LeBron James hit an improbable last-second, game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation, as he and fellow All-Star forward Kevin Love combined for 71 points in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 140-135 overtime win on the road Monday over the Washington Wizards.
In one of the most exciting games at Verizon Center in recent years, James poured in 32 points and dished out a career-high 17 assists along with seven rebounds before fouling out, and Love, the subject of recent trade rumors, went for 39 points and 12 rebounds to help end the Wizards’ seven-game win streak.
Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who missed Washington’s first game against Cleveland in November, scored 41 points with eight assists and five rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the loss also snapped Washington’s 17-game home winning streak, the second-longest in franchise history.
The Wizards led 120-117 with less than four seconds left, but Love threw a three-quarter-court pass to James, who made a turnaround fadeaway 3-pointer off the glass tie to tie the score at 120 with 0.3 seconds left.
James fouled out early in overtime for just the fifth time in his career, but point guard Kyrie Irving, the third member of the Cavs’ All-Star triumvirate, took over in the extra session, scoring 11 of his 23 points to help finally put Washington away.
Despite the loss, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks praised his team for pushing the champs to the brink.
“I like guys that leave everything on the floor and compete for their team,” Brooks said. “I like competitive spirit and we showed that tonight. [The Cavaliers] have a heart of a champion and we were right there with them. I am proud of our guys’ effort.”
Though it was a game in early February, the contest quickly took on a playoff-type atmosphere, as Wizards fans heartily booed James during his free-throw attempts and cheered after he fouled out. A few fans yelled “crybaby” when James complained to officials about a call at the end of the first half.
“By far the best of the year,” Beal said of the crowd. “It was electrifying. You could just feel they were with us the whole game. I don’t think fans know that, but we appreciate their support and staying [for] the whole game on a Monday night. I think that’s terrific for us.”
The Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers (35-15), winners of five of their last six games, have righted the ship somewhat after a wobbly 7-8 January that was rife with trade talk, the most constant involving Love being traded to the New York Knicks for Carmelo Anthony.
James brushed off the rumors afterward when asked if he could picture the team without Love.
“Nope,” he said. “We’ve got to focus on what needs to be done in order for us to continue to compete for a championship. Right now, we are in a good place.”