LeBron James hits 18-footer at overtime buzzer for win over Timberwolves
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James resurrected Cleveland's stagnant season, for one night at least, when he hit a game-winning buzzer-beater to lift the Cavaliers to a 140-138 overtime home win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
After Cleveland called timeout in the backcourt with one second left, James caught a long pass near the foul line. Under pressure from Minnesota's Jimmy Butler, the four-times league MVP spun around and launched a fadeaway jumper from the top of the key over the top of the lunging defender. The ball caught nothing but net, sending the crowd into delirium as the team's recent woes were temporarily forgotten.
"Coach (Tyronn) Lue called up a great play, Jeff Green gave me a heck of a pass and I just trusted my instincts and let it go," James said in a courtside interview. The win helped ease the pressure on James and a team that was whipped by the lowly Orlando Magic the previous day.
"It was a great win for us. We needed this after that tough loss last night to Orlando," James continued. "They (Minnesota) shot 58 percent from the field and we were still able to get a win. We played Cavaliers basketball tonight and that's all you could ask."
The win lifted the Cavaliers to 31-22, seven games behind the East-leading Boston Celtics. The Cavaliers have struggled this season after making the NBA finals for the past three years, beating the Golden State Warriors once and losing to the same team the other two times
Butler scored a team-high 35 points while Karl-Anthony Towns had 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves. Jeff Teague also recorded a double-double with 14 points and 15 assists.
Seven Cavaliers scored in double figures. J.R. Smith scored 20 points while hitting six 3-pointers.
The shootout featured 34 lead changes and 16 ties. The teams combined for an NBA-record 40 treys, with Cleveland finishing 21 of 41 from behind the arc and the Timberwolves 19 of 33.
Regulation closed with a flourish. After Minnesota opened the fourth quarter with consecutive 3-pointers to reclaim a 105-101 lead, Cleveland responded with five 3-pointers over the ensuing seven minutes to match its largest lead of the night at 124-116. Right on cue, the Timberwolves made an 8-0 run, and Minnesota moved ahead 129-126 when Towns drilled a 3-pointer with 54.3 seconds left.
James followed with a trey that tied the game but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and overtime followed.
Cleveland made half of its eight 3-point attempts and shot 61.9 percent in the first quarter but led by just two points entering the second because Minnesota was up to the challenge from the perimeter, connecting on 5 of 8 long-distance attempts.
Momentum proved fickle until late in the second quarter when the Timberwolves rolled off a 10-0 run to claim a 66-62 lead. However, Cleveland opened the second half with an 8-0 run, and the pendulum started to swing again.