CLEVELAND (AP) - LeBron James dropped a long 3-pointer with 47.4 seconds left and added two free throws with 8.7 seconds to go as the Cleveland Cavaliers improved to 30-1 at home with a 97-93 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.
With Cleveland trailing 93-92 in a game soaked in playoff intensity, 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. Magic center Dwight Howard was called for a 3-second violation on Orlando’s next trip, giving the ball back to Cleveland.
James was then fouled while shooting and made his two free throws as the crowd serenaded him with chants of “MVP.” He finished with 43 points.
Rashard Lewis missed a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left for the Magic, who came in with the Eastern Conference’s best road record, but couldn’t send the Cavs to their second home loss.
James added 12 rebounds and eight assists. Mo Williams added 21 points for Cleveland, which held the Magic to 18 points in the fourth quarter.
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.
Orlando took its last lead when Courtney Lee drove for a layup with 1:24 remaining. On Cleveland’s next possession, Delonte West missed a 3-pointer, but Cavs forward Anderson Varejao got the rebound, giving the Cavs another chance.
James made the most of it.
Dribbling a few feet from Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, James surveyed his options before shooting his big 3-pointer _ a shot that sent the Quicken Loans Crowd into a frenzy. After Howard was called for 3 seconds, James faked Lee into the air and drew a questionable foul on the rookie.
James then stepped to the line, where he has had problems in the past, and made both attempts.
Cleveland’s defense made it impossible for the Magic to get a clean look on its last trip, and when Lewis missed, the Cavs had survived one of their toughest tests at home.
The temperature outside felt like June and the heat inside the building matched playoff levels. Both teams wanted this one, not just for postseason seeding, but for a psychological edge in case they meet in playoffs.
The Magic had won three straight in Cleveland and had beaten the Cavs in seven of their past nine meetings. Orlando also came in with road wins over Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio, Portland, Dallas and Utah.
Orlando carried a three-point lead into the fourth period and had a chance to open a four-point lead late in the quarter. But Rafer Alston missed a jumper and Williams made Orlando pay by drilling a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:59 left to put the Cavaliers up 92-91.
Before the game, James was asked about Orlando’s chances in the postseason. Although the Magic aren’t mentioned as often as the Cavaliers and Celtics, James knows better than to overlook them.
“You can’t look past any team in the playoffs, period,” James said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re the eighth seed or the No. 1. You’ve got to win 16 games to win it all.”
Orlando took a 75-66 late in the third period, but James, sensing his team was in deep trouble, made two jumpers and then ended the quarter by rushing down the floor for a layup at the horn to pull Cleveland within 75-72.
It was just the fifth time this season the Cavs trailed going into the fourth quarter.
Notes:@ Cavs F Wally Szczerbiak sprained his left knee in the third period and did not return. … James may skip filling out an NCAA tournament sheet this year. “I think I’m just going to watch the games and be a fan. Filling out those brackets is very, very hard. This year it’s open to anybody.” He does have a favorite team, though. “Akron U. But it’s going to be tough for those guys.” James is sure if he had attended his hometown school _ where high school teammates Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce went _ the Zips could have competed for a national title. “We would have beaten up on the MAC,” he said. … Cavs coach Mike Brown, who has been ejected twice this season and has six technicals, has promised not to get another one this season. “I want our guys to understand, we control our own destiny,” he said. “We don’t want to get to the point where we’re blaming officials. I’ve blamed the officials enough.”