A Cavs team in free-fall got a desperately needed win thanks to “King” James. With a second remaining in overtime he swatted away a shot by Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler.
He then seized an inbounds pass from Jeff Green, turned and fired over Butler for the desperately needed victory.
“It was a great win for us,” said James, who threw both arms in the air in triumph when his game-winner fell — capping a triple-double performance of 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds.
“The way we’ve been playing we needed that from him tonight,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “He was very special.”
The Cavs are now just 7-13 since Christmas.
Amid speculation the Cavs will make a significant move by Thursday’s trade deadline, the current team pulled out all the stops in avenging their 28-point loss to Minnesota on January 8.
Seven Cavaliers players scored in double figures in a see-saw battle that saw 34 lead changes and 16 ties, evolving into a shootout in which the teams combined for an NBA record 40 three-pointers.
Butler led the Timberwolves with 35 and Karl-Anthony Towns added 30.
Andrew Wiggins’ jump shot with 1:25 left in overtime put Minnesota up 138-136. James’s layup knotted the score at 138-138 with 24 seconds remaining.
Butler drove to the basket against Cavs rookie Cedi Osman with a chance to win it, but James came from the weak side and rose to swat the shot away.
JR Smith came up with the rebound to set the stage for the winning play.
“Coach Lue called up a great play,” James said. “Jeff Green gave me a heck of a pass and I just trusted my instincts to let it go.”
While one win won’t solve all the Cavs’ problems, Lue welcomed the sight of his players celebrating.
“When you make a big shot like that and the whole team is running the floor chest-bumping that’s a great sign,” Lue said. “That’s how we’ve got to be. I think we’ve got to enjoy the game more.”