Cavaliers 105, Hornets 95
Antawn Jamison rubbed lotion into his forearms and let out a sigh of relief.
Finally, he remembered what it felt like to win again.
Jamison scored 18 points in his first start for Cleveland, LeBron James added 20 points and 13 assists and the Cavaliers escaped Tuesday with a 105-95 win over the New Orleans Hornets to end a three-game losing streak.
Cleveland hadn't won since acquiring Jamison from Washington at last week's trade deadline.
``It feels good to get one,'' Jamison said. ``It wasn't pretty, but those are the games you have to find a way to get a victory and we found a way to do that.''
New Orleans rookies Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison combined for 59 points, including a franchise-record 23 from Thornton in the second quarter.
Thornton finished with a career-high 37 points and set two other team records: most points by a rookie and most points off the bench. He hit his first five shots and 10 of 13 in the second as the Hornets scored 40 points in the quarter.
``It was really something,'' Hornets coach Jeff Bower said. ``He was aggressive coming off screens and confident when he went up to shoot.''
Thornton, a second-round pick out of LSU, entered sixth in the NBA among rookies with a 10.8-point scoring average. He nearly equaled his previous career high of 25 just in the second quarter.
``I would rather have a 'W,''' Thornton said. ``The records mean something, but they would mean more if we had won.''
Collison was just as good for New Orleans. Subbing for an injured Chris Paul, he scored 22 points and added 10 assists. Collison has averaged 23.7 points over his last seven games, while he and Thornton zipped around Cavs guards most of the night as Cleveland continues to struggle with its defense.
``We're definitely not where we want to be (defensively) right now,'' Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. ``Everybody feels it and we've got to fight through it.''
The Cavaliers' defense tightened when it had to in the fourth, particularly on Thornton. He didn't score over the final 8:27 and didn't have a basket from the floor over the final 9:55 as Delonte West and James did a better job of getting up in his face.
``Their defense really stiffened and made it hard for us to get clean looks,'' Bower said. ``They made it hard for some of our cuts to be run and to get the ball moved cleanly. They're an outstanding defensive team and they did a good job on those late possessions.''
Cleveland was struggling to put the Hornets away when Mo Williams, struggling to find his touch since returning from a shoulder injury, broke an 89-all tie with a 3-pointer with 4:13 to play. West followed with a block of Thornton, then came down to the other end and knocked down another 3 to stretch the Cavaliers' lead to 95-89.
James took it from there, hitting a 3-pointer and finishing a three-point play in the final two minutes to give Cleveland its first win since the All-Star break. James, though, certainly doesn't seem worried by Cleveland's recent struggles. Two of the three teams Cleveland lost to - Denver and Orlando - are in first place in their respective divisions.
``There's 82 games in the regular season. You'll have ups and downs,'' James said. ``We've had way more ups than downs. We have the best record in the Eastern Conference and one of the best records in the league. You can go two or three games where you don't win a game. That's not our worries.
Jamison started in place of J.J. Hickson in his first home game. Hickson missed the game with flulike symptoms, but Brown was leaning toward starting Jamison anyway after easing him into the rotation by bringing him off the bench for his first two games.
Jamison made an immediate impression, hitting his first shot of the game and later catching a no-look pass from James and finishing with a one-handed dunk, hanging on the rim long enough for teammate Anderson Varejao to wrap his arms around him and catch him in the third quarter.
``We lost (three) games in a row and thought it was the end of the world,'' Jamison said. ``I've never been part of that before. It's a good feeling. It's what championship basketball is all about.''
NOTES: Shaquille O'Neal scored 20 points for Cleveland, two shy of his season high. ... The Cavaliers are asking fans to arrive early for the March 5 game against Detroit to help set the Guinness World Record for ``largest gathering of people wearing fleece blankets.'' Each fan will receive a Cavaliers Snuggie which they'll be asked to wear for the first five minutes of the game. A representative of Guinness will be on hand to certify the record. ... Mo Williams is 9 of 33 from the floor since returning from his shoulder injury. ... F Leon Powe was active for the first time this season. He has been recovering from offseason knee surgery. ... Peja Stojakovic previously held the Hornets record for points in a quarter when he scored 22 in the first against Charlotte on Nov. 14, 2007.