Final Dime: Cavaliers 97, Kings 90
LeBron James led everyone with 34 points in Sunday's win.
David Liam Kyle
With 4:02 remaining in the first quarter, the franchise’s all-time games-played leader entered the contest to a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at The Q – cheering his name and holding up “Z” posters. Moments later, the two-time All-Star rewarded the cheering throng, scoring his first points on a put-back to end the quarter.
The game itself was probably closer than what the Cavaliers would have liked, but the Wine and Gold still returned to their winning ways – taking the 97-90 decision over Sacramento on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.
“I haven’t been nervous before a basketball game in a long time,” smiled Z, following the win. “From the time I woke up, I just wanted to get here and start playing because it’s been a long time. We got a win so it was a good day.”
Four Cavaliers notched double-figures, led by LeBron James’ 34 points. The reigning MVP went 13-for-22 from the floor, adding eight assists, seven boards and three steals. James netted 23 of his game-high 34 in the second half.
Following the game, LeBron focused his attention on his longtime teammate and friend.
“We laughed and joked that it was the second-most anticipated comeback besides when Jordan retired,” quipped James. “These fans and Z have something they cherish in one another and it was good to see the fans really appreciate him coming back.”
The Wine and Gold led throughout Sunday’s game, but the shorthanded Kings never let them relax. Led by Beno Udrih – who notched his first career triple-double – the Kings were within a point of Cleveland as late as the 7:51 mark in the fourth quarter. But LeBron canned a pair of three-pointers in the final three minutes to put the victory on ice.
Antawn Jamison – the player acquired in the trade that temporarily sent Z to Washington – followed up with 26 points. After scoring 18 points in the second quarter in Friday’s loss, he tallied 12 of his 26 in the second on Sunday. Jamison was 11-for-21 from the field and led Cleveland with nine boards.
J.J. Hickson and Anthony Parker added 10 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who notched their 58th win of the season with just nine games to play. Delonte West and Leon Powe joined Z with four points apiece off Cleveland’s bench.
The Cavaliers shot 51 percent as a team, but committed 17 turnovers and were outrebounded by an undersized Kings team. Cleveland still managed the win and reduced their Magic Number in the East to “3.”
Cleveland’s next four foes are Eastern Conference playoff teams, beginning with Wednesday’s night battle with the Bucks.
2. The Cavaliers have now won 28 straight games over teams with a sub-.500 record and are 33-3 against losing teams on the season.
3. With his 17th point, forward Antawn Jamsion registered his 17,000th point as a pro. He’s one of only 12 active players on that list, which includes future Hall of Famers, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan.
4. Anderson Varejao missed Sunday’s game with a sore left hamstring. The Wild Thing left Friday’s game in San Antonio just before half and was a late scratch against Sacramento.
5. On Sunday, the Cavaliers closed out the Western Conference portion of their schedule with a 23-7 (.767) record. Cleveland finished the season 14-1 (.933) against the West at The Q and has only dropped two home games in two years and for the second straight campaign, swept nine teams from the opposite conference.
6. Besting the West, Part II: The Cavaliers went a perfect 10-0 against the Pacific Division this year. Since its inception in 1970-71, no NBA team has ever gone undefeated against the entire Pacific Division in a season.
7. LeBron notched his league-leading 18th game of scoring 20-plus points after halftime.
8. The Cavaliers have now won eight straight over Sacramento.
9. Over the past two years, no team bounces back better than the Cavaliers. Including Sunday’s victory, Cleveland is an NBA-best 25-6 following a loss.
10. In 22 minutes of action, Big Z went an economical 2-for-5 from the floor in his home return. He did lead both squads with three blocked shots. After the game, Ilgauskas was noticeably moved by the day’s events.
“It was a little emotional the whole day,” said the veteran center. “The crowd was awesome as they always have been for me throughout the years. It was something that I will remember for a long time. People appreciate what I have done over the years and I appreciate what they have done for me and my family for the last 14 years.”