LeBron James played his usual leading role in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 108-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. James narrowly missed a triple double with 28 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, while Mo Williams added 22 points and 10 assists as the Eastern Conference's top team won for the fourth time in five games.
Cleveland (32-11) held a 95-94 edge late in the fourth quarter before breaking away thanks to a three-pointer by Williams and capped by a James dunk. James, the league's reigning MVP, made four successive free throws in the final minute to clinch the win. "They gave us a little trouble in the first half but we were able to slow that down [in the second half]. "We were a bit more physical on the defensive end," James said after finishing with three steals and three blocks.
Chris Bosh paced the Raptors with 21 points and 10 boards while Andrea Bargnani added 19 as the visitors fell to 21-21 on the season. Toronto opened the season with a win over Cleveland that dropped the Cavs to 0-2. Since then, Cleveland have hit their stride and taken over the East, while the Raptors are battling for a play-off position. Meanwhile, Cleveland's Shaquille O'Neal had 16 points and surpassed the 28,000-points mark for his career, the fifth player to do so.
"The only fallback for me is that I missed like 5,000 free throws," O'Neal said. "If I would have at least hit half of those, then I would be at 30,000 right now." O'Neal joined a list of elite NBA scorers that includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) as the only players to reach the milestone. "I'm happy being No 5. There are some great names in front of me and some great names behind me," O'Neal said.
"I've always been a player that only gets happy about the big picture. It's a great milestone but it's something I don't get too giddy about." In the day's other game, the Miami Heat were far too strong for the Indiana Pacers in a 113-83 home win. Dwayne Wade was in the thick of it right from the off as he slotted in 32 points to help his side to an unassailable lead. "I've been feeling good about my shot lately," said Wade, who topped the 11,000-points mark for his career on a second-quarter lay-up.
"I think my first shot was a three, which I normally try not to do. But I was in rhythm, shot it, hit it and after that the confidence was up." Wade shot 12-of-20 for the game and scored 18 of his points in the first quarter for the Heat (21-19). Brandon Rush scored 17 points for the Pacers, who are 4-17 on the road and 0-3 against the Heat this season. The Pacers lost by 13 on their home floor on October 30, and now have lost in Miami by 34 and 30 points in the past month.
"They made every shot in the first half and we didn't make any," the Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "Our best shooters aren't shooting the ball very well right now and their best shooters knocked our eyes out." Troy Murphy had 11 points and 12 rebounds, but was just three of 11 from the floor. Danny Granger had only eight points on a historically bad shooting night for him, two for 16. * With agencies