LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets

Tony Dejak/WPPROD

CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists.

Cleveland shot a season-best 58 percent from the field and beat Charlotte for the sixth straight time at home.

Kemba Walker scored 24 to pace the Hornets, playing the first of five consecutive road games. Walker sat out the final few minutes after appearing to bang knees with James.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford knew his team was going to have trouble defending the Cavs if the reigning NBA champions were clicking.

“It's difficult or hopeless sometimes to watch,” he said before the game. “That's why their team is so well put together. You have three star-level players, two superstars really, and they're surrounded by all guys who can shoot.”

The Cavs were on target from the start, shooting 71 percent while building a 12-point lead in the first quarter. Cleveland stayed around 70 percent for most of the first half and had a 15-point lead at halftime.

The Hornets borrowed a page from the Cavs and shot their way back into the game in the third quarter, pulling to 75-72 on a jumper by Nicolas Batum.

James, though, countered with a pair of 3-pointers in a span of 25 seconds, straddling the arc after the second make while looking in the direction of Clifford, who was calling a timeout.

James stayed in attack mode in the fourth, powering to the basket for layups. His baseline jumper put the Cavs up 108-106 before he fed Iman Shumpert, who knocked down his fourth 3-pointer to put away the Hornets.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Batum is one of five players averaging at least 13 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. James, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden are the others. Of that group, Batum came in averaging the fewest turnovers (2.3). … Walker entered with the second-most 3-pointers (61) in the Eastern Conference. Only Toronto's Kyle Lowry had made more. … Charlotte's trip includes stops in Indiana, Washington, Boston and Atlanta. The Hornets won't play at home again until Dec. 20 when they host the Lakers.

Cavaliers: J.R. Smith returned after missing two games with a hyperextended left knee and scored six points in 32 minutes. … Kyrie Irving joined James and Mark Price as the only players in Cleveland history with 600 career 3-pointers. … James is expected to get some rest and it's possible he could sit out one of next week's games against Memphis, but coach Tyronn Lue said he hasn't thought that far ahead. … Cleveland improved to 41-10 at home against Charlotte. … Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles, an Ohio native, was introduced during a timeout in the first quarter. … F Channing Frye missed his second straight game to attend his father's funeral.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: Host Memphis on Tuesday before flying to Tennessee to face the Grizzlies again on Wednesday.