TORONTO (AP)—For three quarters he was ordinary. Then, when it mattered most, LeBron James was unstoppable.
“In the fourth quarter, he was amazing,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “He just took the game over and put us on his back. What a tremendous, tremendous performance.”
James, who made eight of 10 field goal attempts in the fourth, said tuning out distractions helped his concentration.
“I just felt like I was out there by myself,” he said. “Everything was going right for me and I just felt like I was out there in practice. The hoop felt like the ocean.”
Forward Drew Gooden has seen James take over before, but said this one was special.
“This was impressive because of the circumstances,” Gooden said. “We were down 20 on the road and we could have easily given in. He was attacking the basket and knocking down outside shots.”
With the Cavs trailing 70-57 to begin the fourth, James scored on a layup, a free throw and back-to-back 3-pointers in the first 3 minutes. Damon Jones added two 3-pointers before James tied it at 76 with a jump shot at 6:26.
“I was able to control the tempo in the fourth quarter with my penetration,” James said, “getting into the lane and kicking out for 3s.”
James’ spurt set off alarm bells for Toronto’s Jamario Moon.
“When he started hitting (shots), we knew it was going to be a long quarter,” Moon said. “I thought we were going to hit some shots, build the lead back up a little bit and pull the win out, but he kept hitting them and they pulled it out.”
James gave Cleveland its first lead with a 3-pointer from the right wing at 3:59, then drained another 3-pointer on the Cavaliers’ next possession.
“It’s hard to trap a guy past the 3-point line” Chris Bosh said. “He made two or three spot-up 3s and when a guy is doing that, it makes it very tough.”
Bosh had two free throws and two layups in the final minute, but Cleveland sealed the game at the free throw line.
The Cavaliers have won five of six to level their record at 17-17, returning to .500 for the first time since they were 9-9 on Dec. 2.
“It’s huge,” Gooden said. “It’s kind of like a breath of fresh air when it happens.”
James struggled in the first three quarters, making just six of 19 attempts and looking pained after two airballs and a missed dunk in the third.
“He wasn’t as aggressive as in the last quarter,” center Zydrunas Ilgasukas said. “He settled for some jump shots. They blitzed him a lot. We just stopped setting pick-and-rolls for him, just kind of isolated him at the top and he drove to the hoop. We changed our offense a little bit for him and it opened up.”
The NBA’s leading scorer, James added 11 rebounds and eight assists for Cleveland, which got 14 points from Larry Hughes, and 10 points and 12 rebounds from Gooden.
Bosh led Toronto with 23 points, Anthony Parker had 20 and Calderon had 16 points and 11 assists.
Moon matched his career high with 16 points for Toronto, which has lost six of eight but was in control early. Moon threw down a spectacular one-handed dunk over James as the Raptors opened a 13-4 lead in the first five minutes. Moon ended the first by finishing off an alley-oop pass from Calderon.
Toronto led 28-14 after the first, its largest lead after the opening quarter this season.
The Raptors led by 20 early in the second before a 14-2 run brought the Cavaliers back into the game, forcing Toronto to call timeout at 4:24 with the score 37-29.
Moon turned in two highlight moments on the defensive end, swatting the ball away from Gooden and Hughes on back-to-back possessions late in the second as Toronto took a 43-33 lead into the break.
Cleveland’s 33 first-half points were a season-low. ^Notes: Cleveland has won just twice in its past 10 road games. … The Cavaliers have won six of their past eight games in Toronto. … Cleveland outrebounded Toronto 52-33 and posted a season-high 20 offensive rebounds. … The Raptors are 8-8 at home.