NBA.com Daily Confidential

LeBron James has always enjoyed playing the New Orleans Hornets. That's even more the case now that he gets to face Chris Paul.

James will try to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers (12-7) to their eighth straight win over the Hornets (9-10) when the teams meet at the Ford Center on Monday night.

The Cavaliers superstar has keyed the winning streak against the Hornets, averaging 27.3 points per game. He averaged 31.5 points against them last season and hit the winning shot with half a second left in a 103-101 victory at Oklahoma City on April 10.

The matchup with the Hornets is one that James looks forward to even more since Paul came into the league last season. Paul, who won the rookie of the year award, was James' teammate on the U.S. national team over the summer.

``It's always fun,'' James said. ``We had an exciting game last year in Oklahoma City. I was able to shake loose and hit the game-winner. Chris is a good friend of mine. I'm looking forward to going down there.''

James is looking to help Cleveland improve its play on the road, where it is 3-5. That's due in part to the play of James, who's averaging 5.8 assists while shooting 44 percent on the road compared to 7.5 assists per game and nearly 51 percent shooting at home.

It's unclear who will join James in the lineup Monday. Larry Hughes returned for Saturday's 107-75 victory over Indiana and scored eight points in 24 minutes off the bench after missing 10 games due to a sprained right ankle.

Coach Mike Brown has started rookies Shannon Brown and Daniel Gibson in Hughes' absence, and is not ready to commit to a return for Hughes.

``It was the first time he's been back in the in a month, I think,'' Brown said. ``It's going to take some time for him to get his rhythm offensively, get rhythm defensively, and get used to the pace of the game.''

Cleveland was also without leading rebounder Drew Gooden for the first time, as the forward was out after injuring his left groin trying to dunk during pregame warmups.

Anderson Varejao received his first start in place of Gooden and scored 13 points.

New Orleans has also been hampered by injuries and has played without David West and Peja Stojakovic for the last six games.

The Hornets have won just once in that span and are back home after a 101-80 loss at Golden State on Saturday. They've scored 80 points or fewer in five of their last seven games and are averaging a Western Conference-low 91.6 points per game.

``Guys are getting wide-open shots and missing,'' Hornets coach Byron Scott said. ``On the other end, we're contesting shots and they're making them. So right now if you look at our team, we're not a very good basketball team.''

Desmond Mason scored a season-high 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting, but no other Hornets starter made half of his shots.

New Orleans is 5-2 against Eastern Conference foes this season.


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