The moment required brilliance. LeBron James delivered again.
James banked in a running one-hander at the buzzer, giving the Cleveland Cavaliers a 105-103 win over Toronto on Saturday night in Game 3 and shoving the Raptors to the edge of their most devastating play-off exit.
After the Raptors tied it on rookie OG Anunoby’s three-pointer with eight seconds left, James took the inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the court and rose off the floor on the left side of the basket just feet from Toronto’s bench.
Glass. Bucket. Bedlam.
“Tie game, down one,” James said. “I live for those moments.”
As the noise level in Quicken Loans Arena rose to jet-engine levels, the Cavs sprinted from the other end of the court and mobbed James.
After some tight hugs, he was back atop the scorer’s table — just like he did after a last-second three-pointer to win Game 5 against Indiana — and celebrated a win that was up for grabs.
“I’ve been doing that since I was like six, seven, eight years old,” James said.
“Maybe even before that. There’s a picture floating around of me beside a Little Tikes hoop with a saggy Pamper on and I was doing it back then and all the way up until now, at 33.
James finished with 38 points, Kevin Love added 21 and 16 rebounds and Kyle Korver scored 18 for the Cavs, who have won nine straight postseason games over the Raptors and may sweep them for the second straight year.
The difference in the two teams is simple: One has James, the other doesn’t.
“I ran out of words a while ago,” said Korver, struggling to describe James’ latest heroics.
“Unbelievable play. He did it again. He’s been so huge in those moments for us all year.”
It was the fifth career post-season buzzer-beater for James, the second of these play-offs, and this one had maybe the highest degree of difficulty of them all.
“It is very difficult,” James said, smiling. “Don’t try it at home.”
Game 4 is tonight, and the odds are stacked against the rattled Raptors. Of the 129 teams in NBA history to fall behind 3-0, none has come back to win.
Meanwhile, Al Horford led Boston to another narrow victory, clinching the go-ahead basket to see the Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 101-98 in game three. A messy fourth quarter saw JJ Redick throw away the ball and Marco Belinelli miss a 22-footer — only for another mess to appear on the court when confetti prematurely erupted at Wells Fargo Center.
After a seven-minute clean-up, Belinelli recovered to make a 23-footer at the start of overtime, followed by a three-pointer from Redrick.
But a Horford lay-up pushed the score to 99-98 with five seconds remaining and the 31-year-old saw out the victory with two free throws.
The Celtics now lead the series 3-0.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved