ORLANDO, Fla. — Even the great ones need a wake-up call sometimes.
LeBron James used a heated exchange in the third period with unheralded forward Tobias Harris — and the subsequent double technical foul — to ignite his game and lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 98-89 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
James scored 29 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter when brought the Cavaliers back to life and put a quick end to any thoughts of a Magic upset.
The Magic (11-21) had led by 10 points in the second period and nine points in the third before James shifted the Cavaliers into a higher gear.
“I was in the chill mode before, but the chill mode was deactivated after that, absolutely,” James said. “I have zero problem with him (Harris). I don’t know what problem he has with me.”
The incident came with 5:27 remaining in the third after James had missed a 3-pointer and the Magic corralled the rebound. The two started talking, words grew heated and others separated the two when the technical was called.
“I know we got into a little talking, but that’s just part of the game,” Harris said. “I’m not going to back down from anyone. That’s my game.”
Neither would say afterward exactly what was said, or why they said it.
James immediately followed the incident with a steal and a 3-point play for the 65-64 lead.
“It might have fired him up a little bit,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “But LeBron came to play. He’s great all the time. He’s the best player in the world. It’s what he does. When he decides to lift us, he lifts us.”
James scored the last eight points for the Cavs in the final 3:08, making sure they held the lead.
Forward Kevin Love had 22 points and seven rebounds, although didn’t play in the fourth quarter when the game was won. The Cavs were smothering the Magic defensively without him, so he remained on the sideline.
Center Tristan Thompson added nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Reserve Dion Waiters contributed 17 points.
Harris had 16 points to lead the Magic. Evan Fournier scored 15. Victor Oladipo added 13 points and eight assists, and center Nikola Vucevic had 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Cavs (18-11) trailed for much of the game until James began to dominate late, hitting a three-point play for a 95-89 lead. James, who had 30 points on Thursday in a loss to the Miami Heat, added eight assists and five rebounds.
The Cavs were without point guard Kyrie Irving, who bruised a knee Thursday night in Miami. They already were without center Anderson Verejao, who is lost for the season after undergoing Achilles’ tendon surgery.
Cleveland looked sluggish until James took charge at the end. He started the fourth quarter on the bench with 14 points and the Cavs trailing by four. Guard Mike Miller hit his third 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 84-80 lead midway through the quarter. James and Thompson followed with consecutive three-point plays.
The Magic had played well in the first three periods, but they struggled for the second consecutive game in the fourth quarter when they scored just 14 points. Both Magic guard Oladip and Elfrid Payton finished with five turnovers.
“I don’t think we got tight down the stretch,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “How many possessions at the end of the game was the ball in LeBron’s hands and he made the play for himself, or for his teammates?”
Although each team scored 22 points in the third quarter, it was dominated by runs. Miller, who was scoreless in the first half, hit two 3-pointers early in the third quarter for 62-60 Cavs lead.
Forward Channing Frye and Fournier hit back-to-back 3-pointers as part of a 10-0 run late in the third quarter for a 74-65 Magic lead. The Cavs, though, closed the quarter with a 6-1 run.
The Magic led 53-49 at halftime after hitting 22 of 37 shots from the field (60 percent) and consistently outhustling the Cavs. Fournier made 4 of 5 shots from the field and had 12 points. Harris scored nine points and reserve center Dewayne Dedmon had eight at the intermission.
Reserve guard Ben Gordon sparked the Magic to start the second quarter when he scored seven points in 2:06. Love led all scorers in the first half with 17 points, including 13 in the first quarter. Waiters had 13 points in the second quarter, all after the Cavs had fallen behind 39-29.
James had 10 points and three assists at halftime but also had three turnovers and missed six of his 10 shots from the field.
NOTES: Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving missed his first game of the season with a bruised left knee that he sustained Thursday night in Miami. Irving tested the knee during pregame before making the decision. He was replaced by Matthew Dellavedova, the second-year guard from St. Mary’s (Calif.), who got his first start. … The Cavs also moved Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup instead of Shawn Marion, using him to defend Magic C Nikola Vucevic. … The Cavaliers handed the Magic their worst loss of the season (32 points) in Cleveland in November. … The Magic assigned rookie G Devyn Marble, who had played in only five games this season, to the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League. … The Cavs came into the game having beaten the Magic eight consecutive times, their longest current winning streak against any opponent. … Magic G Victor Oladipo played for the first time without the protective mask that he wore since returning Nov. 12 from a facial fracture.
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