LeBron James shrugged off five absent players and an ill coach with a virtuoso performance on Wednesday, rallying the host Cleveland Cavaliers over NBA Eastern Conference leader Toronto 132-129.
The three-time NBA champion and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player scored 35 points, passed out 17 assists and had seven rebounds with no turnovers, making the most assists in any NBA game by a player without losing the ball.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, to be perfectly honest with you – 17 assists, 35 points and no turnovers. It’s just amazing,” said Cavaliers associate coach Larry Drew, filling in as Tyronn Lue fights health issues.
“What he does night in and night out, how he sustains it, it’s mindboggling.”
The Cavaliers, who made four deals to revamp the roster, remain a threat in the East at 42-29, well back of the Raptors’ record of 53-19 but able to spot them a 79-64 half-time lead before rallying to win.
“We’re working our tails off to keep this ship above water, to keep it running tight with all the changes and all the injuries,” James said.
“We just dug deep, came back in the third quarter offensively and defensively. Everybody on the court contributed to this victory.”
None did more than James, whose final assist was a pass to Kevin Love to set up a 3-pointer from the corner for a 128-124 Cleveland lead.
It was only Love’s second game back after missing 21 contests with a broken left hand, but he managed 23 points and 12 rebounds.
“He’s somebody I can always count on,” James said of Love. “We’re all glad to have him back. I saw him in the corner and he knocked it down.”
George Hill added 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting for the Cavaliers. Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 24 points while DeMar DeRozan added 21.
Howard powers Hornets
Charlotte’s Dwight Howard scored 32 points and grabbed 30 rebounds – the first 30-30 performance since 2010 and only the second in 36 years – to lead the Hornets to a 111-105 triumph at Brooklyn.
Howard was the first 30-30 player since Love had 31 points and 31 rebounds for Minnesota in a 2010 victory over New York.
“Congrats to @DwightHoward the new Mr. 30/30. Hell of a night!!!” Love tweeted after Cleveland’s victory.
The most recent 30-30 before Love was by Moses Malone in 1982.
At 32, Howard became the oldest player with a 30-30 night since Wilt Chamberlain at age 35.
The Nets squandered a 23-point in losing.
Dario Saric, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington and reserve Marco Belinelli each scored 15 points to power Philadelphia over visiting Memphis 119-105.
The 76ers’ fourth win in a row also featured 14 points from Joel Embiid plus 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds by Australian playmaker Ben Simmons.
Spurs rip Wizards again
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points to power the San Antonio Spurs over visiting Washington 98-90, marking the 18th consecutive time Washington has lost at San Antonio – the last win coming in 1999.
The victory ensured the Spurs would extend their NBA record of consecutive winning seasons to 21.
DeAndre Jordan had 25 points and 22 rebounds to power the Los Angeles Clippers over Milwaukee 127-120, while the Bucks saw Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo exit after 17 minutes with an ankle injury.
Anthony Davis scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead New Orleans over visiting Indiana 96-92, while Paul Millsap scored 22 points to lead Denver over host Chicago 135-102.
Miami reserve Kelly Olynyk scored 22 points and had a career-best 10 assists to help spark the host Heat over New York 119-98.