CLEVELAND (Ohio) • It was almost a carbon copy of LeBron James' buzzer-beating three against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.
While this was Game 5 of a first-round National Basketball Association (NBA) play-off series, the magnitude of the moment was no different. Cleveland were staring at the prospect of trailing 2-3 to Indiana but James had other ideas, his clutch play lifting the Cavaliers to a 98-95 win on Wednesday.
Game 6 is in Indiana today.
The 14-time All Star revelled in his game-winner, saying later that he "felt like a kid again" after a monstrous 44-point night during which he hit 14-of-24 field-goal attempts and all 15 of his free throws.
He also had 10 rebounds, eight assists and a huge blocked shot on the Pacers' final possession, but he was not called for goaltending.
"As a kid, you always have those 'three-two-one' moments. Being able to have one of those moments, that's what it kind of felt like," he added in a post-game interview.
"Felt like I was a kid all over again. Just playing basketball at my house, makeshift hoops and my socks as a basketball. Making the (swish) noise."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue felt it was just James doing what he does best, saying: "As soon as it left his hand, it looked perfect. Another big shot he made for us. We needed that."
LeBron James' shooting percentage, or 14 of 24 for a 44-point effort against Indiana in Game 5.
While James added to his lengthy play-off legacy, the Pacers were aggrieved by the play just before his decisive shot.
With the score tied at 95, guard Victor Oladipo, who had 12 points, drove down the left side of the lane, laid the ball off the glass before James swatted it away - a goaltending violation, which occurs when a defensive player interferes with a shot which is on its downward arc, or is on or over the rim.
But game officials did not call it and the play was not reviewable by replay under NBA rules.
Cleveland came up with the rebound with three seconds left, called timeout and set up a play for James to work his magic.
"Hit the backboard, then he blocked it," Oladipo said. "Replays, I guess you guys can see, it was a tough play at the time for him, but it was a goaltend. It's hard to even speak on it. It just sucks, honestly."
Team-mate Lance Stephenson concurred, saying it was "clearly a goaltending".
James simply brushed off the Pacers' complaints: "Of course I didn't think it was a goaltend. I try to make plays like that all the time."
The fact that his ensuing basket was a three-pointer would seem to make the goaltending question moot, but Oladipo rejected that logic.
"Give him credit where credit is due," he added. "The three was big-time. Definitely huge. But who's to say they even run that play? We don't know what happens. It's unfortunate that (the referees) missed that."
In Oklahoma, Russell Westbrook recorded 45 points as the Thunder posted a 107-99 victory over the Utah Jazz to cut their series lead to 3-2, while DeMar DeRozan poured in 32 points to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 108-98 win over the visiting Washington Wizards for a 3-2 series lead.
A 24-point showing by James Harden helped NBA top seeds the Houston Rockets top the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-104 on the road, completing a 4-1 series victory.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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