Basketball: Hobbled LeBron James helps push Hawks to brink of play-off elimination

LeBron James (centre) of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket against (from left) Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore, and DeMarre Carroll of the Atlanta Hawks during the second half of their NBA Eastern Conference Finals game 3 at Quicken Loans Aren
LeBron James (centre) of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket against (from left) Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore, and DeMarre Carroll of the Atlanta Hawks during the second half of their NBA Eastern Conference Finals game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, on May 24, 2015. The Cavaliers earned a 114-111 overtime win over the Hawks. -- PHOTO: EPA

CLEVELAND (REUTERS) - LeBron James was exhausted and banged-up, but he came through in the clutch as the Cleveland Cavaliers earned a thrilling overtime 114-111 win over the Atlanta Hawks to take a strangle hold of the National Basketball Association's Eastern Conference finals.

James missed his first 10 shots in the game, but soon found his range and scored 15 points in the third quarter alone.

"Started out the game just out of character, out of rhythm. But I had to make a difference," James said in an on-court interview.

He appeared to hit the wall in the fourth, missing shots as he favoured a tender left ankle, and at one point appearing to consider leaving the game.

The Hawks took advantage to tie the game with just over five minutes left and force overtime.

But James sank a three-pointer in the final minute of overtime just after Jeff Teague had given the Hawks a two-point lead with his own three-pointer.

James then all but put it away with a layup with 13 seconds remaining to widen the lead to three points.

The Hawks' Shelvin Mack then missed two three-point attempts in the closing seconds.

James finished with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists and passed Karl Malone for sixth all-time in play-off scoring.