LeBron scores 34, Cavs win 6th straight, 108-98 over Thunder
CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 34 points, including the first eight in the fourth quarter, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-98 on Sunday for their sixth straight win.
James made a pair of 3-pointers and a nasty fade-away jumper to give the Cavs a 91-80 lead. Later, the four-time MVP fed Kevin Love for a 3-pointer with 3:38 left that put the Thunder away. The Cavs are now 6-1 since James returned after missing eight games with a strained back and knee.
Love added 19 points and 13 rebounds, Kyrie Irving scored 21 and J. R. Smith had 14. Reserve Tristan Thompson grabbed 16 rebounds.
Kevin Durant scored 32 and Russell Westbrook had 22 for the Thunder, who went 3-2 on their longest road trip this season. Dion Waiters, acquired from Cleveland in a three-way trade earlier this month, added 14.
James sat out Cleveland’s previous game at Oklahoma City on Dec. 11 with a sore left knee, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks was hoping he wouldn’t have to see No. 23 again.
"I want him to miss tonight’s game too," Brooks said with a laugh before the opening tip. "I want every advantage I can get. He’s not missing it, is he?"
Unfortunately for the Thunder, and the rest of the league, James is back to playing like himself after the two-week health break. He is averaging 30.3 points in his past seven games, attacking the rim with renewed vengeance. His flurry early in the fourth was capped by a long 3 over Waiters, and James punctuated the shot with a menacing glare toward Oklahoma City’s bench.
With a national TV audience watching, the matchup between the NBA’s past two MVPs — and teams expected to contend for the title — had a playoff-like vibe. The Cavs passed out 20,000 gold T-shirts to their fans, giving Quicken Loans Arena the feel of a game in mid-June not late-January.
Both teams played as if there was more at stake. There were highlight-reel worthy dunks, hard fouls and some trash talking.
Waiters was booed when he came in as a sub in the first quarter. Cavs fans didn’t appreciate his recent comments that he didn’t touch the ball enough when he was in Cleveland.
Thunder: C Kendrick Perkins started for Steven Adams, who was slowed by a migraine headache. Perkins fouled out in the final minutes. … Brooks said playing in the tough Western Conference can be brutalizing. "You can’t look at your schedule and say, `OK, we can get this one,’" he said. "The East is better than people want to give it credit for. Right now there’s a lot of good basketball being played." … Oklahoma City is one of just nine teams in league history to be nine games under .500 in the first half of the season before climbing to .500 by the midway point (through 41 games).
Cavaliers: The Cavs are 13-0 at home when scoring at least 100. … A prolific scorer in his own right, Smith marveled at the 37-point third quarter Golden State’s Klay Thompson pulled off the other night. "13 for 13 in the third, 9 for 9 from 3, 37 (points), unbelievable," Smith said. "He should have just walked off the court in the third with the old Larry Bird, one finger up, `I’ll see you all in the locker room, man, I’m hitting the showers.’"
Thunder: Host Timberwolves on Monday.
Cavaliers: At Detroit on Tuesday.