CLEVELAND - Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson has only played in 93 NBA games, but he has a clear understanding of how to win close ones.
"At the end, it`s just a matter of getting it to 23 and letting him get the job done for us," he said.
And that, the wine and gold did on Saturday afternoon.
LeBron James - a.k.a. No. 23 - took over the game down the stretch and recorded his third triple-double of the young season (third in nine games) as Cleveland rallied for a 111-108 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
James collected 37 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in 45 minutes, providing big play after big play as the Cavaliers erased a
12-point deficit to win their second straight game.
James` 13th career triple-double was not only one of his more memorable performances, it somehow reduced a 41-point explosion by Toronto forward Chris Bosh to a footnote.
"LeBron gets a triple-double and it seems effortless," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "As a coach or as a fan, you try not to take it for granted, but he comes up with the numbers all the time.
"If there is a guy that can average a triple-double (for a season), then it`s got to be LeBron James."
On the year, "King James" is averaging an NBA-best 31.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists. He also ranks among the league`s top 30 in minutes (41.2), steals (1.92) and blocked shots (1.62).
Against Toronto, though, it was his playmaking that loomed largest as James set up his teammates for numerous wide-open perimeter shots.
Cleveland made a season-high 13 3-pointers on a team regulation-record 30 attempts. Damon Jones led the way by hitting 5-of-9 off the bench, while Gibson was 4-of-8.
Six of the Cavaliers` threes came in the third quarter - Jones and James had two apiece - when they took their first lead of the game at 73-72.
"When we move the basketball, we have so many guys and so many weapons, we can knock them down," said Jones, who scored 17 points and was on the court for all but 35 seconds in the final period. "That`s what you call basketball. That`s the way basketball is supposed to be played."
Gibson also finished with 17 points, while Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds before fouling out. The hosts resoundingly won the battle of the boards 47-28.
Cleveland built a 104-95 lead with 2:19 left prior to losing Ilgauskas, but nearly squandered it as Bosh and former Cavaliers forward Jason Kapono scored all 27 of Toronto`s fourth-quarter points.
Kapono thrice pulled the Raptors within a point in the last minute by making dramatic hoops, but James answered each time with two points of his own.
Toronto had a final chance to tie the score at the buzzer, but Jose Calderon`s half-court try was well off the mark.
"It`s not really as easy as it looks," said James, whose second half included 21 points, eight rebounds and seven helpers. "I`m just going out there and trying to do whatever it takes for us to win a ballgame.
"We`ll see what happens (down the road, but) I`ve done a good job this far."
Sasha Pavlovic chipped in seven points and eight second-half rebounds for Cleveland (7-6), which plays the Pacers today in Indianapolis.
Calderon matched his NBA best with 13 assists and had seven points for Toronto, while Andrea Bargnani added seven points. Bosh also equaled his career high in scoring and collected four boards and five assists.
"You just tip your hat, they made shots when they needed to make them," said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, whose squad slipped to 6-7. "I liked a lot of things we did. This is just one of those nights that you got beat."
James became the second player in NBA history to average 39.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 9.4 assists over a five-game span (Nov. 14 to present). He joins Hall of Fame guard Oscar Robertson, who averaged 40.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 10.4 assists from Dec. 26-30, 1960.
*Guard Larry Hughes (left leg bone bruise), forward Donyell Marshall (sprained right wrist) and forward Cedric Simmons (sprained left ankle) remain sidelined.
* Saturday marked the first of 14 straight contests against Eastern Conference opponents for Cleveland. The unusual 1 p.m. tip time wasn`t for television reasons, but to allow the Lake Erie Monsters to play an evening home game.
* The Cavaliers are 4-3 on the road and 5-4 against Western Conference teams.
The Raptors were without starting point guard T.J. Ford (arm stinger) for the second straight game, along with center Rasho Nesterovic (sprained right ankle) and forward Jorge Garbajosa (sprained left ankle).
* Toronto has made at least one 3-pointer in an NBA-record 709 straight games.
* Raptors forward Jamario Moon is a 27-year-old rookie who previously played at Meridian (Miss.) Junior College, with the Harlem Globetrotters, and in the CBA, USBL, NBDL, NBADL, ABA and WBA.
* Former Clevelander Chuck Swirsky is in his 10th season as Toronto`s play-by-play announcer, while ex-Cavaliers general manager Wayne Embry is the franchise`s senior basketball advisor.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.