LeBron James produced a 39-point masterclass as the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied to overhaul the Los Angeles Clippers in an overtime thriller on Friday.
James added 14 rebounds and six assists to his 39 point tally while Kevin Love grabbed 25 points to power the Cavs to a 118-113 overtime victory at the Quicken Loans Arena.
The win helped cement Cleveland’s climb in the Eastern Conference standings, with the 2016 NBA champions now at 9-7 after four straight wins.
But the Cavs did it the hard way, repeatedly allowing the Clippers to open up sizeable leads before reeling them in.
It was the second time this week the Cavs had been forced to dig themselves out of a hole after recovering from a 23-point deficit against the Knicks in New York.
“That’s how the game is being played for us at this point in the season,” said James.
“It’s good to know that we’re building character and building resiliency and you can do that with a new group then that definitely can help us in the long run, so we can’t say that we wish we wouldn’t do that, but it is what it is.
“That’s the way the game is being played and we got to adjust to it.”
The Clippers were unable to ram home their advantage after leading 92-82 with 8:51 left in the fourth and 101-93 with just under five minutes on the clock.
The Clippers had also led by 81-66 with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter only to see the lead evaporate after James’ commanding performance.
Dwyane Wade was the only other Cleveland player to crack double digits, with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Los Angeles meanwhile spread their scoring more evenly, with Blake Griffin leading with 23 and DeAndre Jordan adding 20.
Four other Clippers players also reached double figures for the night, but it was not enough.
– Spurs fightback –
The Clippers now have lost seven straight, a dip in form that has seen them slump to 5-9 for the season.
“This is about the fourth game to me that we had a chance to win it at the end we just have not gotten it done,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
“It tells you that you’re closer than you think you are, no matter what your record is.”
Griffin meanwhile took no solace from another narrow defeat.
“Ultimately, being close doesn’t really help you win games (in the future),” Griffin said. “Being close is not what we want.”
Elsewhere Friday, the San Antonio Spurs produced another fightback to topple Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in an absorbing clash between the Western Conference rivals.
The Spurs trailed by 23 points in the second quarter but fought back to claim a 104-101 victory at the AT&T Center in Texas.
LaMarcus Aldridge was the talisman for San Antonio, scoring 26 points including a crucial basket in the final minute as the Spurs improved to 10-6. Oklahoma City fell to 7-8 after the loss.
The Thunder had trailed by six points in the final quarter but came back to 100-99 with 45 seconds left after a free throw by Paul George.
Aldridge scored to put San Antonio up by three at 102-99 only for Carmelo Anthony’s score to make it 102-101. Pau Gasol then hit two free throws to extend San Antonio’s lead before a wild effort by Westbrook on the buzzer missed the rim.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich praised the way his side had fought back from its early deficit.
“They pounded the rock, kept a great attitude, kept their minds on playing basic basketball and things turned their way,” Popovich said.
“The effort was great and we played a lot smarter in the second half, took care of the ball and showed a lot of courage. A lot of good performances from a lot of guys, but overall a great team win.” – Agence France-Presse