Jamesí Triple-Double Leads Cavs Over Nets
Cleveland 91, New Jersey 85
CLEVELAND, Feb. 1 (Ticker) -- LeBron James struggled early but elevated his game late.
James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double of the season as the Cleveland Cavaliers posted their seventh consecutive victory, a 91-85 triumph over the New Jersey Nets.
"(The Nets) were extremely physical with (James)," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "They made him work for everything he got tonight. But he didn't just settle and try to score tonight. He obviously got it done defensively, on the boards, and by sharing the basketball."
"We could not go 0-3 on the season against these guys because this is a team we might meet in the playoffs," James said.
Cleveland opened the final period with an 8-0 run, capped by James' three-point play which gave the Cavs a 70-62 edge with 10:26 left. The Nets used a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to 76-75 with just over five minutes left, but James answered with a circus shot for a three-point play, pushing the lead back to four with 4:15 to go.
"(James) is tough. He attacks," New Jersey swingman Vince Carter said. "Regardless, I think we can defend a little better to try to make it tougher for him and make him give up the ball."
New Jersey drew within 85-81 on a 3-pointer by Richard Jefferson with 1:37 to play and had a chance to get closer when Jason Kidd stole the ball from Zydrunas Ilgauskas on Cleveland's ensuing possession.
However, instead of shooting the layup, Kidd attempted to draw a foul from James and missed the shot. James grabbed the rebound to secure his triple-double and the Cavs made six free throws down the stretch to seal it.
"I got a little contact but not enough, and I lost my concentration on trying to make the shot," Kidd said. "I was trying to be creative instead of getting the two points. I was thinking maybe we could get a little bit of momentum from a three-point play."
"I knew if (Kidd) saw me running after him, he'd try to slow down and get fouled," James said. "I shaded away from him trying not to get the and-one or a foul."
James finished 8-of-21 from the field and 10-of-12 from the line while Drew Gooden added 18 points for the Cavaliers, who held the Nets to 38 percent (29-of-77) shooting. Sasha Pavlovic added seven critical points in the final three minutes and finished with 14.
"I think with his game, (James) can be an Oscar Robertson type player and be able to go out there and average a triple-double for a season," Kidd said.
Carter scored 29 points and Jefferson had 19 points and six assists for the Nets, who forced 17 turnovers.
"(The Cavaliers) were probably just a step or two quicker," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "It wasn't for lack of effort, we just weren't able to make the plays. We shot 37 percent but still had a chance to win the game."