INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—With all due respect to the league’s top talent, Cleveland coach Mike Brown considers the MVP race over.
Brown was most impressed that James got the triple-doubles on back-to-back nights on the road. He had 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in Tuesday’s loss at Houston.
“LeBron—what can I say? He’s the MVP. He’s the MVP this year. I don’t care how many games are left or what not,” Brown said. “This guy is terrific. He just does everything out on the floor.”
James said he takes pride in doing it all.
“I just go out and try to play my game,” he said. “My game is not just go out and score, it’s about getting others involved and helping each other on the defensive end.”
James had 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the final 12 minutes.
The fourth quarter was virtually even until James went up for a rebound and landed on Indiana’s Travis Diener. Diener was called for a foul, and Indiana coach Jim O’Brien got a technical for disagreeing with the call. Cleveland made two of three free throws to take a 99-94 lead.
Larry Hughes followed with a 3-pointer to make it 102-94 with 1:39 to go. Granger responded with a 3 of his own, but Indiana got no closer.
“I’m going to get us in the best position to make plays in the fourth quarter, either if I’m handling the ball or playing off the ball,” James said. “I attract so much attention that a lot of guys get some open looks. The biggest look of the night was Larry hitting the dagger in the corner. That was a big shot.”
It was James’ sixth triple-double of the season and the 16th of his career, and it helped the Cavaliers end a two-game losing streak. Hughes added 19 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 14 points and 17 rebounds, but Cleveland lost guard Daniel Gibson to a sprained left ankle in the third quarter.
The Cavaliers entered with 11 players having missed a combined 120 games this season due to injury. Gibson’s injury just seemed like more of the same for Cleveland.
“Not another. Not again,” James said. “Once again, we lose one of our top-six players, top-seven players in our lineup because of injury. We don’t have a timetable for how long he’s going to be out, but we’re going to have to have somebody else step up. We did it tonight.”
“This was another game we could have won,” Granger said. “We choked and made bad plays at the end. They hit shots when they needed to. We didn’t.”
Brown said slowing Granger late was a key to Cleveland’s win. Granger shot 2-for-8 in the fourth quarter.
“We did a better job trying to make him work for his shots a little bit more in the second half.”
Cleveland has won six straight against Pacers, including all three meetings this season. James had a triple-double in their last meeting in Indianapolis— 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists—in Cleveland’s 111-106 win.
Gibson made all five of his 3-point attempts in the first half to help the Cavaliers take a 60-54 lead. Cleveland shot 60 percent from the field before the break and shot 8-of-13 from 3-point range. Granger had 18 points in the first half to keep the Pacers in it.
Indiana started the second half hot, and Granger made a 3-pointer to give the Pacers a 67-66 lead with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter. A basket by Foster and a 3-pointer by Murphy made it 72-66 and forced a Cleveland timeout.
Gibson sprained his ankle when Diener collided with him as they were diving for a loose ball. Gibson was helped off the court by teammates, and he didn’t return.
Cleveland chipped Indiana’s lead to 81-79 at the end of the third quarter before making its 19th fourth-quarter comeback of the season.
“We just have a confidence that we’re never out of a game, no matter how many points we’re down,” Brown said. “I don’t like to play that way. Seems
Granger set the Indiana franchise record for consecutive free throws made with 64, breaking Reggie Miller’s mark of 61 straight set in 2005. … Cleveland shot 67 percent in the first quarter to take a 34-26 lead. … Former Pacers C Rik Smits attended the game. … Indiana F Jermaine O’Neal (sore left knee), G Jamaal Tinsley (sore left knee) and C David Harrison (sprained right ankle) all sat out with injuries. O’Neal has missed 14 straight games, while Tinsley has missed five in a row.