CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 3 (Ticker) -- LeBron James
Charlotte Bobcats asking, "Who was that masked man?"
Playing with a plastic face shield for the first time, James
scored 26 points to help the Cleveland Cavaliers defeat the
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"What mask?" Cleveland coach Paul Silas
joked. "He played a
normal game. I was just happy to see that it didn't seem to
have any effect at all."
James suffered a fractured cheekbone Wednesday when he was
elbowed by Houston Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo
. Doctors say
the injury could take up to eight weeks to fully heal.
"There was no doubt in my mind that he would play," Silas said.
"He loves to play. He's passionate about the game and only
something terrible would keep him out, not a broken bone. The
mask didn't seem to bother him at all."
After scoring just two points in the first quarter, James had 13
in the second, when he helped Cleveland go on an 18-4 run and
take a 47-40 lead.
"I feel pretty good," James said. "The mask felt warm at times.
But I just wanted to go out and play my game. I tried not to
let it affect me. I can't afford to be out there timid."
capped a 14-0 third-quarter run by taking the ball
behind his back for a one-handed dunk, giving the Cavaliers a
68-54 edge. Gooden had 19 points and 14 rebounds.
"We were just attacking and getting our stops on defense,"
Gooden said. "We were challenging shots down low and getting
the rebounds and that's what opened up the game for us."
Cleveland held Charlotte to 31 second-half points while
recording a 54-35 rebounding edge. The Cavaliers held the
Bobcats to 32 percent (20-of-63) shooting in the final three
quarters and improved to 3-0 in the season series.
"Coach got on us," James added. "It's about lock-down. We
weren't pressuring the ball. We weren't getting up on them like
we normally do. They went (seven minutes) without scoring and
that's all about defense."
"I hate to keep making it simple, but we had nothing
energy-wise, especially our first unit," Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff
said. "They couldn't get anything done."
Charlotte rookie Emeka Okafor
's streak of 19 games with a
double-double ended with 12 points and six rebounds. Cleveland
was the last team to hold Okafor without a double-double on
"I took it as a challenge to prevent Okafor from having a
double-double," Gooden said. "He is a good player and I knew I
had to keep a body on him at all times."
"(Gooden) was real aggressive out there and came with a lot of
energy," Okafor said. "It was just one of those days, you know.
I felt kind of off tonight. (The streak) was going to come to
an end eventually, so of course I would have liked to extend it
a little bit."
scored 19 points off the bench to lead five players
in double figures for the Bobcats.