88 - 87 Final
  for this game

LeBron hits winning free throw as Cavs edge Hawks

Mar 2, 2009 - 6:13 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Despite a frigid fourth quarter, LeBron James found a way to demoralize the Atlanta Hawks.

James hit the go-ahead free throw with 1.6 seconds left after getting the benefit of a borderline call as the Cleveland Cavaliers escaped with an 88-87 victory over the Hawks on Sunday night.

"It's tough," Atlanta forward Marvin Williams said. "Being a ref is a rough job, I know that. It's tough to see one second left on the clock and a free throw beat you."

James, who had 26 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, did not have a field goal in the fourth quarter. In fact, he converted his last shot from the field with 2:51 remaining in the third.

"Games like this on the road are hard, but you just have to fight through the adversity," James said. "I was really proud of the way we played, especially the last two quarters. We got some stops, converted some baskets, it was a very, very good performance. I'm glad we got the win."

Despite his cold shooting, the Cavaliers went to James on their final possession, isolating him in a 1-4 set. LeBron drove to his right, drew the questionable foul and made the second of two free throws to provide the final margin.

The Hawks, after a timeout that moved the ball to midcourt, inbounded to their own star, Joe Johnson, who misfired on a contested 3-pointer from the left corner as time expired. James defended on the play, using a quick close-out to distract Atlanta's All-Star.

"Joe is one of the toughest guys in the league, playing him 1-on-1," James said. "I didn't (get a piece of the ball), but I made him shoot it a little differently. I take a lot of pride in my defense, just like I do with my offense. Sometimes, I get passive on the offensive end. I don't get passive on the defensive end."

"Good look," Johnson said. "It felt good when it left my hand. I thought it was going in - not quite."

The game was tied at 87-87 with 47.5 ticks left, when Mo Williams nailed a clutch three from the left corner, prompting him to scream in excitement in front of the Hawks' bench.

On the play, James drove to the basket and appeared to have his finger-roll layup partially blocked before he retrieved the rebound at the edge of the key and flipped a pass to the wide-open Williams.

"It ain't over until it's over," Williams said. "If you make plays, you'll put yourself in position to win the game."

The league's second-leading scorer, James shot just 8-of-20 from the field, missing all three of his shots in the fourth quarter. Instead, he became a playmaker by recording five assists in those final 12 minutes.

James' abilities outside of scoring are not lost on his opponents.

"He is obviously a great player," Marvin Williams said. "The thing about LeBron - he impacts the game in so many different areas besides scoring.

"Obviously, he can pass the ball, defend and rebound. He did a great job of getting his team involved and they were able to make shots for him."

Johnson scored 21 points, but Josh Smith added just eight before sitting out the fourth for Atlanta, which has lost four of its last five games.

The Hawks barely missed the chance to secure a trifecta of losses for the NBA's big boys. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics each lost earlier in the day.

Cleveland (46-12), which surpassed last season's win total, is now one-half game ahead of the Celtics (47-14) for the East's top spot. The Cavs are tied with the Lakers (48-12) for the fewest losses in the league.

The game also was marred by a scorekeeping error. The Cavs are considering filing a complaint with the league in the wake of an erroneous personal foul charged to Delonte West.

West was assessed a technical foul with 1:34 left in the first quarter, an infraction that instead was recorded as a personal, giving West his second such foul and throwing off Brown's


"It is what it is," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "We'll do what we have to do. I don't know what I really want. (Lead referee Tony Brothers) did a nice job. I was obviously upset. Something like that just can't happen."