Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Honerts loose 17-point lead, lose in OT

Brett Martel / Associated Press, from ESPN.com
His team on the verge of getting routed for a third straight time, LeBron James dribbled down-court with a disgusted look on his face and quickly drilled a jumper from just inside the 3-point line.

"I just wanted to get in the game and put us in a position to win," James said. "It was time for me to shoot the ball and everytime I shoot I feel like it is going in - that's just my confidence level."

For nearly the entire fourth quarter, the ball did go in whenever James shot. He scored 17 of his 44 points in the final period of regulation Monday night, when the Cleveland Cavaliers erased a 17-point deficit en route to a 109-108 overtime victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

James' only big miss came when he tried to tie the game with a tough jumper from the right wing late in overtime. But Drew Gooden, who hadn't scored since the first quarter, grabbed the rebound in traffic and scored as he was fouled with 6.4 seconds left, converting a three-point play that proved to be the game-winner.

Dan Dickau's driving floater that could have won the game for New Orleans in the final seconds bounced wide off the glass.

Dickau said he wanted to pass off the drive, but James stayed in the passing lane to prevent the ball from going to J.R. Smith, who had led the Hornets with 22 points.

"So in that situation, I want to get the ball on the glass," hoping that Jamaal Magloire or P.J. Brown, who were collapsing into the lane, could get a rebound if the shot missed," Dickau said.

But it was Gooden who grabbed the rebound and hurled it toward the rafters as the buzzer sounded, ending Cleveland's 11-game road losing streak and two-game skid overall.

"We had faith. We made a good run. I had a chance to win the game," Gooden said. "They were on their heels down the stretch in the fourth quarter, so I think the tables turned."

The Hornets led 84-67 early in the fourth quarter before James scored 14 points during a 25-7 run that vaulted Cleveland into the lead. He hit on drives, jumpers, and four free throws.

"You could see it in his eyes," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "The thing that disappoints me is we just took a back seat. We didn't challenge him or their whole team. We took a step backwards instead of matching their intensity."

The Cavs hit their first 11 field goals and first 10 free throws of the quarter. Aleksandar Pavlovic added a baseline jumper and three 3-pointers during the run, his last giving Cleveland a 92-91 lead with 4:41 to go. James followed with a 3 and a driving score as Cleveland built a 97-91 lead before New Orleans clawed back in a wild finish that included two turnovers in the last 15 seconds.

James then missed one of two free throws with 8.3 seconds left in regulation, allowing New Orleans to tie it on Boston Nachbar's short fade with 2.4 seconds left .

Pavlovic scored 13 for Cleveland, all during the fourth-quarter comeback. Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 14 points, while Robert Traylor added 12 and Gooden finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Smith led New Orleans with acrobatic driving layups and dunks while hitting four 3-pointers. His last 3 gave the Hornets a 106-103 lead in overtime, but James responded with a 3 of his own to tie it.

P.J. Brown, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds, hit a jumper with 24 seconds left in overtime before Gooden's shot.

Nachbar scored 17 for the Hornets. Jamaal Magloire and Lee Nailon each scored 15 and Chris Andersen 11.