EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -
LeBron James had 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved one victory from their first conference finals appearance in 15 years by beating the New Jersey Nets, 87-85, last night.
Larry Hughes added 19 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavs, who put themselves in position to wrap up the best-of-seven series at home tomorrow night.
Cleveland made the last of its two conference finals appearances in 1992. The Cavs fell one win short last year, dropping the final two games to Detroit in the Eastern semifinals.
Cleveland will be safe this time unless the Nets become the ninth NBA team to erase a 3-1 deficit. And that won't happen unless Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson shoot better than they did last night.
Carter had 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, but shot 6 for 23 from the field. Kidd wasted his career playoff-high 17-rebound performance by shooting 2 for 13 and scoring five points, while Jefferson had 15 points but was only 3 of 12 from the field.
New Jersey had only three field goals in the fourth quarter and couldn't even get off a shot that would have tied it. With Eric Snow defending him, Carter lost the ball out of bounds with 1.9 seconds left and the Nets trailing by two.
Mikki Moore kept New Jersey in it with a career playoff-best 25 points. He had two of the Nets' three baskets in the fourth quarter, when the Big Three were a combined 1-for-13.
But Moore battled foul trouble, even picking up a flagrant for sending Sasha Pavlovic to the floor in the third quarter and he was on the bench for much of the final period, when the Nets couldn't manage another field goal after his three-point play gave them a 76-75 lead with 6:58 to play.
Meanwhile, James bounced back after he was held to 18 points, his lowest in a playoff game, in New Jersey's Game 3 victory. He took only 16 shots, and even the Nets were wondering if he would come out looking for his own offense this time.
James attempted, and made, one shot in the first quarter, but started quickly in the second, scoring eight points in the first 21/2minutes and giving the Cavs a 27-24 lead when he powered his way to a three-point play on the fast break. But he came out moments later, and the Nets scored seven in a row in the brief time he was on the bench.
Suns 104, Spurs 98
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Steve Nash had 24 points and 15 assists and Amare Stoudamire scored 26 points as Phoenix came back from 11 points down to stun San Antonio and knot their playoff series at two games apiece. Tim Duncan had 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Tony Parker netted 23 for the Spurs.
Colangelo voted top executive. Bryan Colangelo, the Toronto Raptors' president and general manager, was chosen as the NBA's executive of the year for the second time Monday. He also won the award with the Phoenix Suns in 2004-05.
His father, Jerry Colangelo, won the award a record four times (1976, 1981, 1989 and 1993) after becoming general manager of the expansion Suns in 1968.
"I learned a lot from my father," Colangelo said. "I must have missed the part about going to a warm place."
The Raptors tied a franchise record with 47 wins and captured its first Atlantic Division title before losing to the New Jersey Nets in the first round of the playoffs.
Colangelo, who spent 15 years with Phoenix before moving to Toronto, received 20 votes to nine for Houston Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson, who finished second in the voting of 45 league executives.
The award, presented by the Sporting News, comes after Toronto's Sam Mitchell was honored as coach of the year last month.