Cleveland forward LeBron James reminded the NBA of his raw power on Tuesday, scoring 31 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, as the Cavaliers muscled their way to a 118-114 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.
The Cavaliers trailed by as many as nine in the fourth, but James stole a pass and dribbled the length of the floor for an impressive three-point play.
Jazz guard Rodney Hood did his best to wrap up James and prevent the shot, but the Cavs forward powered through for the basket and foul. He looked at Hood and slapped his biceps as the sellout crowd roared.
“Bron is the greatest player in the game. I don’t think there’s anyone with a higher basketball IQ or a better understanding of the moment,” Cavs coach David Blatt said.
“I think he just understood the moment. He took over the game and lifted the rest of the guys with him. He did the things that a great player like him, only him, can do.”
James’ three-point play pulled the Cavs within 95-94 but gave them all the momentum. It revived a slumbering team that remained unbeaten at home (5-0) with their seventh consecutive victory.
However, Cleveland (7-1) had to work for it on a night when they were sloppy with the ball (17 turnovers) and off rhythm.
“The win is the only thing that’s important to me,” James said. “We had some good points, we had some bad points, but we stuck with it.”
James added eight assists and seven rebounds, while Mo Williams had 29 points, six rebounds and six assists. He made his first eight shots and did not miss until 1:37 remained. Kevin Love had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Alec Burks scored 24 points off the bench for the Jazz (4-3), while forwards Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favours each scored 17 points. Rudy Gobert had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Hood fouled out with 16 points.
“They’re a veteran team that knows how to close out games and how to win basketball games,” Hayward said. “That’s something that we can learn from.”
The Jazz trailed most of the night until late in the third quarter. They extended their lead to 95-86 on a dunk by Gobert with 7:22 left before James and the Cavs began to roll.
Hood responded to James’ power play by stroking a three-pointer at the other end, but it was the only basket the Jazz scored for nearly five minutes in the fourth quarter. The drought allowed the Cavaliers to regain the lead.
“You can see why they’re as good as they are,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I was happy with the way we hung in there … we didn’t get rattled.
“Our guys need to feel good about how hard we played, and we need to figure out how to win some of these, too.”