James scored 26 points -- nine over the final 2:31 -- in his first
game back from a short hospital stay, leading the Cavaliers to an
88-84 exhibition win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
James, who missed Cleveland's previous three games with a virus
that had Cavaliers fans worried sick, added five rebounds, three
steals, one assist and four turnovers in 33 exhausting minutes.
And with the game slipping away from Cleveland in the fourth
quarter, the All-Star forward made clutch plays as the Cavs held
"You kind of take LeBron for granted," Cavs first-year coach
Mike Brown said. "He was just LeBron."
Drew Gooden added 18 points, Larry Hughes had 13 and Zydrunas
Ilgauskas eight before fouling out for the Cavaliers.
Paul Gasol led Memphis with 24 points and Shane Battier had 13.
Grizzlies center Lorenzen Wright was ejected in the third quarter
after picking up two quick technical fouls, and guard Bobby Jackson
pulled his hamstring in the first half and did not return.
James scored 17 points in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting,
but he struggled after halftime and didn't get his first points
until his 20-foot jumper gave Cleveland a 79-78 lead with 2:31
"I felt a little winded," said James, still recovering from
pleurisy, a virus that can cause severe chest pain. "I ain't gonna
lie. I wasn't 100 percent. If I looked sharp, wait until I get 100
With Cleveland down by three, James drilled a 3-pointer to tie
it 82-all with 1:19 left and then drew a charge on Memphis' Dahntay
Jones at the other end.
After Damon Jones hit two free throws to put the Cavaliers ahead
84-82, Hughes tipped away a pass intended for Gasol and James made
four free throws in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory.
It appeared James was done for the night when the third period
ended, but he returned with 7:24 left.
"I wanted to compete," he said. "I didn't want this one to
After he was originally diagnosed by team doctors with a
strained chest muscle, James was hospitalized for two days last
week with pleurisy, which causes inflammation around the lungs and
James didn't take long to get into the offensive flow, hitting a
19-foot jumper 1:06 into the game. He followed with a reverse layup
and drained his first 3-pointer of the preseason before getting his
first rest with 5:53 left in the period.
"I told Coach to take me out," James said. "It's (the virus)
still in there."
With his 1-year-old son, LeBron Jr., watching from his
grandmother's lap on the baseline, James returned with 9:14 left in
the second quarter and scored 10 more points as the Cavs went into
halftime down 41-40.
Brown expects to make some roster cuts in the next few
days. Cleveland is currently carrying 19 players. ... Before the
game, Cleveland's public announcer inadvertently forgot to
introduce Cavs guard Eric Snow. James quipped, "Guess we're
playing five on four." ... The Grizzlies had 22 turnovers.