CLEVELAND (AP) -- The M-V-P chants began somewhere in the upper
deck of Gund Arena and floated down toward the floor. This time,
they weren't directed at Kevin Garnett.
LeBron James was the target.
"I didn't hear them," the Cavaliers' star said. "I heard the
James scored 26 points with 12 assists and six rebounds, and
Cleveland answered every time Minnesota threatened in the fourth
quarter for a 107-97 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday
Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 25 points, and Jeff McInnis had 21 for
the Cavaliers, who kept their poise down the stretch against one of
the Western Conference's top teams one game after blowing a
15-point lead in the fourth quarter and losing to Boston.
"We had a bad taste in our mouths after Boston," Cavs forward
Drew Gooden said. "We knew we had to make plays."
James made more than a few and the Cavaliers were able to hold
off the Timberwolves, who crept back by making four 3-pointers in
the fourth quarter. The last one, by Sam Cassell, brought Minnesota
within 99-91 with 1:32 to go.
McInnis, though, hit a pair of free throws and after Cassell
missed a 3-pointer, Cleveland's point guard fed Gooden in the lane
for a dunk -- the Cavaliers' 10th slam -- to make it 103-91 with 1:09
remaining, ending Minnesota's comeback.
Garnett, last season's league MVP, had 26 points, 13 rebounds
and six assists for the Timberwolves. Cassell added 19 points, and
Troy Hudson 15 -- 10 in a 2:24 span of the fourth -- as Minnesota,
playing without forward Latrell Sprewell, stormed back.
The Timberwolves were within 83-74 when James re-entered the
game after sitting for 2:34. He immediately hit a 19-foot baseline
fadeaway, a runner from 11 and made two free throws as the Cavs
Later, he grabbed a rebound, pushed the ball up the floor and
whipped a pass underneath to Gooden, whose dunk gave Cleveland a
He took over the game the way an MVP does. And while it's much
too early to think that far ahead, James' coach and teammates
believe he'll be in the running for a few awards when the season is
"Well, the reigning MVP is a monster," Cleveland coach Paul
Silas said. "But LeBron played very well. When we needed it, he
provided it. Big shots, big rebounds, whatever we needed."
Garnett admires James' game, but isn't quite ready to nominate
him for any postseason honors.
"He's a lot more aggressive this year," Garnett said. "He
understands the game a lot more. He's picking and choosing when to
attack. His jump shot is 100 percent better. He's totally confident
-- you can see that."
Minnesota coach Flip Saunders thought his team played selfishly.
"We just didn't play the right way," he said. "We looked too
much for our own shots instead of moving the ball."
With Ilgauskas scoring 17 points, McInnis 13 and James 12,
Cleveland shot 59 percent (24-of-41) from the floor to open a 58-43
halftime lead. The Cavs got 14 of those points on seven dunks,
including a spectacular alley-oop by James.
Cavaliers rookie forward Anderson Varejao, quickly becoming a
Cleveland fan favorite with his fearless hustle and frizzy
hairstyle, made a sensational play in the first half.
After ripping the ball from Garnett near the foul line, the
6-foot-10 Brazilian drove the length of the floor, wrapped the ball
around his back and scored on a soft, left-handed scoop.
"That looked like me," James joked. "I would have dunked it
Cavs guard Eric Snow returned from a one-game suspension for his
argument with Silas and scored four points in 17 minutes.
Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, who reportedly offered
$375 million to buy the Cavaliers and the rights to Gund Arena, met
with owner Gordon Gund on Wednesday. Gund also addressed his
players at the morning shootaround, briefing them on negotiations
and telling them he might remain a minority owner after selling the
team. Gund bought the club in 1983 for $20 million. The deal could
be finalized in the next few weeks. ... Sprewell sat with a
sprained left foot. ... Minnesota is 0-5 vs. the Central Division.
... The Cavs are 6-3 against the West. ... Cleveland's nine
turnovers were a season low.