CLEVELAND (AP) -- Right now, they're the cream of the NBA's
Eastern -- or Leastern -- Conference.
And the Cleveland Cavaliers intend to stay that way.
At 14-8, the Cavaliers' .636 winning percentage is tops among
the East's 15 teams. They're also 8-2 with their opening-day
lineup, which was without Hughes for 10 games and minus Drew Gooden
"We know how good we can be," Hughes said. "We've just got to
keep it going."
Hughes, making his second straight start after missing three
weeks with a sprained ankle, went 11-of-16 from the floor. The
Cavaliers shot a blistering 65 percent in the first half, doing
whatever they wanted against the Sonics, who hardly bothered
"We came ready to play, and the stats show it," coach Mike
Leading by 19 at halftime, the Cavs went nearly five minutes
without scoring in the third quarter before using a 12-3 spurt to
push their lead to 78-56. Donyell Marshall's 3-pointer put the Cavs
ahead 85-61 entering the fourth.
By then, James, who finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and
seven assists, was already pulling on his warmups and spent the
first seven minutes of the fourth quarter cheering for Cleveland's
reserves from the bench.
The Cavs' backups briefly had their way with the Sonics, opening
a 26-point lead before Seattle closed to 15 with 5:01 remaining.
That's when Brown put James and Hughes back in to close it out.
Chris Wilcox scored 20 points to lead Seattle, which dropped its
third straight on a five-game trip. Rookie Mickael Gelabale added a
season-high 16 and Rashard Lewis had 10 -- 12 below his average -- on
The 6-foot-10 Lewis was hounded by Eric Snow, who was giving up
seven inches but made up for his lack of size with grit.
"He steps up and does it night in and night out," Brown said.
"He doesn't get the credit that he should in terms of being
recognized for an all-defensive team. He did a terrific job."
The Sonics were without guard Ray Allen, who missed his sixth
game in a row with a bone bruise in his right foot. Allen isn't
traveling with the team but is expected to be back on the floor in
Seattle needs its top scorer ASAP.
"We can't come out like that and expect to win," Sonics
forward Damien Wilkins said. "It's a matter of coming out and
playing hard and wanting it -- with our without Ray."
The Cavaliers played perhaps their finest 24 minutes of the
season in the first half, shooting 27-of-42 from the field and
dishing out 19 assists while pushing to a 64-45 lead.
Hughes made his first eight shots before missing a jumper with
3:05 remaining before halftime. He finished with 18 points while
James, who started 6-for-6 from the field, added 15 in Cleveland's
highest-scoring half this season.
Less than three minutes into the game, James, who hasn't had a
triple-double in the regular season since March 22, already had two
points, four rebounds and three assists.
By the end of the first quarter, he had 13 points, five rebounds
and five assists as the Cavaliers shot 70 percent (16-of-23) and
opened a 35-28 lead.
Sonics rookie Andreas Glyniadakis made his first career start in
place of Wilcox, who had started each of Seattle's first 23 games.
Glyniadakis had played just 34 minutes all season coming in.
The Cavs will play at Orlando on Saturday in a matchup of
the East's top two teams. ... James continues to insist he isn't
tired, but his numbers are down slightly from last year. There was
concern that he may not have gotten enough rest this summer when he
played for the U.S. team at the world championships. "It can wear
on you a little bit," James said of the 82-game schedule. "But
you have to get through it." ... The Sonics are the league's most
well-behaved squad. When Wilkins was called for a technical on
Tuesday in Milwaukee, it was the first one assessed to a Seattle
player this season. On the flip side, New Orleans entered the
weekend with 18 Ts. ... Cleveland's starting lineup of James,
Hughes, Ilgauskas, Eric Snow and Drew Gooden is 26-12 since the
start of last season.