LOS ANGELES, United States, Feb 1 – LeBron James scored 24 points and came up with a crucial late block as the Cleveland Cavaliers edged the Miami Heat 91-89 on Wednesday in a duel for third place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
“King” James prevented James Johnson from getting a shot off at the final buzzer as Cleveland held on for the win in their first game since Kevin Love was sidelined with a broken hand.
Love is expected to miss six to eight weeks — just more bad news in a tough January for the Cavs, who finished the month with a 6-8 record.
“I just wanted to keep the ball between me and the basket,” James said of his late-game stop. “That’s just the rules I’ve always been taught and I was happy to be able to get that last stop.
“It’s a good win for us.”
Jae Crowder drained a three-pointer from a James assist with 1:21 left to play to give Cleveland a three-point lead.
Miami’s Josh Richardson answered with a floater with a minute remaining before Cleveland’s Isaiah Thomas made two free-throws to build the margin to 90-87 with 18.8 seconds to play.
Kelly Olynyk’s layup trimmed the deficit to one point with 12.1 seconds remaining. With seven left Cleveland’s Kyle Korver made the first of two free throws and Johnson, with James defending him, was unable to release the potential game-tying jump shot before time expired.
“We needed a win like this, where we win a game on our defense,” said James.
The Cavs entered the contest as the NBA’s worst-ranked defensive team but limited Miami to 3-of-28 from three-point range.
They harried the Heat into 20 turnovers as they held an opponent to less than 90 points for the first time since November.
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” James said.
– Blowout in Boston –
Elsewhere, the Orlando Magic rebounded from a heartbreaking loss to the Houston Rockets with a 126-105 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Marreese Speights scored a game-high 21 points and Evan Fournier added 20 points for the Magic, who made 18 of their 32 three-point attempts and set a season-high for three-point percentage.
The Brooklyn Nets snapped a four-game skid with a 116-108 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored nine of his 27 points in the fourth quarter for the Nets and D’Angelo Russell, playing his fifth game back after knee surgery, added 22 points.
It was a blowout in Boston, where the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics overcame the absence of Kyrie Irving to down the New York Knicks 103-73.
The Celtics, up by five midway through the third quarter, more than doubled that lead in less than two minutes, seizing an 11 point lead and never letting the Knicks get within single digits again.
Terry Rozier, making his first career NBA start, produced his first career triple-double with 17 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds for Boston, adding two steals and two blocked shots.
In Portland, C.J. McCollum scored 50 points to lead the Trail Blazers to a 124-108 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
McCollum scored 28 points in the first quarter, a club record for a quarter and the most in a single period in the NBA this season.
McCollum joined Houston’s James Harden as the only players to score 50 points in just three quarters this season.
In Phoenix, a horrifying broken left ankle to Suns reserve guard Isaiah Canaan overshadowed the hosts’ 102-88 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Canaan had slashed to the rim for a layup in the waning seconds of the fist quarter and came down awkwardly, his left leg twisting beneath him.
He sat still on the court awaiting aid from medical staff and was eventually taken off on a stretcher as shocked teammates and opponents looked on.
The Suns quickly issued a brief statement saying he had a broken ankle.