CLEVELAND (AP) – LeBron James has turned in countless clutch performances during his career.
The four-time MVP added another to the list Saturday night.
James made a running hook shot with a second left and scored 26 points, giving the Cleveland Cavaliers a 90-88 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
“Obviously, I want the ball in my hands down the stretch,” he said. “I feel like I can make something happen for not only myself but for our team. I’m happy I was able to come through for us.”
After Joe Johnson’s three foul shots tied the game with 15.2 seconds left, the Cavaliers called timeout and took the ball at midcourt.
James took the inbounds pass, dribbled to the top of the key before cutting to the right of the lane and hitting a hook shot over Brook Lopez, the Nets’ 7-foot center.
“I got to my spot where I wanted to,” James said. “I work on those shots. I work on my game a lot. Actually sometimes it’s a little easier when you get someone bigger because you have to get it over the top of them and you just float it right over the top of them.”
Said Lopez: “LeBron made a great play. I thought we guarded it well, but he made the shot.”
James believed it was the first time he hit a game-winner with a hook shot.
“I’ve made layups, I’ve made pull-ups, obviously I’ve made step-back jumpers,” he said. “I might go for the sky hook next time.”
Asked if that’s the play he diagrammed in the huddle, Cavaliers coach David Blatt smiled and said, “Yeah, just the way I drew it up. Yep. Give it to No. 23.”
James scored 10 points and added a key steal late in the game to help Cleveland (13-4) remain unbeaten at home in nine games.
Kevin Love also scored 26 points for Cleveland, which played a sluggish first half and didn’t take its first lead until midway through the third quarter.
Lopez led Brooklyn (4-12) with 22 points. Johnson added 17 for the Nets, who fell to 1-10 on the road.
Tristan Thompson’s basket with 1:13 remaining gave Cleveland an 86-85 lead and James made two free throws with 16 seconds left, but Johnson was fouled by J.R. Smith attempting a 3-pointer.
Johnson hit all three foul shots, but James made sure the Nets’ strong effort fell short.
James helped Cleveland rally from an 83-76 deficit in the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and a three-point play before the Cavaliers took the lead on Thompson’s basket with 2:44 remaining.
Brooklyn built the lead to double figures in the second quarter and led 50-44 at halftime. Cleveland took its first lead at 61-60 on Love’s 3-pointer midway through the third. Matthew Dellavedova’s 3-pointer gave the Cavaliers a 69-68 lead going into the final period.
Mo Williams scored 14 points for the Cavaliers while Thompson had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Thaddeus Young had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Nets.
James’ sons, LeBron Jr. and Bryce, attended the game. James thinks he hit a game-winner with them in attendance before, but added it probably didn’t matter.
“I guarantee they don’t really care,” he said with a laugh. “They don’t really care about that. They’re ready to get home and play their Xbox and video games. It’s the weekend, so I’m ready to get home and do that, too.”
NEW AND IMPROVED
Love reported to camp significantly leaner and lighter this season. Nets coach Lionel Hollins immediately noticed his improved physique.
“Kevin looks like he’s in much better shape,” he said. “I had to ask who he was on tape because I didn’t recognize him. Not to say he wasn’t in shape in Minnesota, but I think being around LeBron has helped him get to that level.”
Nets: Johnson has made at least one field goal in 900 straight games. … Brooklyn’s only road win came at Houston on Nov. 11.
Cavaliers: Timofey Mozgov started at center for the second straight night after missing three games with a strained right shoulder. … Cleveland is off to its best home start opening 23-0 in 2008-09.
Nets: Host Detroit on Sunday.
Cavaliers: Host Washington on Tuesday.