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Healthy Cavaliers Host Hurting Sonics
Posted Dec 15 2006 4:21PM
The Cleveland Cavaliers have maintained one of the best records in the Eastern Conference despite playing without their original starting lineup for much of the past month.
They expect to be even better now that they're healthy.
The Cavaliers (13-8) will have their opening-night lineup for the second straight game after a long stretch without it when they host the Seattle SuperSonics on Friday.
Guards Larry Hughes and Eric Snow, forwards LeBron James and Drew Gooden, and center Zydrunas Ilgauskas started together for the first time in 13 games in Cleveland's 104-101 win over Charlotte on Wednesday.
That lineup was responsible for Cleveland's 6-2 start.
``Just having the whole team healthy for the first time in a while is important,'' James told the team's official Web site. ``It's important to have our whole team back. Now we know what kind of ball team we are going to be.''
Hughes, who made his first start in his third game back after missing 10 with a sprained right ankle, scored 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting and made a key steal and two free throws late to secure the win Wednesday.
Hughes had totaled only 17 points in two games off the bench after returning. He averaged 13.8 points before the injury and is still the team's second-leading scorer behind James (26.4 ppg).
Gooden, who missed the two previous games with a strained left groin after trying to outdunk James in warmups, also had 16 points Wednesday.
Cleveland went 6-6 without its original starting five together, but the only team in the East with a better record this season is Orlando. James, Ilgauskas and Snow have started all 21 games this season.
``Everybody needs to get into a rhythm, get into a flow, so we can win some games,'' Hughes said.
Seattle (10-13) is still waiting for its best player to return. After winning their first three games without Ray Allen, the Sonics will try to avoid a third straight loss.
Allen, who is averaging 25.3 points, will miss his sixth straight game with a bone contusion in his right ankle.
Despite double-doubles from Rashard Lewis and second-year center Johan Petro, the SuperSonics matched their second-lowest scoring night of the season in a 99-84 road loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
``We were hesitant in the first quarter when we caught the ball for some reason,'' said Seattle coach Bob Hill, whose team was outscored 31-18 in the opening period.
The SuperSonics also played without backup point guard Earl Watson due to a back injury. Watson, who had a season-high 20 points in a loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday, will be a game-time decision.
Seattle, which averaged 104.3 points in the three wins without Allen, has averaged 88.5 in its last two losses. The Sonics shot 42.0 percent Wednesday, their worst shooting performance in seven games.
Lewis, who 18 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday, has not stepped up his offensive game in Allen's absence. Lewis' season average of 22.6 points per game is the same as it was before the injury to Allen.
Lewis scored 26 points in a 115-108 win over Cleveland in the last meeting on Dec. 2, 2005. Seattle has won three of the last four meetings.
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