SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- LeBron James' sore right knee didn't throw
off his shot much.
James scored 51 Saturday night, becoming the youngest player in
NBA history with 5,000 points in his career, and the Cleveland
Cavaliers beat the Utah Jazz 108-90 Saturday night to snap a
six-game losing streak.
The Cavaliers avoided going winless on a six-game road trip and
were assured that James, who had X-rays on his knee earlier
Saturday, should be fine.
"I was just fighting through it," said James, who decided
shortly before the game to test the knee by starting. "I was
trying to fight through a cold, but I didn't want to make any
excuses. I didn't want to be in the position where I wasn't there
for my team tonight."
James, who turned 21 on Dec. 30, needed 45 points to pass Kobe
Bryant as the youngest player to reach 5,000. Bryant was 22 when he
scored his 5,000th point.
James was one point off his season high and eight away from
tying his career high. By the end, he had won over the Utah fans
and left to a standing ovation with 1:35 remaining in the game.
"He was terrific. He made his shots and he's just a wonderful
player," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I think we're intimidated
by him a great deal."
The Jazz fell to 20-21, the first time they've had a losing
record since falling to 16-17 with an 87-65 loss at Memphis on Jan.
Mehmet Okur scored 20 and pulled down 13 rebounds and Andrei
Kirilenko had 19 points for the Jazz, who struggled against James
James apparently wasn't affected by the knee, which he expects
to have an MRI exam on after he gets back to Cleveland, or the
arrest of his mother, Gloria, on suspicion of drunken driving back
in Akron, Ohio.
James, who also had eight assists, was 19-for-35 from the floor
and made nine of 11 free throws and the Cavs won for the first time
since a 96-88 victory over the Bucks on Jan. 7.
"I came real close" to not playing, James said. "If it had
been a one o'clock game, I wouldn't have made it."
By 7 p.m, he appeared fine. An hour later, James had the Jazz
falling down while trying to keep up with him.
James made a head fake to the basket that got Matt Harpring off
balance, then stepped back and hit a turnaround jumper from the
free throw line to put the Cavs up 61-56 late in the third quarter.
After two free throws for Utah, Donyell Marshall made a
3-pointer and James extended the lead to 66-58 when he leaped
through the lane for a one-handed dunk with about 2 minutes left in
the third quarter.
James was short in his postgame comments, apparently upset over
criticism he faced during the losing streak.
"It was a great performance. People need to understand that
he's only 21 years old," said Marshall, who scored 24. "The
criticism he's taking is unfair."
Cleveland led 73-67 after three periods. Damon Jones, Marshall
and James hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the fourth to extend
the lead to 84-71 with 9:34 remaining. After a timeout, James added
another spectacular dunk, but missed his chance at a three-point
play after being fouled by Okur.
"He just did everything he wants," Kirilenko said. "He
drives, he shoots, he scores, he goes to the line, he rebounds the
The Cavs were 11-for-15 in the second quarter and finished
38-for-70. ... Utah made just 17 of 24 free throws. ... Utah's Kris
Humphries was the only active player on either team not to make it
in the game. ... Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 10 points and eight
rebounds for Cleveland.<