LeBron James banked in a running one-hander at the buzzer, giving Cleveland a 105-103 win over Toronto on Saturday night in Game 3 and shoving the Raptors to the edge of their most devastating playoff exit.
After the Raptors tied it on rookie OG Anunoby’s 3-pointer with eight seconds left, James took the inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the floor and in one motion, dropped his 10-footer in front of Toronto’s stunned bench.
The Cavs ran and mobbed James and moments later he was back up on the scorer’s table — just like after a game-winner against Indiana last round — to celebrate a win that was up for grabs.
James finished with 38 points, Kevin Love added 21 and 16 rebounds and Kyle Korver 18 for the Cavs, who can sweep the Raptors for the second straight year.
Kyle Lowry scored 27 for Toronto, which clawed back in the fourth quarter with All-Star DeMar DeRozan on the bench.
After winning two games in Canada, the Cavs came home and won a brawl with the Raptors, who just can’t beat James. He’s 11-2 against Toronto in the past three postseasons.
The three-time champion has ended the Raptors’ past two seasons, and despite playing with a different supporting cast, James is one win from a Toronto trifecta.
We The North? He The North.
Game 4 is Monday night, and the odds are stacked against the rattled Raptors. Of the 129 teams in NBA history to fall behind 3-0, none has come back to win.
This was supposed to be the Raptors season, the one that ended in triumph over James. Toronto had the East’s best record, the No. 1 seed, home-court advantage and a Cleveland team that appeared very beatable.
But the Cavs stole Game 1 by a point in overtime, and James scored 43 in a magnificent Game 2 performance.
He then delivered a series-and-season ending dagger with another moment that belongs with any in his remarkable career.
The first half ended in frustration for the Raptors with DeRozan, coach Dwane Casey and his assistants screaming at the officials following a sequence that went against them.
Serge Ibaka’s basket was originally counted and then waved off by the referees, and the reversal was doubly painful as Love buried a 3-pointer to put the Cavs ahead by 13. Jeff Green’s layup just before the horn made it 55-40 and an incensed Casey, his suit coat flying open and his tie jumping off his chest, stormed off the floor.
Desperate to find something, anything, to slow down the Cavs, Casey changed his starting lineup for Game 3. He inserted 6-foot guard Fred VanVleet and benched forward Serge Ibaka, going with a smaller lineup to push the pace.
However, Toronto started 2 of 11 from the field and the Raptors were quickly down 12 and seemingly in big trouble when DeRozan picked up his second foul and went to the bench.
Celtics 101, at 76ers 98: Al Horford scored the go-ahead basket for Boston late in overtime in a wild Game 3 where the Philadelphia 76ers gave away the basketball and the confetti, leading the Celtics to a 101-98 win on Saturday night.
The Celtics go for the sweep on Monday.
The ending to regulation was about as wild as it gets for both teams. JJ Redick threw away the basketball on an errant pass to no one that was scooped by Terry Rozier who threw to Jaylen Brown for the basket and an 89-87 lead.
Seconds later, Marco Belinelli stunned everyone with a falling 22-footer in front of the 76ers bench as time expired that sent the game into overtime — and confetti mistakenly blasted from the cannon. There was about a seven-minute delay while team employees scrambled to clean up the mess on the court. Some players even scooped up confetti as everyone waited for the start of overtime.
Belinelli opened OT with a 23-footer and Redick followed with a 3 that appeared to take him off the hook.
But the Celtics wouldn’t let them pull away and Horford escaped for a layup with 5.5 seconds that gave Boston a 99-98 lead. Ben Simmons then threw the ball away after a timeout and Horford sealed the win with two free throws.
Jayson Tatum scored 24 points and Rozier had 18.
Joel Embiid had 22 points and 19 rebounds for the Sixers, Redick scored 18 and Simmons 16.
The Celtics, who rallied from a 22-point deficit to beat the 76ers 108-103 in Game 2, can advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight season on Monday.
The highlight came on Belinelli’s shot at the horn that had the Sixers mobbing him in a wild celebration. Confetti Guy — wearing a “Breaking News: I Don’t Care” T-shirt — pushed the button too early and the rectangular pieces were soaring everywhere.
Confetti Guy — who declined to give his name — came over to press row and said the Sixers “better win or I’m done.”
Horford hit the big shots in the final minute of overtime to silence what had been a rabid crowd. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles rang the ceremonial bell and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. One fan waved a sign that said “Philly Special 2.0” as a nod to the trick play called that allowed Foles to catch a touchdown pass against the New England Patriots.
But not every Philly team can beat one from New England in a big game.
Simmons, the rookie of the year favorite, had a miserable Game 2 and scored only one point and failed to score a field goal for the first time all year. Hall of Famer Allen Iverson called Simmons and gave him a needed pick-me-up.
“Just play the game I’ve been playing,” Simmons said AI told him. “I know how to play the game. I can’t think about it too much. I’ve just got to go out there and do it.”
Determined not to get embarrassed again, Simmons scored on a driving layup less than a minute into the game.
“My goal isn’t to go out there and drop 30 every game,” Simmons said. “My goal is to go out there and facilitate and get the best shots we can.”
He did it all in the second quarter when the Sixers looked every bit the team that ended the season on a 16-game win streak.
Trailing by 10 early in the second, Simmons had an emphatic slam to kickstart a rally. Simmons would make the highlight reel with a behind-the-back pass to a charging Embiid for a thunderous dunk over Aron Baynes. Embiid made the free throw and the crowd was going bonkers.
Redick and Dario Saric each hit 3s during the 13-0 run that helped the Sixers take a 51-48 lead into halftime.