The Associated PressCLEVELAND (AP) — One second. One shot. One player.
For one night, LeBron James made all of Cleveland’s problems disappear.
James dropped in a fade-away jumper over Jimmy Butler’s outstretched hand as the buzzer sounded in overtime, giving the Cavaliers a cleansing 140-138 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Moments after blocking Butler’s potential game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds left, James caught a long inbounds pass from Jeff Green, created some space from Butler near the foul line and sank a shot that ended Cleveland’s eight-game losing streak on national television.
“Once I caught it, I just trusted everything I’ve done in my career,” James said.
The Quicken Loans Arena crowd erupted and James was mobbed by teammates as the struggling Cavs, who have won just seven of their last 20 games, finally had something to celebrate after weeks of tension and turmoil in a season slowly slipping away.
But as he has done so many times, James delivered one of those moments that have defined him.
“The way we’ve been playing, we needed that,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, who was back on the bench after falling ill Tuesday night in Orlando. “He was very special.”
James finished with 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in 48 minutes. The three-time NBA champion also passed Zydrunas Ilgauskas (5,904) on Cleveland’s career rebounds list.
Butler scored 35, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 30 for the Timberwolves, who were in position to win in OT before James came to Cleveland’s rescue.
With the score tied 138-all, Butler drove the left side and had a step on rookie Cedi Osman before pulling up for 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.
“I didn’t see him,” Butler said. “That’s part of the game.”
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. However, James wasn’t ready to lift his self-imposed TV ban.