CLEVELAND, Dec. 21 (Ticker) --
With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the verge
of blowing a big lead for the third straight game, LeBron James
James had 26 points and 12 assists and helped turn back a rally
as the Cavaliers held on for a 107-97 victory over the Minnesota
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"When we need it, (James) can provide it," Cavaliers coach Paul
Silas said. "That's the mark of a quality player."
The Cavaliers had lost two in a row, squandering a 10-point
halftime lead Thursday at Detroit and a 15-point fourth-quarter
bulge in Saturday's home overtime loss to Boston. In that
contest, James scored just two points in the fourth quarter and
admitted his team played "tight" as the offense sputtered.
This game seemed to follow a similar script as Cleveland led by
16 points early in the final period before Minnesota began a
comeback. But James, who turns 20 on December 30, wasn't going
to let that storyline repeat itself.
"I passed up a lot of shots that I know I should be taking in
the game against Boston," James said. "But, tonight I was
aggressive, I was attacking, and our offense had a good flow."
Seven straight points by Troy Hudson
cut the deficit to 83-74
before James sank a jumper from the right corner over
. A 3-pointer by Hudson and a jumper by Szczerbiak
made it 85-79, but James hit a driving 10-footer to again stall
When Eddie Griffin
drilled a 3-pointer to make it 87-82, James
drove strong around superstar Kevin Garnett
and drew a foul.
His free throw and two more by Jeff McInnis
made it 90-82 with
5:22 to play.
Down the stretch, James added a free throw and zipped a pass
through a zone to Drew Gooden
for a dunk and a 99-88 lead with
"We talked about it after the (Boston) game and we talked about
it yesterday in practice and the guys responded," Silas said.
"We cannot walk the ball up the court and become tight. And
that's what we did in the Boston game."
Asked if James raises his level of play against the league's
marquee teams and elite players such as Garnett, Silas replied,
"I think so. Absolutely. He loves to play against quality
"We played a great game tonight from the first quarter through
the fourth quarter," James added.
had 25 points and nine rebounds and McInnis
scored 21 points for Cleveland, which had lost its last four
meetings with Minnesota but improved to 10-2 at home, the best
mark in the Eastern Conference, and 6-3 against Western
"It's important for us to establish (Ilgauskas) early," McInnis
said. "And the rest of us just fit in. I took it upon myself
to be aggressive tonight."
Led by James' 10-of-18 shooting, the Cavs shot 53 percent
(39-of-74) from the field and had 28 assists.
Garnett had 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the
Timberwolves, who played without Latrell Sprewell
. The swingman
suffered a foot injury in Friday's win over the Los Angeles
"We looked too much for our own shots instead of moving the
ball," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "You look at McInnis,
James and Ilgauskas, and (the Cavaliers) have three positions
where they can really score at. Other guys know how to play off
"We really didn't shoot the ball like we know we can, and, at
the same time, our defense wasn't really established," Garnett