HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 11 of his 23 points in overtime, including a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 35 seconds left, and the Cleveland Cavaliers edged the Washington Wizards 140-135 in a playoff-type atmosphere Monday night.
The loud, sellout crowd was standing, and so were the players on both benches, when LeBron James somehow missed a gimme layup late in the fourth quarter. Moments later, he banked in a maximum-degree-of-difficulty, step-back 3 with 0.3 seconds left to send the game overtime, where he fouled out and Irving took over for Cleveland.
James finished 32 points and a career-high 17 assists. Kevin Love had 39 points and 12 rebounds for the Eastern Conference leaders, who ended surging Washington’s winning streaks of 17 in a row at home and seven in a row overall.
Bradley Beal had 41 points and eight assists for the Wizards, but he missed a potential tying 3 with about 5 seconds left in overtime. John Wall, who squared off with Irving in a duel between All-Star point guards, had 22 points and 12 assists, while Otto Porter scored 25.
James fouled out 47 seconds into OT, having left his mark with an early two-handed dunk over Markieff Morris that drew many cheers from the 20,356 spectators and his “He did what?!”, land-out-of-bounds, off-the-glass tying 3-pointer at the end of the fourth quarter that drew plenty of gasps. The four-time NBA MVP hadn’t been whistled for six fouls in a game since January 2014.
This game also was notable for this: James became the first player in NBA history to rank in the top 20 in points (eighth), assists (13th) and steals (20th).
It was a back-and-forth contest, with little runs by each team, plenty of offense, lapses on defense, a lot of complaints about the officiating by folks on both sides and a couple of technical fouls.
All in a hyped-up atmosphere that seemed more like May than the first week of February. The high-quality late fourth quarter included this particularly frenetic and terrific stretch: Wall jumper, James 3, Wall drive, James 3, Beal 3, Porter 3, James 3. That made it 110-all with 2:40 remaining.
With 12.2 seconds left, the Wizards led 118-117. James then drove past Wall and had a wide-open layup, but the ball rolled around the rim and out. Two free throws by Wall made it 120-117 with 3.4 ticks to go. But James took a length-of-the-court pass, stepped behind the arc and banked in a tying 3 with less than a half-second remaining.
This game felt like a measuring stick for the Wizards, who have been as good as it gets lately. They entered with the NBA’s best record over the past month, 14-2. They had those winning streaks going, at home and overall. And this was a chance to show that the current version of the club in the nation’s capital could hang with the defending champions.
Not surprisingly, Washington coach Scott Brooks refused to make a big deal about it.
“I don’t talk about the standings,” Brooks said before tipoff. “We still have 32 games to go, and I’ve told the guys from Day 1 we’re going to focus on doing our job every day and keep it that way.”
Cavaliers: James passed Magic Johnson for 20th on the career steals list. … When Love shot free throws in the third quarter, a small section of spectators sang, “Bron wants Melo,” a reference to reports that James wants the Cavs to swap Love for Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks.
Wizards: C Ian Mahinmi is “getting closer” to returning to action after missing all but one game this season with injuries to both knees, Brooks said. “I don’t know when he’s going to play,” Brooks said, “but I anticipate soon.”
Cavaliers: At the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, the third stop on a four-game road trip.
Wizards: At the NBA-worst Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.
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