7:00 PM ET, November 20, 2009
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
INDIANAPOLIS -- Cleveland's offense was stagnant, and the Indiana Pacers had turned a five-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
LeBron James made his first eight shots and finished the first half with 22 points on his way to his 34th 40-point game.
* - Turns 25 on Dec. 30
The Cavaliers went back to their tried-and-true formula -- LeBron, LeBron and more LeBron -- and it got the usual result. James scored 10 of his season-high 40 points in the final 7:07, and Cleveland beat the Pacers 105-95 on Friday night.
"When you have a guy as talented as him, sometimes your best coaching on the offensive end of the floor is staying out of his way," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.
The Pacers' poor shooting didn't give them a chance to take advantage of Cleveland's lapse in the early part of the final period. James didn't play for nearly five minutes to start the quarter, yet the Cavaliers erased Indiana's lead while he was out.
James sucked the life out of the Pacers and sent the crowd to the exits with a 3-pointer over Dahntay Jones as the shot clock expired that gave the Cavaliers a 101-94 lead with 53 seconds left.
"That was huge," Cleveland forward J.J. Hickson said. "I always have confidence in his shot, but that kind of sealed the game for us."
Jones, brought in as a free agent to be the team's defensive stopper, had no answer for James all night.
"He had a good game, and that's what great players do," Jones said. "He shot the ball well, he made his teammates better. You got to tip your hat to him."
James also had nine rebounds and seven assists for Cleveland (9-4).
Cleveland center Shaquille O'Neal missed his fourth straight game with a strained right shoulder. He did not travel with the team, and Brown didn't give a timetable for his return.
Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao played after he missed two games with a bruised hip. He finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.
Danny Granger had 19 points and nine rebounds, and Jones added 17 points for the Pacers (5-5), who lost their second in a row. Indiana forward Troy Murphy played after missing six games with a bruised lower back. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes.
Pacers coach Jim O'Brien was ejected with 5:20 left in the first quarter after drawing two technical fouls for walking out to near midcourt to argue with officials. He said was objecting to a play in which he said James "leveled" Indiana point guard T.J. Ford.
The Pacers nearly won one without him, but they shot 32 percent in the second half, and 22 percent in the fourth quarter.
"Offensively, we got some decent looks, but they played good defense and pushed us to the shot clock," Granger said. "We really didn't get that many shots in rhythm."
James made his first eight shots and didn't miss a field goal until the final three minutes of the second quarter. He finished the first half with 22 points and five assists as Cleveland led 66-61 at the break. The Pacers shot 63 percent in the first half, yet trailed because they were outscored 15-8 from the free throw line.
Indiana took its first lead, 70-68, when James was called for goaltending on a shot by Roy Hibbert with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter. It was part of a 17-2 run at the start of the second half that gave Indiana a 78-68 lead. Cleveland shot 3 for 18 from the field with seven turnovers in the quarter, and the Pacers led 82-77 at the end of the period.
"I wouldn't say frustrated, but the third quarter has been like the only time we've had [consistent trouble] the past three or four years," James said. "We can't get our hand on it. We're going to figure it out."
Cleveland tied the game at 82 on a 3-pointer by Jamario Moon early in the fourth quarter, and the game was competitive until the final minutes.
James said the Cavaliers wouldn't have won without their commitment to defense.
"That's what it's about," James said. "Our team is all based on defense, and when we get stops like that, it makes offense a lot easier. It was a great way to finish the game off like we did in the fourth quarter."
The Pacers announced Friday that guard Travis Diener had surgery on the big toe on his left foot and is expected to miss at least four weeks. ... Both teams shot 68.2 percent in the first quarter, and the game was tied at 38-all at the end of the period. ... Former Pacer Haywoode Workman was one of the officials.
INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 20: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots over Danny Granger #33 of the...(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||36-78 (.462)||38-81 (.469)|
|3PM-3PA||6-13 (.462)||4-18 (.222)|
|FTM-FTA||27-34 (.794)||15-21 (.714)|
|Fast Break Points||9||8|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||22 (4/0)|
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