CLEVELAND (AP) -- At just 5-foot-5, Earl Boykins still towered
over every other player on the floor.
"He played big," Nuggets teammate Andre Miller said. "We were
standing around and he gave us a spark. He did his thing in his
Boykins, the Nuggets' pesky point guard, made the most of his
second start this season -- after halftime -- as the Nuggets overcame
a 35-point performance from James.
Playing in front of family and friends in his hometown, Boykins
scored 12 points in the third quarter and then made several big
plays down the stretch for the Nuggets, who trailed by 12 early in
"He was the best player on the court in the third quarter,"
Nuggets coach George Karl said. "He gave us energy and confidence,
and the passes he had for dunks were huge."
None bigger than the one to Nene with 1:01 remaining. With the
Nuggets clinging to a 101-97 lead, Boykins drove the lane and
around several Cavs defenders to feed Nene for a monster slam. It
was Boykins' eighth and most important assist.
James hit a jumper and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added two free throws
as the Cavs closed to 103-101 with 20 seconds remaining. But Miller
made two free throws, and after James missed a long 3-pointer with
12 seconds left, Greg Buckner's free throw with 9.2 to go closed
Last season, Boykins, who twice played with Cleveland in 1999,
scored 18 points -- all in the second half -- as the Nuggets spoiled
James' home debut as a pro.
"It always feels good to come home and play well and get a
victory," Boykins said. "Just icing on the cake."
Kenyon Martin added 19 points, Nene had 17 and Anthony 14 on
5-of-12 shooting for the Nuggets, who outscored the Cavs 25-4 on
On defense, Denver double-teamed James throughout the second
half, cutting off his drives and frustrating him into rushing some
shots. James got just one rebound and one assist after halftime.
"They got out and ran on us," James said. "They're one of the
best fast-break teams in the league and you can't let them go like
that. They wanted the game a little more than we did tonight."
Ilgauskas finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds for the
Cavaliers, who dropped to 18-5 at home.
James, who added six rebounds and six assists, played without a
protective face mask for the first time since Dec. 29 when his left
cheek was broken by an accidental elbow from Houston's Dikembe
Mutombo. James said he didn't ask the club's medical staff for
permission before shedding the mask.
"I don't need anyone to tell me how my face feels," said
James, who said he was going to hang the plastic piece in his home.
"I hope I don't have to use it again."
Denver was short-handed up front in the second half after center
Marcus Camby bruised his right hip in the first half and did not
Boykins, who came in averaging 11.9 points, scored eight points
in the final 1:38 of the third quarter as the Nuggets closed the
period with a 6-0 spurt to pull within 75-76.
James has seen Boykins do his thing many times. As a kid, James
attended many of Boykins' high school games at Cleveland's Central
Catholic and the All-Star still marvels at what the little man can
"He's a great player," James said. "He makes plays, runs
around and is tough to defend."
James had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists before
sitting with 6:18 left in the second quarter and the Cavs leading
41-38. But even without its star, Cleveland outscored Denver 14-6
over a five-minute stretch to take a 56-46 lead at the half.
Anthony is 3-1 vs. James. ... James hasn't decided if he'll
take part in the All-Star dunk contest on Feb. 19 in Denver. "It's
up in the air," he said. "You know me. I'm a last-minute
person." ... The Cavaliers will make another national TV
appearance Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant, who
has missed 14 games since injuring his ankle against the Cavs on
Jan. 13, might practice Saturday. Bryant attended Friday's game and
was booed by Cleveland fans when he was shown on the arena's
scoreboard. ... James has scored over 30 points 25 times in two