CLEVELAND – LeBron James hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, a crowning moment for another brilliant performance, to give Cleveland a 98-95 victory at home over the Indiana Pacers last night in Game 5, putting the Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Moments after blocking Victor Oladipo’s possible go-ahead driving layup, James caught the inbounds pass, took two dribbles and dropped the winner over Thaddeus Young.
As Cleveland’s sellout crowd exploded, James hugged his rookie teammate Cedi Osman before jumping on the scorer’s table to celebrate another of those moments that will define his career.
“He does it at both ends every single night,” Cavs forward Kevin Love said. “That’s why he’s the best player in the world.”
James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, and went 15 of 15 from the free-throw line.
“He really did impose his will throughout the game,” Pacers Coach Nate McMillan said.
Kyle Korver added 19 points and Cleveland’s much-maligned defence tightened just in time as the Cavaliers seized their first lead in the first-round series after being down by 1-0 and 2-1.
Cleveland can close out Indiana with a win Friday night in Indianapolis.
Domantas Sabonis scored 22 points, and Young had 16 for the Pacers.
Oladipo, who shot just 2 of 15, drove the left side and was at the rim when James swooped in for a block on a play reminiscent of his Game 7 block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA finals.
Oladipo felt his shot hit the backboard first, which would make the block illegal.
“I got a step on him and I felt I even got grabbed,” Oladipo said. “It hit the backboard and he blocked it. It was a goaltend. It’s hard to even speak on it. That layup is huge.”
Oladipo’s shooting woes continued. He’s only 12 of 50 from the field in the last three games. He scored 32 in the Pacers’ Game 1 win, but the Cavs have been double-teaming him ever since.
Down by 7 at the half, the Cavs swarmed the Pacers in the third quarter, forcing five turnovers in the first six minutes and holding Indiana to one field goal over the first 6 minutes 52 seconds while opening with a 19-3 run.
Cleveland outscored Indiana by 32-17 in the third, when the Pacers shot just 5 for 16 and committed 7 turnovers.
In Toronto, DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points, Kyle Lowry had 17 points and 10 assists and the Raptors beat Washington Wizards 108-98 in Game 5 of their first-round series.
Toronto rebounded after losing Games 3 and 4 in Washington to take a 3-2 lead back to Washington for Game 6 on Friday night.
Delon Wright scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors.
John Wall had 26 points, and Bradley Beal added 20 for the Wizards. They went nearly four minutes without scoring down the stretch. Marcin Gortat had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Washington shot 8 for 24 in the fourth quarter, and Toronto had 15 rebounds in the final period. The Raptors won despite being outrebounded, 50-35.
Toronto trailed by 87-82 after a three-point play by Kelly Oubre Jr. with 8:52 left but regained the lead with a 6-0 run over the next 1:20.
After Washington’s Markieff Morris dunked with 4:06 left, Wright replied with a 3-pointer and, after a missed shot by Wall, converted a layup off a pass from DeRozan to give the Raptors a 99-93 lead with 2:59 remaining.
Washington didn’t score again until Beal’s 3-pointer with 16 seconds left.
In Oklahoma, after trailing by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, Oklahoma City Thunder mounted a furious comeback and stole Game 5 of the team’s first-round playoff series against Utah Jazz, 107-99. Russell Westbrook had 45 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists and Paul George had 34 points and 8 rebounds in the game which extended the Thunder’s season for at least one more game.
The Jazz hold a 3-2 lead in the series and will try to finish off the Thunder in Game 6 tomorrow night.