James’ jumper clips Hornets

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OKLAHOMA CITY – LeBron James hit a jumper from the top of the key with 0.5 seconds left as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat New Orleans 103-101.

After P.J. Brown blocked James’ driving layup, Desmond Mason tied the game at 101 when he made one of two free throws with 5.8 seconds left.

Mason then had the task of guarding James off an inbounds pass from Flip Murray, but couldn’t stop him from elevating just inside the 3-point line for the game-winner.

Brown caught an inbounds pass from Speedy Claxton but couldn’t get a tying shot off before the buzzer.

With Cleveland already securing the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Hornets had much more at stake but the loss dropped New Orleans 31/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, who are tied for seventh place in the West. The Hornets have five games left.

Before the game, James said he wouldn’t have a problem with coach Mike Brown cutting back his minutes since the Cavs couldn’t move up or down in the playoff race. But when he was replaced by Eric Snow in a three-point game with 9:28 left, he shot a confused look at his coach.

James was out for less than 3 minutes and played heavily into the final outcome.

He made the second of two free throws to put Cleveland ahead 97-96 2:03 left, then attracted three defenders to free up Donyell Marshall for a 3-pointer to put Cleveland up by four.

Claxton answered with a jumper and Paul got the Hornets within 101-100 with two free throws with 30 seconds left before Mason tied it.

Playing in his 43nd minute, James then provided the difference.

Murray added 25 points and Marshall scored 16 for Cleveland, which was 11-for-18 from 3-point range. The Cavaliers have won 11 of their last 12 games.

Paul led New Orleans with 22 points, while West and Claxton added 14 apiece. New Orleans has lost two in a row.

With James off the floor for the first time, the Hornets scored nine straight points to take a 47-37 lead on Kirk Snyder’s 3-pointer from the left side. New Orleans led 63-52 at halftime after outrebounding Cleveland 25-12.

The Cavaliers scored the first nine points of the second half as the Hornets missed their first five straight shots. James drove for a layup to give Cleveland the lead and the Cavaliers started to pull away when Larry Hughes and Murray made back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 81-74.

Notes: Cavs C Zydrunas Ilgauskas missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. “If we were still struggling to get in the playoffs or to maintain the fourth seed, he could easily play if we wanted him to or if he wanted to,” Mike Brown said. … The Hornets signed forward Marcus Fizer, the MVP of the NBA Developmental League, to a second 10-day contract that will last through the end of the regular season. … Barry Switzer, who led Oklahoma to three NCAA titles and the Dallas Cowboys to one Super Bowl title, sat next to Hornets owner George Shinn at courtside. … Official Scott Foster left with 10:36 remaining with a pulled muscle in his right calf.

AP-ES-04-10-06 2254EDT

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