CLEVELAND – LeBron James shook off an atrocious shooting start and withstood Atlanta’s gritty comeback to record a triple-double, and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved within one win of the NBA Finals by beating the Hawks 114-111 in overtime on Sunday night to take a 3-0 series lead.
James missed his first 10 shots, but finished with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. The Cavs needed every single one of them to hold off the top-seeded Hawks, who fought Cleveland until the final seconds despite being without injured shooter Kyle Korver and losing Al Horford, who was ejected in the first half.
James hit a 3-pointer with 36.4 seconds left to put the Cavs ahead by one, and the superstar dropped a runner with 12.8 left to make it 114-111.
“He just wouldn’t let us lose,” coach David Blatt said.
Atlanta had two chances to tie it in the final seconds, but Shelvin Mack missed two 3-pointers.
When the final horn sounded, an exhausted James, who was favoring his right leg for most of overtime, dropped to the floor and had to be helped to his feet.
“I worked extremely hard and for me as a leader no matter how I’m feeling I’ve got to try to make some plays,” James said.
He’ll have just one day to rest up before the Cavs try to earn their second Finals trip – and the fifth in a row for James – in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
Jeff Teague scored 30 points and Paul Millsap 22 for the Hawks, who scratched and clawed for 53 minutes.
Down 10 in the fourth, the Hawks showed championship toughness and nearly pulled off a win that would have guaranteed them another home game on Thursday. They’ll have to dig deep again, and they are facing long odds to win the series as no NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit.
Teague dropped a nasty, step-back jumper with 55 seconds left to put the Hawks up 111-109, but James answered – following an offensive rebound by Tristan Thompson – to knock down a corner 3 like the one he made at the buzzer to beat Chicago in the second round, making it 112-111 with 36.4 seconds left.
James then hit his runner over Millsap and the Cavs and 20,000 fans held their breath as Mack took two cracks at the rim.
The Cavs were again missing All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, sidelined for his second straight game with an injured left knee.
Matthew Dellavedova and J.R. Smith added 17 points apiece for Cleveland.
The Hawks were dealt a blow when Horford was ejected late in the first half for throwing an elbow at Dellavedova’s head.
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