It was reminiscent of the finish to Game 2 of the 2009 conference finals. The Cavs were in a desperate situation, in danger of facing a two-game deficit.
That game was in Cleveland, the Cavs were down two points, and there was 1.0 seconds on the clock. But the results, the shots were very similar.
The Cavs passed their first big test of the second LeBron era. They were down 2-1 in the series. They were down 11 points late in the third quarter. Kyrie Irving was dealing with a foot injury and James himself turned his ankle midway through the third.
But they came back with some big shots from J.R. Smith and strong defense in the final period. And James provided the finishing touches on Cleveland’s biggest win of the season.
A little nudge from James knocked Jimmy Butler off-balance, and he wasn’t able to close fast enough. James’ momentum was taking him toward the Bulls’ bench, but the space Butler provided (and the lack of a second defender) allowed him to square his shoulders and keep his balance, with his toes on the 3-point line. Of the three buzzer beaters we’ve seen in the last three days, it was the easiest shot.
After coming back from 11 down, the Cavs blew a five-point lead in less than 30 seconds, thanks in part to James’ eighth turnover of the afternoon, an offensive foul with 14.3 seconds left.
Still, if the shot misses, they have another chance to redeem themselves in overtime.
The playoffs appear to be wide open, especially in the Eastern Conference. If the Cavs lose this game, they’re in a situation – down 3-1 – that few teams have come back from.
But the win gives them back home-court advantage. Since Jan. 19, they’re 23-2 in Cleveland, where they will play Game 5 and 7 (if necessary).
A clumsy mob that spilled onto the scorer’s table.
It’s the playoffs. It’s two teams that have a good shot of reaching The Finals if they get through this series. It was a high-leverage game. Five Horrys.