CLEVELAND (AP) -- Forget the Kobe vs. LeBron hype. This one
belonged to Flip.
In a matchup of two of the league's top three leading scorers,
Flip Murray took over. The way LeBron James sees it, Murray set the
tone for Cleveland's playoff run as well.
Murray hit a free throw with 3.4 seconds left and scored 14 of
his 21 points in the fourth quarter Sunday, leading the Cavaliers
to a 96-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers had one last chance to win, but Kobe Bryant's
3-pointer clanked off the back of the rim as time expired. Bryant,
under double coverage and struggling to get off the shot,
complained to officials that he was fouled.
With streamers falling from the rafters and the arena erupting,
James gathered his teammates in a huddle on the court.
"It was a big win for us," James said. "Mentally, I wanted to
get the guys focused and let them know that this was a big win for
us getting ready for the playoffs."
Murray's free throw marked his second game-winner for the
Cavaliers since he was acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline
for seldom-used Mike Wilks and cash. Murray hit a 3-pointer with
seconds remaining to win at Chicago on March 2.
"Today, I had the chance to drive to the hoop and spark the
team," said Murray, who added a career-high eight rebounds. "I
just tried to come out and be aggressive in the second half."
Bryant, who shot 66 percent in the first half, finished with 38
points, six rebounds and five assists. James led Cleveland with 29
points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
"This game had playoff intensity and it was good to see us
respond," James said.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 25 points and had seven rebounds for
the Cavaliers (38-29), who have won two straight after a three-game
skid. Lamar Odom scored 25 points and added eight rebounds and nine
assists for Los Angeles, which has lost four of five. Smush Parker
The Lakers (34-34) fell to .500 for the first time since March 1
and lead New Orleans by one game for the eighth playoff spot in the
"The game was in our hands," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
"We led for 46 minutes. It was a basic collapse by our team in the
Murray sparked the Cavaliers' 15-0 run in the final period. His
step-back 3-pointer started the burst and he repeatedly drove to
the basket, scoring 10 fourth-quarter points on layups.
"There was so much attention on LeBron as they tried to deny
him and to deny 'Z' down low," Murray said. "It opened up some
lanes for me."
The Cavaliers took their first lead, 92-91, on Ilgauskas' tip-in
with 3:19 left. James hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to cap
the 15-0 run and go up 95-91.
The Lakers weren't finished, though. Odom hit two free throws
and Bryant sank a 15-footer to tie it with 1:33 left.
The teams missed on their next two possessions each, then Bryant
fouled Murray with 3.4 seconds left. Murray missed the first free
throw and hit the second.
Bryant, who beat the Cavaliers in January with a go-ahead jumper
with 8.6 seconds remaining, couldn't do it again.
"I had a look," Bryant said. "It was a tough shot."
Jackson and Bryant were disappointed that Luke Walton didn't
call timeout instead of forcing the inbound pass.
"I think he got drawn into the play and didn't make the right
decision," Jackson said.
Walton said it wasn't just his pass that lost them the game.
"We blew another one," he said, noting Friday's loss to New
Jersey. "We've got to find a way to win these games or we're going
to be done April 19."
The Lakers led by as many as 18 in the first half, with Bryant
shooting 10-for-15 for 24 points and knocking down jumpers from all
over the court. Los Angeles took a 63-49 halftime lead on his
fadeaway 3-pointer with James in his face as the buzzer sounded.
"It was a great shot," said James shrugging. "You can't stop
a shot like that."
^Notes: The Lakers are 6-11 in games decided by four points or
fewer. ... James set the Cavaliers' single season record for free
throws made with 498, breaking Shawn Kemp's mark (493) during the
1999-2000 season. ... C Chris Mihm (right ankle sprain) and G Aaron
McKie (left quadriceps tendon) were inactive. ... F Devean George
played five minutes in his first action after missing six games
with a sprained right wrist.
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