James in pivotal role as Cavs hold off Grizzlies

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The fourth quarter has belonged to LeBron James all season, and Saturday was no different.

He scored 15 of his game-high 34 points in the final quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers' 116-111 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

He made the Cavs' final 13 points in a game that was too close for comfort against a Grizzlies team (7-15) that have lost 11 straight games - the worst stretch in the National Basketball Association (NBA) this season.

Cleveland (16-7), their rocky start to the season a distant memory with their 11th win in a row, strengthened their hold on second place in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Celtics (20-4).

The Celtics became the first team this season to reach 20 wins with a 116-111 home victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

"I've been in a lot of big games, regular season and post-season, in the Finals where you have to come through for your team-mates and I just tried to be as close as possible late in the game," said three-time NBA champion James.

"Tonight was another one of those opportunities for me and I was able to come through for my team. It's an honour for me to even be able to have 14 guys and they're looking at me personally like, 'OK, it's your time'."

James entered the game averaging 9.3 points in the fourth quarter, and it was his jumper with five seconds left that sealed the win for Cleveland.

Tyreke Evans had 31 points and 12 assists for Memphis, who fired coach David Fizdale on Monday. Marc Gasol added 27 points and six rebounds.

"We're not here for moral victories, but you have to give these guys a ton of credit for the way they competed tonight", said Grizzlies interim coach J. B. Bickerstaff.

"That effort there tonight beats 90 per cent of the teams in this league on their home court. Unfortunately for us, they got a guy over there who is pretty good."

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue praised the team effort.

"We just kept our composure, kept playing," he said, "and Bron took us home down the stretch."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2017, with the headline 'James in pivotal role as Cavs hold off Grizzlies'. Print Edition | Subscribe