SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—LeBron James’ triple-double streak is over, though so is Cleveland’s division title drought.
James scored 51 points, including six in overtime, and the Cavaliers clinched the Central Division title Friday night with a 126-123 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Although James failed to extend his triple-double streak to four games, he was clearly the difference, scoring a combined 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. He added nine assists while falling five points short of his career high.
“It’s been 33 years, way before I was born,” James said. “We put up a banner, that’s Central Division champs. That’s something we can be very proud of doing.”
Anderson Varejao had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland, which secured its first division title since 1976 and just the second in franchise history. Wally Szczerbiak scored 12 points and Mo Williams had 10 as the Cavs won their fourth straight and eighth in nine games to tie the Lakers for the NBA’s best record at 52-13.
The win gave Cleveland a sweep of its three-game road trip.
“This was the best-worst three-game road trip I’ve ever been on in my life,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “We’ve been outscoring our opponents the last three games but we have not been accountable on the defensive end. That has to change.”
James appropriately scored first in overtime, managing to maintain his balance on a left-handed shot where he was knocked to the floor. He made the free throw to complete the three-point play, then followed with a 3-pointer for a 122-116 lead with 3:02 remaining.
Solomon made a 3-pointer with 5.3 seconds left to cut the Cleveland lead to 124-123. After a timeout, the Kings intentionally fouled Williams, who made two free throws for a 126-123 lead. Solomon missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.
James scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Cavaliers from a 14-point deficit. Trailing since early in the third quarter, James stole a pass and was fouled by Martin. He made one of two free throws, tying the game at 116 with 24 seconds left.
“LeBron James was phenomenal again. We’ve all seen that show before. He put on another one tonight,” said Sacramento interim coach Kenny Natt. “I wasn’t looking at the points he scored, I just know that LeBron’s going to have the ball. He’s going to take control of the team and put the team on his shoulders and carry them.”
Following a non-shooting foul against Martin, the Kings came out of a timeout with 5 seconds left in regulation and James blocked Martin’s off-balance shot, sending the game into overtime.
“LeBron defended the last few minutes on Kevin Martin,” Brown said. “He came up with a big steal and some really big stops to help us get into overtime.”
The last person who had a triple-double streak longer than three games was Michael Jordan, who had seven straight in March and April of 1989. James said he wasn’t upset about his streak ending.
“No, because we won, man,” he said.
The Cavaliers won the game with Brown watching on TV in the locker room. He received two technical fouls at the 8:15 mark in the third quarter after going out on the court and vehemently arguing when Williams was knocked down on a drive to the basket, but no foul was called.
It was Martin igniting the Kings in the third quarter, when they outscored Cleveland 39-24. He made a pair of 3-pointers and hit all eight free throws, scoring 18 points to help Sacramento take a 98-84 lead into the fourth.
James had 21 points, two assists and two rebounds in the opening half for the Cavaliers. A productive bench player this season, Szczerbiak scored 12 of his 14 first-half points in the second quarter when the Cavaliers overtook the Kings for a 60-59 lead. Jackson had 13 points for the Kings, who shot 55 percent.
Quiet throughout much of the first quarter, James got going late in the period with the Cavaliers trailing 27-14. He scored 12 points in an amazing 1:34 stretch and finished the quarter with 16 points, helping Cleveland pull within 32-28 heading into the second.
The Kings were 7-of-9 on 3-pointers in the game’s opening 13 minutes. Cavaliers starting point guard Delonte West missed the game with bruised lower back suffered in Thursday’s win over Phoenix. Williams scored 43 points on Jan. 27 against the Kings, one short of his career high.