LeBron James muscled through traffic and dropped in a layup with 0.9 seconds left in overtime as the Cleveland Cavaliers moved closer to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 121-120 victory over the Washington Wizards last night in Cleveland.
With the Cavaliers down by 1, James, who finished with 45 points, took an inbounds pass with three seconds to go. After sliding past Antawn Jamison, James knifed inside of Michael Ruffin, Gilbert Arenas, and Brendan Haywood.
He rose in the lane and softly dropped in his layup, sending a sellout crowd of more than 20,000 into a frenzy.
Arenas, who matched James bucket for bucket and had 44 points, was way off with a desperation heave at the buzzer.
The victory gave the Cavaliers a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which returns to Washington for Game 6 tomorrow night.
Larry Hughes scored 24 points, Eric Snow had 18, including 6 in overtime, and Flip Murray added 12 for the Cavaliers, who blew a 7-point lead late in regulation and nearly gave up their home-court advantage for the second time in the series.
Jamison had 32 points, Caron Butler 20, and Antonio Daniels 13 for the Wizards, who stole a Game 5 at Chicago in the first round last year in the playoffs and nearly did it again.
James, who fouled out Jared Jeffries late in regulation, gave Butler his sixth personal foul with 25 seconds left. James made both free throws -- he went 17 for 18 from the line -- to give the Cavaliers a 119-118 lead.
But Arenas, who had 8 points in the overtime, was fouled on a drive to the hoop by Murray and made two free throws with 3.6 seconds left, setting up James's final shot.
''The last play," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said, shaking his head. ''What an aggressive drive. [James] knew we needed the basket. They ran three guys at him and he found a way to get to the rim and score the basket."
The last time two players scored 40 points in a playoff game was Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, when Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers had 48 and Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers had 44 in the 76ers' 107-101 overtime victory.
Pistons 122, Bucks 93 -- Richard Hamilton and Detroit advanced without breaking a sweat. Hamilton had a playoff-career-high 40 points and the host Pistons tied a franchise-playoff scoring record in the first quarter en route to a Game 5 victory.
Rasheed Wallace scored 22 points and keyed an 18-2 run after halftime for the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, who won the best-of-seven series and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Detroit will play the winner of the Cleveland-Washington series. The Pistons will take a day off and have at least a couple of practices before resuming their goal of winning a second title in three years.
''We really wanted to take care of business at home," Hamilton said. ''It was important for us to get some rest, and watch the other teams beat each other up."
Milwaukee's Michael Redd scored just 2 points while the Pistons pulled away with a dominating 39-point opening quarter. He finished with 23.
Chauncey Billups had 17 points and eight assists for the Pistons to help them finish with their highest total in the playoffs since scoring 145 against the Celtics in 1987.
''Offensively, they've gotten better, there's no doubt," Redd said. ''They're pushing it more than in the past three or four years. But their defense is going to win a championship for them."