Cavaliers 111, Nets 92
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)
These fans booed him when he dunked.
It happened not only once, but twice in the Cavaliers' 111-92 victory over the Nets on Wednesday night.
Forget that James had 26 points and 14 assists, one shy of his career high. The King disappointed the 17,502 fans at the Izod Center when he gently dunked two first-half fastbreaks instead of putting on a show with a rim-rocking jams.
``I guess that's how much they love you when they boo you,'' James said after the Cavaliers won their fifth straight game by opening a 20-point first-quarter lead and coasting.
When James did unleash a furious jam later, the fans who made up one of the largest home crowds the worst team in the NBA has drawn this season were back on his side - and no doubt hoping he noticed their appreciation.
The win completed a two-game sweep of the Knicks and Nets over the past three days, the two teams that have a ton of money to throw at James this summer. James put on a show for both.
``From my seat he looked good doing everything,'' Nets interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. ``I have seen him enough, seen him on television and a number of times in person and he keeps getting better and better.''
James was outstanding getting his teammates going against the Nets.
J.J. Hickson added 20 points and 13 rebounds in his second straight start for the injured Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison had 19 points as the Cavaliers won their fifth straight game. Mo Williams added 16.
``That's his M.O.,'' Nets point guard Devin Harris said of James. ``He tries to get other people involved and gets a ton of assists in the first quarter, then looks to be more aggressive as the game goes on. No different than tonight.''
Brook Lopez had 21 points and 14 rebounds to lead New Jersey (6-54), which has lost eight straight to the Cavaliers, including all four this year.
Rookie Terrence Williams added a career-high 21 points for the Nets, who never got closer than 11 points after being outscored 35-15 in the opening 12 minutes. Yi Jianlian added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
``When you fall behind 20 against the best team in the NBA, face it, it's going to be tough,'' Williams said. ``We got it down to 11 a couple of times and couldn't get over the hump. Credit to them. They made tough shots and LeBron made plays for them.''
James was terrific in the first period, scoring 10 points and picking up eight assists. He also took the time to tease the crowd on the uncontested breakaways, with both plays eliciting prolonged boos from the fans.
James seemed content to distribute the ball and that was never clearer than in an eight-point spurt in which three of his assists led to two dunks by Jamario Moon and another by Jamison.
James best assist came with 2:10 left in the quarter. Dribbling the ball at the top of the key, he jumped in the air as if he was going to fire a pass to the left corner and then threw the ball between his legs before he came down, finding Anderson Varejao for a layup that had the crowd back in his corner.
``Guys knocked down shots,'' James said. ``Our offense puts guys in position and I attract a lot of attention. I trust my teammates when I get the ball to them.''
The six-year veteran also showed he could pick up the tempo. When the Nets made a run in the second quarter, James dribbled the length of the court and threw down a violent dunk that drew gasps.
This was also the second big game for Hickson, who became the starting center when O'Neal had surgery on his injured right thumb. He probably won't be back until late April.
Hickson had 17 points and nine rebounds against New York and he followed with another big game against New Jersey.
``He's the starting center until something in my gut tells me not to,'' Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. ``I just felt I'm going to go with J.J. When I thought it, it felt right. I'll stay with him until I feel I need to make change.''
NOTES: Nets G Courtney Lee missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. ... James attended the Madison Square Garden concert of good friend, Jay-Z, on Tuesday night. Cleveland guard Daniel Gibson was not with the team. Singer Keyshia Cole, who is engaged to Gibson, gave birth to their son on Tuesday. ... Williams' previous career high was 20. ..Cleveland is 22-10 on the road, having won 13 of its last 17 games. ...The Nets, who were eliminated from playoff contention when Miami won on Tuesday night, are 3-27 at home.