Washington (AFP) – LeBron James banked in an off balance floater at the buzzer, lifting the Cleveland to a 105-103 win over the Toronto Raptors and giving the Cavaliers a stranglehold 3-0 playoff series lead on Saturday.
James took an inbound pass and drove the length of the court, cut to the left and sank the running one-handed dagger off the backboard to stun the Raptors’ bench. The 10-footer came just seconds after Toronto had tied it 103-103 on OG Anunoby’s three pointer with eight seconds on the clock.
“I live for those moments, to be able to go out and come through for my team,” James said. “I had to get open. There were no more timeouts. I was able to hit a floater off the glass.”
In the other second round NBA playoff game Saturday, the Boston Celtics also took a commanding 3-0 series lead with a 101-98 overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Both game fours are Monday night, and the odds are stacked against Toronto and Philadelphia. Of the 129 teams in NBA history to fall behind 3-0, none has come back to win.
James finished with 38 points, Kevin Love added 21 and 16 rebounds and Kyle Korver 18 for the Cleveland, who can sweep the Raptors for the second consecutive year.
Kyle Lowry scored 27 for Toronto, who played most of the fourth with DeMar DeRozan on the bench.
After winning two games in Toronto, the Cleveland returned home and did the same. James has Toronto’s number as he is 11-2 against Toronto in the past three playoffs.
“We needed every bucket, every rebound, every possession,” he said. “That’s a gutsy win. We had to be patient and not feed off the physicality and continue to execute.”
In Philadelphia, Jayson Tatum scored 24 points and Terry Rozier added 18 as the Celtics beat Philadelphia 101-98, reaching the brink of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
Jaylen Brown came off the bench to add 16 points for the Celtics while Al Horford contributed 13 points and Australian Aron Baynes grabbed 10 rebounds.
“These are the kind of moments you want to be in as a basketball player,” Horford said.
Joel Embiid had 22 points and 19 rebounds to lead the 76ers, while J.J. Redick added 18 points and Aussie playmaker Ben Simmons contributed 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
– Rozier steal –
A steal by Rozier set up a basket by Brown that gave the Celtics an 89-87 lead with one second remaining in regulation time, but the 76ers equalized when Italy’s Marco Belinelli sank a jumper off a pass from Simmons with 0.3 of a second remaining, sending the contest into overtime.
A Belinelli basket and Redick three-pointer put the Sixers up 94-87 in overtime, but the Celtics closed on a 12-4 run, Horford scoring the final five points to bring Boston the ultimate victory.
Belinelli had hit a buzzer-beater to end the fourth quarter that sent the Sixers into a wild celebration on the court as confetti shot out of a cannon that made it rain over the arena.
But not so fast as game three was only headed into overtime.