Cleveland's LeBron James goes up for a dunk. James had 47 points in the game.
Darron Cummings / AP Enlarge
INDIANAPOLIS - LeBron James grudgingly lived with the NBA's non-star treatment last night.
Cleveland coach Mike Brown could not.
After James scored 47 points and almost single-handedly rallied the Cavaliers to force overtime, the unthinkable happened. James, the NBA's No. 2 scorer, drew a foul with 0.2 seconds left, and Danny Granger made 1-of-2 free throws to seal an improbable 96-95 victory that sent James to the locker room in disgust and the usually composed Brown into a tirade.
"That last call, on the run, is the worst call that I have ever been a part of," Brown said. "I cannot imagine another worse call than that. It was an awful call and for him to take away a basketball game from a team with .4 seconds on the clock is irresponsible."
A few moments earlier, the Pacers thought they had been wronged.Leading 95-93 with 0.8 seconds left, the Cavs tried an alley-oop play to James off the inbounds pass. Granger stepped in front of James, who couldn't catch the ball but drew the foul, and then made both free throws to tie it at 95.
After a timeout, the Pacers ran the same play. This time, with Granger cutting to the basket and James chasing, Granger got the call.
"Luckily, we ran a good play and got the same call," Granger said.
But NBA stars, especially those in the realm of James, aren't supposed to be treated this way - especially in a game they've dominated.
It didn't make any difference yesterday, much to the chagrin of James and his fuming coach.
"For it to end that way, it's definitely tough on us," a subdued James said. "You never want a game to end that way."
Brown was less diplomatic.
He repeatedly criticized the officials in his postgame interview, possibly setting himself up for a league fine that he, apparently, is willing to pay after watching this one.
"I don't care if I get fined. It is what it is. I saw the two plays; just a bad call determined the outcome of that game," Brown said. "If they want to fine me for telling the truth, fine me. This isn't me. I never do this."
For 47 minutes, 59.8 seconds, James was his usual spectacular self.
He connected on 15 of 21 shots, 13 of 14 free throws, made 4 of 7 3-pointers, had seven rebounds and four assists. He repeatedly had the crowd on its feet with high-flying dunks, nifty no-look passes, one spectacular block and an array of head fakes, crossover dribbles and acrobatic moves.
Yet somehow, perhaps with a little help from the officials, the short-handed Pacers absorbed the body blows and survived.
Troy Murphy scored 18 to lead Indiana, while Granger, playing on a sore right knee, added 16. Indiana was also missing three key contributors but got key plays late from backups like Travis Diener and Brandon Rush.
The combination ended Cleveland's nine-game winning streak over the Pacers, and the Cavs were in disbelief after losing their second straight for the first time all season.
"The last call against me was not questionable at all," James contended. "No contact was made. The pass was short. You couldn't go to the rim. I was able to get a hand on it."
INDIANAPOLIS - Mo Williams is finally an all-star.
Twice snubbed, the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard was added to the roster yesterday by NBA commissioner David Stern as a replacement for injured Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh.
Williams' teammates and Cleveland's owner Dan Gilbert were dismayed last week when Williams was twice left off the Eastern Conference roster but approved the move unanimously yesterday.
"It has a beautiful ring to it," Williams said. "I'm excited for myself and my teammates and the coaches. It's a great thing, it's one thing people can't take away from you."