WASHINGTON • LeBron James sank an astonishing three-pointer to force overtime and Kyrie Irving sparkled late as the Cleveland Cavaliers outlasted Washington 140-135 on Monday in an epic National Basketball Association thriller.
A game featuring play-off-level intensity from tip-off to last shot saw the champions rally in overtime after James had fouled out, while the Wizards served notice that they will be a formidable foe in the play-offs.
"It was an instant classic - a great basketball game by two really good teams," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after his side's 17-game home win streak snapped.
No exaggeration there. Both teams shot more than 50 per cent from the field and made impressive plays all over the court.
On the same night the New York Daily News reported unnamed sources saying James was pushing for the Cavs to trade Kevin Love to the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony, Love scored 39 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, making major plays late to finish off the Wizards.
"Thirty-nine and 12? We're going to trade him tonight," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters with a grin after the game before adding, "He's not going anywhere."
LeBron James made a game-tying or go-ahead three in the final five seconds of a fourth quarter or overtime for just the fourth time. He entered the game three for 32 on such shots.
Monday marked the fifth time in 1,034 career regular-season games that James was fouled out.
James said of the report: "That's trash."
With the Wizards leading 118-117 and 12 seconds remaining, James drove the length of the court but missed a layup, setting up two John Wall free throws for a three-point Washington lead with 3.4 seconds remaining.
"It was a point-blank layup and I missed it," James said. "I was blessed to (get) in position where I could make up for it."
Love hurled a long pass to James along the right sideline and the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player banked in a shock fadeaway three-pointer over Washington's Bradley Beal to deadlock the game at 120-120.
"LeBron made a heck of a shot that he would probably make one out of a million times," Wall said.
James, who also made three consecutive three-pointers for Cleveland late in regulation, fouled out seconds into overtime trying to defend a shot by Beal, who scored a game-high 41 points, the last of them on a three-pointer that put Washington ahead 133-131.
Irving answered with a baseline jumper and a three-pointer to put the Cavaliers ahead to stay.
"(We won) by executing at a high level," said the guard. "I'm glad we pulled it out - great win."
James scored 32 points and passed out a career-best 17 assists, Irving scored 11 of his 23 points in overtime and Tristan Thompson added 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Otto Porter scored 25 points for the Wizards. Wall had 22 points and 12 assists.
"I think they respect us. That's the most important thing," Wall added. "Throughout the game LeBron said, 'You all are playing some hell of a (game of) basketball right now'."
The Cavaliers improved to 35-15, best in the Eastern Conference, while Washington fell to fourth in the East at 30-21 - positions that would set up a possible second-round play-off meeting between them.
"We're definitely going to see them down the line," Beal said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS