Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 3)

Series starts 1/30

Game 1: Monday, January 30th
Game 2: Wednesday, March 22nd
Game 3: Sunday, April 2nd

Cavaliers 101

(44-29, 16-19 away)

Bobcats 97

(20-54, 14-23 home)

Coverage: FSOH

6:00 PM ET, April 2, 2006

Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC

1 2 3 4 T
CLE 28 25 23 25101
CHA 23 26 21 2797

Top Performers

Cle: L. James 35 Pts, 12 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

Cha: G. Wallace 17 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Cavaliers win eighth straight behind LeBron's 35

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- LeBron James is counting the days to his first playoff appearance.

James scored 35 points, including five free throws down the stretch, to help the Cavaliers hold off the Charlotte Bobcats 101-97 on Sunday for their eighth straight win.

James, who was 13-for-24 from the field, added 12 rebounds and eight assists despite playing the final 6 minutes with five fouls. The Cavaliers matched their longest winning streak of the season. Cleveland also won eight straight from Nov. 7-22.

"It's playoff time and we're finding ways to win," James said. "It's great to see."

The win reduced Cleveland's magic number to clinch the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs to four. The Cavaliers lead Washington by 6½ games with nine games remaining.

And it appears the Cavaliers could get starting shooting guard Larry Hughes back in time for Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. Even though coach Mike Brown downplayed talk he could return this week from a broken right middle finger, James was more confident.

"He's probably going to play Tuesday," James said. "To play at the level we're playing and to get Larry back, wow. That's all I can say about that."

The Bobcats made Cleveland work for the victory, going on an 8-0 run to cut a 10-point deficit to 94-92 on Gerald Wallace's 3-point play with 1:52 left.

On the next possession, James took it strong to the basket, was fouled, and hit two free throws with 1:21 left.

Trailing by three, Wallace missed a contested shot in the lane. James was then fouled, and hit two free throws with 26 seconds left to seal the game.

"For us to get a win off a back-to-back, especially on the road, I don't care the opponent is, this is a good win," said Brown, as the Cleveland played a day after an emotional home win over Miami.

Ronald Murray and Drew Gooden each had 16 points for the Cavs, who overcame 20 turnovers to improve to 7-0 all-time against Charlotte.

Raymond Felton had 20 points, Jumaine Jones added 17 and Wallace scored 16 for the Bobcats, who shot 40 percent and were outrebounded 49-34 in losing their second straight game.

"Sometimes the ball just doesn't fall in the basket. It was one of those nights," said Felton, who was 8-of-22 from the field with six turnovers. "We just have to make sure we keep our competitive intensity and keep playing hard every night.

James, coming off a 47-point, 12-rebound 10-assist performance in a win Saturday against Miami, left the crowd buzzing with a high-flying, one-handed dunk off an over-the-shoulder feed from Murray early in the second quarter to put Cleveland ahead 36-28. The Cavaliers built an 11-point lead in the period, but Charlotte cut it to 53-49 on Bernard Robinson's floater in the lane in the final second of the first half.

The Bobcats stuck around, cutting the lead to 69-68 late in the third quarter and to 87-84 on Wallace's dunk with 6:05 left, seconds after James picked up his fifth foul.

Despite being out of the playoff race for some time, coach Bernie Bickerstaff is happy with how the team continues to push playoff-bound teams.

"You've seen guys when it gets to this point of the season, the wagon has already been backed up to the door," Bickerstaff said. "We're going to close it out like professionals."

Game notes

Bickerstaff defended his decision Saturday to waive guard Kareem Rush with nine games left. "When we come to a decision, we make that move regardless of when it is," he said. "Some team could pick Kareem up at a nominal cost and still have the right (to pick up the option on his contract for next season)." ... Bickerstaff, who is also the general manager, said he still hasn't decided if he'll return as coach next season. ... It was James' 21st double-double of the season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 101 97
FGM-FGA 39-81 (.481) 34-85 (.400)
3PM-3PA 5-14 (.357) 4-16 (.250)
FTM-FTA 18-25 (.720) 25-31 (.806)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 17-49 14-34
Assists 18 18
Turnovers 20 12
Steals 6 11
Blocks 5 6
Fast Break Points 14 22
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (1/0) 23 (1/0)
Largest Lead 11 0

Top Performers

LeBron James James
Points: 35
Reb: 12
Ast: 8
Stl: 1
Blk: 2
Gerald Wallace Wallace
Points: 17
Reb: 9
Ast: 3
Stl: 2
Blk: 1