James and the Cavs hope to ride the momentum of a huge victory when they try to sweep the season series from the Chicago Bulls for the first time since 1999.
Cleveland blew a 25-point lead before holding on for a 92-91 victory at Chicago on Thursday. James, who struggled to score down the stretch, found Ronald Murray for a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left as the Cavs snapped a five-game losing streak.
“My man came off me to slide over on LeBron,” said Murray, who played his fifth game with Cleveland since being acquired at the trade deadline from Seattle. “He left me wide open. The look I had felt good, and the shot felt good.”
The Cavs are trying to avoid a repeat of last season in which they started 31-21 before losing 19 of their final 30 games to miss the playoffs. Cleveland went 31-21 again this season before losing five of its next six to bring back memories of last year’s collapse.
The big win Thursday helped ease those concerns a bit, although James did not score over the final 7:40.
“I’ve told you guys I’m not going to force anything,” James said. “Flip (Murray) had a wide-open 3. He hit the big shot for us. If he missed it, I wasn’t upset as it was the right thing to do.”
James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but has scored a total of 14 fourth-quarter points over his last five games.
Although Cleveland coach Mike Brown is 3-0 against Chicago this season, he has a great deal of respect for the Bulls.
“They are a relentless team,” he said. “They never stop coming at you. They have a great 3-point capability which is going to keep them in every game. They’re also a good defensive team.”
Chicago bounced back from Thursday’s loss by rallying from 16 points down in the third quarter for a 108-101 victory at New York on Friday. Ben Gordon scored 32 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds left off a feed from Kirk Hinrich, in another big game against his hometown team.
“It’s just fun playing at home,” said Gordon, a Mount Vernon native. “It’s always a good feeling when you hit a big shot or help your team win a game.”
Hinrich had a season-high 33 points to continue his recent scoring spree. The third-year guard is averaging 29.3 points over his last three games.
“Everyone on the team realized that if we started making good stops we would get right back in the game,” Hinrich said. “We did that and made some big shots and we were able to pull it out.”
Gordon has struggled against Cleveland this season, averaging 13.3 points on 37 percent shooting.