Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - LeBron James wouldn't let Cleveland lose Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, scoring 37 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out 12 assists, as the Cavaliers staved off elimination with a 112-102 victory over Orlando at Quicken Loans Arena.
James was magnificent on Thursday, waiving off teammates for isolation opportunities in the fourth, fouling out Orlando stud big man Dwight Howard with 2:22 to play and even doing what seemed like an unthinkable feat in sports -- bringing Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to his feet to cheer for an athlete from Cleveland.
As a jump-shooter, James was consistent with 11 made field goals. As a slasher, he shot 19 free throws and converted on 15. He even found his teammates at the right time, and the role players responded.
"We can't keep putting James on the line 20 times a game. We have to find a way to stop that," said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy.
Mo Williams scored 24 points, Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 16 points and six rebounds and Delonte West chipped in with 13 points. Together, the trio made 19-of-35 shots from the floor, as Cleveland now trails the best-of-seven series 3-2 and heads to Orlando for Game 6 on Saturday. West, though, left the game with 3:33 left in the fourth quarter due to a hip pointer, he will be reevaluated on Friday.
"I was just taking what the defense gave me," said James about his supporting cast. "It makes it easier when my guys are making shots. They know we are a much stronger team when they are making their shots."
Hedo Turkoglu led Orlando with 29 points, Howard notched his customary double- double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, Rashard Lewis added 15 points and Mickael Pietrus donated 13 off the bench. Rafer Alston, who poured in a career playoff-high 26 points in Game 4, managed just three points on 1-of-10 shooting.
"We just have to step up our intensity," surmised Howard when asked about the changes needed for Game 6.
The fourth quarter belonged to James. He had a hand in scoring or assisting on 32 straight Cleveland points, and his step-back jumper preceded a drive right into Howard's chest, drawing the sixth and final foul on the big man and softly floating a short shot through the net. The three-point play opened a 101-93 edge. He drained a jumper to maintain the eight-point edge just moments later then again took the ball at the top of the key on Cleveland's next possession. This time he drove into the lane and found a streaking Anderson Varejao, who scored and was fouled with 1:07 left. That bucket and subsequent foul shot pushed the lead to 107-96.
"We gave him (James) the ball in what we call 'the nail' and told him 'big fella, get us some looks' and he did just that," said Cavs head coach Mike Brown.
Riding high from a raucous home crowd and a hot shooting start, Cleveland raced out to a double-digit lead off the opening tip. Five straight from Williams made the score 9-3 not even two minutes in, then four straight from Ilgauskas triggered an 11-0 burst that opened up a 26-8 edge. Two free throws and a mid-range jumper off James' right hand capped the stretch, as Orlando made just three field goals in the first six-plus minutes.
The guards got into the act with two jumpers from the smooth southpaw West sandwiched around a James jumper for a staggering 32-10 lead. The Cavs held a 35-18 advantage after 12 minutes of game action, and the rout appeared to be on.
Yet, any knowledgeable NBA fan knew quite the opposite. With a big man like Howard to score and help space the floor for a flurry of three-point shooters, the Magic had the Cavaliers right where they wanted them.
Battling back from substantial deficits several times already in the series, the Magic never wavered, never blinked, and continued to attack. Howard's and- one hoop and subsequent foul shot completed an eight-point onslaught to start the proceedings in the second stanza.
Orlando continued to hang around, yet Cleveland still held a 52-42 edge on Ilgauskas' bucket with 2:34 left in the first half. Orlando scored 13 points in the final two-plus minutes to quiet Quicken Loans Arena and end the half on the verge of the lead.
A driving layup by Lewis followed by a three from the sharp-shooter capped the scoring, leaving Orlando in just a 56-55 hole after 24 minutes.
The third quarter foreshadowed the closing stretch -- a tight game well into the fourth quarter. Neither team gained concrete control in a back-and-forth period capped by a Daniel Gibson three that drew the Cavs within 79-78. Orlando led by as many as six in the period, while Cleveland also held a one- possession lead for a short period of time.
James tied Michael Jordan for second on the all-time list with 16 straight playoff games of 25 points or more. The record belongs to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 25 or more points in 20 straight playoff games...Gibson chipped in with 11 points...Cleveland made 50 percent of its shots and actually made more three-pointers (9) than the long-distance shooting Magic (8).