LeBron James hit a jumper over Jimmy Butler at the buzzer in overtime, giving the Cleveland Cavaliers a 140-138 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Moments after James blocked Butler’s potential game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds left, he caught a long pass from Jeff Green, created some space from Butler near the foul line and sank his fade-away shot to end Cleveland’s eight-game losing streak on national television.
The crowd erupted and James was mobbed by his teammates as the Cavs got a much-needed win to ease tensions during a prolonged slump. Cleveland have won just seven of their last 20.
James finished with 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in 48 minutes. He also passed Zydrunas Ilgauskas (5,904) on Cleveland’s all-time rebounds list.
Butler scored 35, and Karl-Anthony Towns 30 for the Timberwolves, who were in position to win in OT before James came to Cleveland’s rescue.
Butler drove the left side and had a step on rookie Cedi Osman before getting off a short shot. However, James, who had missed a 3-pointer that would have won it in regulation, came from the weak side to reject it and set up the dramatic finish.
The Cavs had lost their eight previous network-broadcast appearances this season, prompting James to say last week following a lopsided loss to Houston that he and his teammates should be dropped from any more telecasts.
Finally, they were primed for prime time.
JR Smith added 20 points and Isaiah Thomas had 13 points and seven assists in one of his best games in weeks.
Towns made all six of his 3-point attempts and Minnesota drained a season-high 19 3-pointers.
With the NBA trade deadline set for 3pm Thursday, the Cavs are looking for a deal to salvage a season quickly slipping away. The team has been hesitant to part with the first-round pick it acquired during the summer in the Kyrie Irving trade, but Cleveland may have no choice in order to add a quality player capable of pushing the team back into title contention.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was back on the sideline after leaving Tuesday’s loss in Orlando in the first half with an unspecified illness. Lue said “I’m fine” when asked about his health, but did not provide any details.
The Cavs were coming off their latest embarrassing performance in a string of bad ones in Orlando on Tuesday night. Cleveland blew a 21-point lead and scored just nine points in the fourth quarter against a Magic team that has won just 17 games.
Cleveland appeared in control when Thomas hit a 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 124-116 lead with 3:57 left, but the Timberwolves went on an 8-0 run over the next two minutes to tie it.
Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins reached 6,000 career points. At 22 years, 349 days, he’s the sixth-youngest player to reach the plateau. James is the youngest at 21 years, 89 days … Coach Tom Thibodeau has been impressed with Wiggins’ development. “He’s more of a complete player now,” he said. “The impact that he’s having on winning. We’ve seen he’s a gifted scorer, he’s shown that throughout his career, but now he’s doing other things — the defense, the passing, the hustle plays.” … Thibodeau and Lue go back to their days on Doc Rivers’ staff in Boston. Thibodeau understands the mental and physical grind for coaches, and expressed concern about Lue’s well-being. “I hope Ty’s taking care of himself,” he said. “That’s the most important thing, his health. He’s a great guy, he’s done a great job here. So, always concerned about that.”
Cavaliers: Dwyane Wade sat out as he continues to rest on the second night of back-to-backs. The 36-year-old played 22 minutes at Orlando … G Iman Shumpert, who has been linked to some trade possibilities, sat out with left-plantar fasciitis … Lue dismissed a comment made by Thomas after the loss to the Magic that one of the Cavs’ biggest issues is that they don’t make enough in-game adjustments. “That’s not true,” Lue said … Thomas turned 29 on Wednesday.