, kept playing,” Lue said, “and ‘Bron took us home down the stretch.”
In Boston, the Celtics withstood a 38-point performance from Suns star Devin Booker — who had dropped 70 points on the Celtics in a game at the TD Garden last season.
Kyrie Irving was the late-game hero for the Celtics, scoring five of his 19 points in the final two minutes.
The Suns had trimmed a late eight-point deficit to two when Irving drained a three-pointer with 1:53 remaining to help the Celtics hang on.
Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris scored 17 points each, Jayson Tatum added 15 and Al Horford scored 14 points with 11 assists and five rebounds for the Celtics.
“We put ourselves in a bad spot after that fourth-quarter run,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought we were doing a great job at the end of the third quarter, start of the fourth, pushing that lead out, but that’s how quickly it goes.
“Kyrie had to make some big plays. Jayson had to make some big plays. Marcus had to make free throws. I mean, we had a lot of things that we had to do to close that out. But Kyrie’s ability to make those shots with very little space is pretty impressive.”
– Carlisle’s 700th win –
Elsewhere, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle became the 18th coach in NBA history with 700 wins as the Mavericks cruised past the Los Angeles Clippers 108-82.
Instead, Carlisle was more concerned with a dominant performance by his team, who notched just their sixth win of a season against 17 defeats.
The Mavericks jumped to an 8-0 lead that they never surrendered. They connected on 45.7 percent of their three-point shots and out-rebounded Los Angeles 54-38.
J.J. Barea scored 21 points and handed out 10 assists.
And the Mavericks’ talismanic German big man Dirk Nowitzki was a perfect five-of-five from three-point range.
In Philadelphia, Joel Embiid and Robert Covington scored 25 points each as the 76ers rallied for a 108-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead the Bucks to a 109-104 victory over Sacramento, their second win over the Kings in five days.