CLEVELAND -- For a team that seemed to be falling apart heading into Wednesday's game, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers did a nice job of coming together when it mattered most in a 140-138 overtime win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As usual, it was James who saved the day, making a block on Jimmy Butler in the waning seconds to keep the game tied, then hitting a jumper over Butler at the buzzer to win it.
"I knew [Butler] was going to go iso once we made the switch on our rookie Cedi [Osman]," James said of the final sequence. "So, just trying to keep my weakside awareness. I was able to get the block and keep it in bounds, which allowed us to get that play.
"Coach [Tyronn] Lue called up a great play, Jeff Green gave me a heck of a pass, and I just trusted my instincts and let it go."
James paced the Cavs all night, going off for his ninth triple-double of the season with 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds, while J.R. Smith provided a much-needed 20 points, setting an early tone for a Cavs team that was embarrassed in a Tuesday night loss to the Orlando Magic.
"It was a great win. We needed this after that tough night in Orlando," James said. "Our guys stuck with it even though [the Timberwolves] were shooting the heck out of the ball. They shot 58 percent from the field, but we were still able to win."
Neither the Timberwolves nor the Cavs had much interest in playing defense Wednesday, as both teams seemingly got any shot they wanted. They set an NBA record with a combined 40 3-pointers (on 74 attempts), but James and the Cavs did just enough in the final minute to secure the win.
The Cavs needed this win in a bad way given how the past month has unfolded. They entered Wednesday having lost 13 out of 19 since Christmas Day and repeatedly have found themselves in the headlines amid talk of unrest behind the scenes. As always in the NBA, the only real cure for quieting negative noise over the course of a long season is finding ways to win. Whether this victory helps get the Cavs back on track remains to be seen, but James offered yet another reminder of just how dominant he can be when he wants to take over a game and pull his team across the finish line.
After James hit the winner, the sellout crowd at Quicken Loans Arena went crazy as he happily waved his arms in celebration.
"It's big for camaraderie," Lue said. "When you make a big shot like that and the whole team's running around the floor chest-bumping, that's a great sign.
"That's how we've got to be. I think we've got to enjoy the game more. I know there's a lot of talk and stuff out there media-wise, but all in all, we live a great life. We've just got to have fun and enjoy the game of basketball, something we've all loved to do since birth. Lay it all on the line, have fun and then live with the results."
The finish capped a frenetic offensive night for both teams. The Cavs also can take heart in the fact that their bench outscored the Timberwolves' bench 43-31, providing a solid lift in a game in which James played 48 minutes.
James' fifth career buzzer-beater (including playoffs) spoiled Butler's huge night, which included 35 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns also had a big night with 30 points (6-for-6 from deep) and 10 rebounds.
"He's a great player and there's a reason why he's regarded as one of the best players to play this game," Towns said of James. "He has a great quickness, got great speed, has skill, obviously is a big man, so he's got a lot of things going his way. And when he was having those kinds of nights like tonight -- Jimmy played amazing defense on him -- but he was having one of those nights where the rim looked like an ocean to him."
The Timberwolves hope to bounce back quickly on Friday as they take on a Chicago Bulls team that has lost seven in a row. It will mark the first time former Bulls Butler and Taj Gibson face off against their former team at the United Center.