Arguably the best closer in the game, LeBron James failed to deliver when it mattered most.
James scored 37 points but missed a pair of free throws with 4.2 seconds left in overtime, and the Houston Rockets held on for a 105-103 victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, in a physically intense playoff-type matchup.
“There is no excuse, I didn’t come through,” said James, who shot 15-of-35 from the floor and just 3-of-11 from the stripe.
“Guys put us in position to win, but I missed the two biggest free throws of the game to put us up with seconds on the clock. I failed my teammates.”
League top scorer James Harden had 33 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Terrence Jones netted 19 for Houston (41-18), winners of five in a row.
“It was a good, physical, hard-fought game,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “It was kind of a gritty win for us.”
In other matches the visiting LA Clippers beat Chicago Bulls 96-86.
Chris Paul had 28 points and 12 assists, while league top rebounder DeAndre Jordan grabbed 26, helping the Clippers (39-21) beat the injury-decimated Bulls.
Montenegrin rookie big man Nikola Mirotic scored a career-high 29 for Chicago (37-23), playing without Derrick Rose (right knee surgery) Taj Gibson (left ankle sprain) and losing All-Star Jimmy Butler (left elbow sprain) early in the third quarter.
Portland Trail Blazers also had a win on the road, downing the Sacramento Kings 110-99.
Damian Lillard dropped in 31 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 with 15 rebounds, and the visiting Trail Blazers (39-19) beat the Kings for a third straight victory.
Rudy Gay scored 24 points for Sacramento (20-37), playing without All-Star centre DeMarcus Cousins (ankle sprain and bruised hip) for the second straight game.
Indiana Pacers had too much in the tank for the Philadelphia 76ers with a 94-74 victory.
George Hill scored 17 points, Roy Hibbert had 14 with 15 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Pacers (25-34) used a 17-3 closing run to beat the visiting Sixers (13-46) for their eighth win in the last 10 games.
Also Charlotte Hornets beat Orlando Magic 98-83, Oklahoma City Thunder edged the LA Lakers 108-101 and New Orleans Pelicans enjoyed the same margin over Denver Nuggets 99-92.