CLEVELAND – The Orlando Magic didn't shoot well in the fourth quarter. They were plenty hot afterward.
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) is fouled by Orlando Magic's Courtney Lee (11) late in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, March 17, 2009, in Cleveland. James scored 43 points in the Cavaliers' 97-93 win.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Unable to stop LeBron James down the stretch and incensed by a 3-second violation that went against them, the Magic dropped a 97-93 thriller on Tuesday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who improved to 30-1 at home in a game drenched with playoff intensity.
James scored 43 points — 15 in the fourth quarter — and dropped a clutch 3-pointer with 47.4 seconds left to pace the Cavaliers, who caught a huge break when Orlando center Dwight Howard was called for being in the lane too long with 30 seconds remaining,
Following the game, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy fumed over the unexpected whistle.
"You won't see that call again. That, I guarantee you," Van Gundy said. "You will not see, with the game on the line, a 3-second call in the last (30) seconds. That's part of the reason they're 30-1 at home. They're a very good team, and when you get calls like that (expletive), you're in pretty good shape."
Howard, too, felt the Cavs got a break.
"I was very surprised," he said. "I was in the lane and I got out. It seemed like their bench or their coaching staff got into the ref's ear about me being in the lane. Instead of letting the refs make the call, I guess the bench made the call."
James added 12 rebounds, eight assists and four steals in another MVP-caliber performance. Mo Williams had 21 points for Cleveland, which held the Magic to 18 points in the fourth quarter to win its sixth straight. The Cavs are a league-best 14-2 since the All-Star break.
Howard had 13 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks for the Magic. But Orlando's big man attempted just eight shots, none in the fourth quarter, as the Magic chose to attack from outside.
James was somewhat surprised his Olympic teammate was so ineffective in the fourth.
"They looked at him a few times and he got the ball a few times, but we were doubling him," James said. "He passed up a few looks."
With Cleveland trailing 93-92, James, wearing green and white Nikes to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, pulled up in front of Orlando's bench and coldly knocked down his 3.
"That was just being confident. Being down one and taking a 3, a lot of people wouldn't have done that," James said. "I'm one of the guys who would do that. I knocked it down."
On Orlando's next possession, Howard was called for the 3-second violation by referee Jack Nies.
James was then fouled while shooting by rookie Courtney Lee — another iffy call — and made his two free throws as the crowd chanted "MVP" toward the superstar, who scored 21 of Cleveland's last 31.
Rashard Lewis missed a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left for the Magic, who had won three straight in Cleveland and beaten the Cavs in seven of the past nine meetings. Orlando also came in with road wins over Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio, Portland, Dallas and Utah.
"Maybe we'll see them again, deep in the playoffs," James said.
76ers 94, Lakers 93
At Los Angeles, Andre Iguodala scored 25 points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, and the 76ers overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit.
The Sixers were trailing 78-67 when Donyell Marshall drained a 3-pointer to ignite a 20-2 run.
Kobe Bryant was held to 11 points for the Lakers.
Hawks 119, Kings 97
At Atlanta, Al Horford had 23 points and 12 rebounds, and Josh Smith finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Hawks' sixth straight victory.
Kevin Martin scored 31 for Sacramento, which has dropped 13 of 14 away from home and fell to 0-27 against the East.
Mavericks 103, Pistons 101
At Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 30 points, Jason Terry had 18 and Erick Dampier tied his season high with 16 points to go with 13 rebounds as the Mavs won their eighth straight at home.
Richard Hamilton was a late scratch for Detroit because of an aggravated groin problem. With Rasheed Wallace (calf) and Allen Iverson (back) also out, the Pistons were missing a combined average of 48.5 points per game.
Spurs 93, Timberwolves 86
At San Antonio, Tony Parker scored 24 points to once again carry the Spurs without Tim Duncan and help push their lead over Houston to two games for the No. 2 seed in the West.
Sebastian Telfair and Kevin Love had 17 points apiece for Minnesota.
Jazz 103, Wizards 88
At Salt Lake City, Deron Williams scored eight of his 12 points in the third quarter and Carlos Boozer finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds as the Jazz ended a three-game losing streak.
Nick Young and Juan Dixon had 14 points each to lead Washington.
Bulls 127, Celtics 121
At Chicago, John Salmons tied a career high with 38 points and the Bulls prevented the Celtics from clinching the Atlantic division.
The Bulls lead Milwaukee by a half-game in the race for the eighth playoff spot in the East.
Paul Pierce scored 37 points for Boston.
Warriors 127, Clippers 120
At Oakland, Calif., Monta Ellis matched his season high with 29 points and Corey Maggette had 21 for the Warriors.
Anthony Morrow added 20 points as Golden State won its third in four games.
Baron Davis scored 29 points in his first game in Oakland since opting out of his contract with the Warriors and Al Thornton had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers.