Final Dime: Cavaliers 105, Hornets 92


Antawn Jamison doubled-up with 11 points and 11 boards in Wednesday's win.
Layne Murdoch
NBAE/Getty Images
1. Down in New Orleans, the Cavaliers were excited to welcome back their long-time starting center. But on Wednesday night, it was their current starting pivotman that did much of the damage.

The young gun who’s been manning the middle while the Wine and Gold have waited for their veteran bigs to return – J.J. Hickson – was dominant in the post on Wednesday, going 9-for-11 from the floor for 20 points as the Cavaliers won their eighth straight, 105-92, over the Hornets in the Big Easy.

After re-signing with the Wine and Gold on Tuesday, Zydrunas Ilgauskas made his first appearance with the team since February 11. And while it was obvious that the 12-year vet was still shaking off some rust, his teammates, including Hickson, remain in full-stride – winning their 14th game in the last 15 decisions.

“I’m playing defense better and I’m doing more on offense than just catching the ball and going up,” said J.J. “I learned a lot last year on the bench, and worked with Chris Jent on my footwork, because you can’t out jump everyone in the NBA.”

Hickson was huge, but he was still a complementary piece to LeBron James – who was equally unstoppable, leading everyone with 38 points on 15-for-22 shooting. The league’s top fourth-quarter scorer notched 13 of his 38 in the final period, adding a game-high nine assists, six boards and a steal to his gaudy stat-line.

The two clubs went toe-to-toe in the opening stanza, with Cleveland leading by just four at intermission. But the Wine and Gold dropped a 35-point quarter on New Orleans and led by 16 after three. The Hornets wouldn’t cut Cleveland’s lead to single digits for the remainder of the evening, as the Cavs cruised to their 57th win.

Antawn Jamison doubled-up with 11 points and a game-high 11 boards and Delonte West came off Cleveland’s bench to score 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter – going 7-for-11 overall in 25 minutes of action.

The Cavaliers shot 57 percent as a team and thoroughly worked New Orleans in the paint – 58-36.

Big Z scored just a single point on Wednesday, splitting a pair of free throws in just 17 minutes of work.

“Z knows the system, but being out a month is a long time and to get back out on the court was good,” offered LeBron. “This is the best system for him, and he’s going to get to the point where he need him.”

The Large Lithuanian will get his first practice with the club on Thursday in San Antonio, where the Cavaliers will wrap up their Western Conference road schedule one night later against the Spurs.

2. With Wednesday’s win, the Cavaliers are now 27-2 in the month of March over the past two seasons.

3. For the third straight season, LeBron James has averaged at least 30 ppg on the road – leading the NBA at 30.6 this season. Since 2007-08, James is averaging 31.0 ppg in 113 road contests. Kobe Bryant is next at 28.3.

4. The Cavaliers are now 32-1 when J.J. Hickson exceeds his scoring average – 11-1 since he’s been inserted as the starting center.

Following Wednesday’s win, a reporter asked LeBron about Hickson’s growth. As always, the MVP responded with a straight-up answer. “J.J.’s learning,” said James. “And if he continues to do what I tell him to do, he’ll be successful.”

5. Zydrunas Ilgauskas suited up for Cleveland the first time in a month-and-a-half. He kept himself in shape, training in both Avon Lake and Manhattan, but naturally looked a little rusty on Wednesday. He was 0-of-2 from the floor with three boards and a pair of assists.

6. The biggest ovation of the night at New Orleans Arena came when members of the World Champion Saints – including Tracy Porter, Robert Meacham, and former Buckeyes Will Smith and Malcom Jenkins – were introduced on their jumbotron.

7. It’s no secret that LeBron is big Buckeyes fan and, this past preseason, he talked about contacting quarterback, Terrell Pryor, to offer words of encouragement. He was asked on Wednesday if he’s contacted any members of the basketball team, headed for the Sweet 16 this weekend.

“I don’t have any direct contact with those guys, and I wish I did,” said James. “It seems like they’re doing a great job and Evan (Turner) and Dave (Lighty) are playing unbelievable basketball. I’m one of those guys who, any words of advice or anything that they need – especially to talk about the game of basketball or life in general – I’m not hard to find.”

8. For the Cavaliers, winners of eight straight, this is the fourth time this season that they’ve had a win streak of at least six games. Cleveland is now a league-best 31-7 in 2010.

9. The Cavaliers are now 22-6 against the Western Conference, including 9-5 away from
The Q.

10. Wednesday’s matchup with New Orleans was Coach Mike Brown’s 400th game. With a record of 268-132, he’s already surpassed Mike Fratello (248 wins) and currently only trails Lenny Wilkens (316) and Bill Fitch (304) for most in franchise history. His .670 regular season winning percentage is second among active head coaches to only Phil Jackson (288-112, .720).