CLEVELAND (AP) – LeBron James looked at the clock and scoreboard and didn’t flinch.
It was time to fix things. His time. Closing time.
“He gets that look,” Cavaliers forward Kyle Korver said.
James scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and rallied Cleveland from a 17-point deficit to stun the Washington Wizards 119-115 on Thursday night to maintain the No. 3 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavs trailed 104-87 with 7:35 left before storming back behind James, who added 14 assists, nine rebounds and made sure coach Tyronn Lue got a win in his return after missing nine games due to health reasons.
Cleveland was down 14 when James checked in with 7:48 left, and 13 seconds later, the deficit swelled to 17 when the three-time champion took off on one of those runs that have made him famous.
“I don’t have a quit bone in me, so if I’m on the floor I’ve got to try to make plays happen no matter what the score is,” he said. “That’s just my mindset.”
Jeff Green added 21 points and Kevin Love had 16 for the Cavs, who are 10-1 since March 17, when Lue was forced to leave a game in Chicago with “piercing” chest pains. Lue, who has changed his diet and is taking sleep medication, has come back to a Cleveland team that seems to be hitting its stride just in time for the playoffs.
But it took another of those patented James’ comebacks to down the Wizards, who have dropped seven of nine and are in a three-way battle with Milwaukee and Miami for playoff positioning.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said he feared James would do exactly what he did.
“Like I said before the game, I’ll say it after the game and probably five years from now I’ll say the same thing,” he said. “He’s the best player in the league and he does that every night. You don’t get to see players like him often.”
Washington’s John Wall looked more like his speedy All-Star self in his third game back from knee surgery, scoring 28 points with 14 assists. But he had a costly turnover in the closing seconds and the Wizards couldn’t put away the Cavs down the stretch.
Bradley Beal added 19 points, and Otto Porter had 18 for Washington.
A basket by Markieff Morris gave the Wizards a 110-100 lead with 3:16 left, but James scored six straight, fed Green for layup, and Rodney Hood made two free throws to complete a 10-0 run by the Cavs. Morris then converted a three-point play, but Cleveland’s Kyle Korver knocked down a 3 in front of Washington’s bench – from nearly the same spot where he missed a big 3 in Game 3 of last year’s Finals.
“Yeah I was wide open and the ball was in the perfect pocket,” Korver said. “I got to line it up and shoot it.”
Green’s two free throws – on a tough call against Wall, who appeared to make a clean steal – gave the Cavs a 116-115 lead, but after Walls missed a short jumper, James split a pair of three throws, giving Washington one last chance.
Wall drove the lane but instead of going to the basket, he attempted a twisting pass outside that was stolen by rookie Cedi Osman, who made two free throws to close it out.
“I already knew on the play before that I wasn’t going to get the call, so why even put myself in that position?” Wall said. “I tried to find a teammate for a wide open shot. You just give that guy credit for making a great defensive stop.”
The Wizards remained in the No. 7 spot, sandwiched between the Heat and Bucks, who lost at home to Brooklyn.
Lue came back to a familiar situation as the Cavs, who have endured injuries for months, were missing point guards Jose Calderon (hamstring) and George Hill (ankle).
Wizards: Brooks said Wall will not play Friday night. He’s yet to play consecutive game since returning. … Wall lost weight during his recovery, and coach Scott Brooks said that should help the All-Star going forward. “It’s going to be good for his long-term recovery,” Brooks said. “It’s good for him. It’s good for us. He just needs to gets some reps.”
Cavaliers: Won their eighth straight at home. … James has scored 30 points in 429 games, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for fifth place in league history. … Osman is the seventh different starting point guard for Cleveland, which because of injuries has had 29 starting lineups. … Lue was sorry to learn Celtics guard Kyrie Irving will miss the playoffs. Irving had a great run with Cleveland and will be forever remembered for his go-ahead 3-pointer in the closing minutes of Game 7 in the 2016 Finals. “He was a big part of what we did here, a big part of winning the championship and even though he’s on another team you still don’t want to see anyone go through that,” Lue said.
Wizards: Host Atlanta on Friday night.
Cavaliers: At Philadelphia on Friday night.