CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James couldn’t get his shot to drop. However, he wouldn’t let the Cavaliers fall.
James struggled before extending his record double-digit scoring streak to 868 games and Cleveland had a rough time with Dallas before putting away the lottery-bound Mavericks 98-87 on Sunday night.
James, who broke Michael Jordan’s NBA mark for consecutive games with at least 10 points on Friday night, didn’t reach 10 until 7:59 remained. He finished just 5 of 21 from the field but found his range when it counted most, draining a pair of 3-pointers during a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter when the Cavs finally finished off the Mavericks.
“It wasn’t a typical LeBron game,” said interim head coach Larry Drew, who is filling in for Tyronn Lue. “But we were still able to come out with a win. When the game was on the line, he put it on his shoulders once again.”
And although his shot was off, James finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, his 17th triple-double this season and No. 72 of his career.
“I missed four, five, maybe six layups, which I’m not accustomed to doing,” James said. “But me not shooting the ball well never stopped me making an impact on the game. So if I’m not shooting well, I gotta make sure I get my guys on time, on target with my passes and I gotta rebound and I gotta do other things to help us win and I was able to do that.”
Cleveland, which has withstood numerous injuries all season, has won eight of nine and is 17-8 since Feb. 7. With the win, the Cavs held onto the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference with five regular-season games left.
Harrison Barnes scored 30 points to lead Dallas, which has dropped eight of nine. Dirk Nowitzki scored nine in possibly the 39-year-old’s final career game in Cleveland.
The Cavs were in danger of sliding into fifth place behind Philadelphia and Indiana before waking up in the fourth quarter. They trailed 81-79 before going on an 11-0 run that was capped by a 3 from James, who spent part of Saturday night on stage with pop superstar Justin Timberlake.
“We tried to make it tough on him, but obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, if not the best player in the game,” Nowitzki said. “You look up and he’s got a triple-double. He’s affecting the game even though he wasn’t shooting the ball really well. He can drive. He can dish it.”
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