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Gooden, Cavs overcome O'Neal's double-double

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Even though his shot wouldn't fall, LeBron
James made sure the Cavaliers didn't drop, too.

James scored a season-low 14 points, but added nine assists and
eight rebounds in 44 minutes as Cleveland won its fifth straight
game, holding off the Indiana Pacers 94-89 on Friday night.

"I missed shots. I'm going to have off nights," James said.
"But it doesn't matter to me as long as we win."

Drew Gooden added a season-high 21 points and 12 rebounds on a
tender ankle and Larry Hughes had 18 points for the Cavs, who blew
a 15-point lead in the fourth but made all the big plays down the
stretch.

After the Pacers clawed back from down 22 to tie it at 86, James
drove for a layup with 56 seconds left and was fouled by Jermaine
O'Neal. He missed the free throw, but Cavs guard Eric Snow leaned
in and drew an offensive foul on Jamaal Tinsley as the Pacers guard
pushed the ball up the floor.

"Eric has been in this league for a long time, and that's
because he plays defense," said Cavs forward Donyell Marshall.
"He got a big stop at the end on Tinsley, that helped us win the
game."

After Snow's savvy play, Hughes dropped a short jumper to make
it 90-86. Stephen Jackson then missed a 3-pointer for Indiana, and
the Cavaliers made four free throws, including a technical when
Jackson was ejected with 10.8 seconds left to ice it.

O'Neal scored a season-high 34 points with 11 rebounds and five
blocks. Fred Jones had 15 points for the Pacers, who were just
4-of-19 on 3-pointers.

Indiana fell to 3-2 since forward Ron Artest said he wanted to
be traded.

Marshall added 17 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas 15 for
Cleveland, which improved to 11-3 at home, and at 16-9, has the
Eastern Conference's second-best record. The Cavs also avenged a
22-point loss at Indiana on Nov. 24.

"That was one of our biggest games of the year thus far,"
James said. "They're a good team even without Ron Artest. They
came to play, and we came to play."

Trailing 76-61 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Pacers
chipped away by forcing the ball down low. After Ilgauskas picked
up his fifth personal and had to sit with 5:41 left, the Pacers
scored seven straight points, pulling within 84-82 on Tinsley's
3-pointer with 2:58 remaining.

Ilgauskas returned and missed his first shot, and O'Neal's
14-foot jumper tied it 84-all with 2:16 to go, but he missed
another one with 1:07 left and the Pacers couldn't get defensive
stops when it mattered most.

"I thought our guys showed a lot of guts," Pacers coach Rick
Carlisle said. "We had a chance. We gave ourselves a chance.
Jermaine's shot would have given us the lead. We just got a little
unlucky. It went in and out."

James came in averaging nearly 36 points in 10 December games,
but he didn't reach double digits until he made a steal and a
reverse breakaway dunk to put the Cavaliers ahead 79-68 in the
fourth.

For a change, James didn't have to carry the scoring load and
didn't force many shots. The Cavaliers improved to 15-3 when James,
whose previous season low was 16, tries under 25 shots.

"They were running two guys at him, and he still made plays,"
Cavs coach Mike Brown said.

With Artest elsewhere, Carlisle assigned Jackson to James. It
was a mismatch early on as James got his teammates involved by
either blowing past Jackson or setting up the Cavaliers with crisp
passes.

The Cavs were already ahead by 10 when James scored his first
points, driving the lane for a thunderous dunk that Marshall
followed with a 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 15-point lead.

James sat for a more than five minutes in the second quarter,
but the Cavs extended their lead to 19 while their star rested.
When he came back, James fed Marshall for the Cavs fourth 3-pointer
of the period to make it 51-29.

However, the Pacers closed the half with an 11-1 spurt to get
within 52-40 at the break.

Game notes
Ilgauskas, shooting .886 (109-of-123) from the free throw
line, is on pace to have the highest free-throw percentage for a
player 7-feet or taller. Joe Kleine made .882 percent of his free
throws in 1988-89. ... With three games in four nights, James has
some last-minute Christmas shopping to do on Saturday. "I'm
nowhere near done," he said, "been playing too much." ... Jones,
who has made two or more 3-pointers in 18 of 25 games, leads the
league with 4.4 3-pointers made per 48 minutes. ... Tinsley didn't
practice Thursday and was questionable until game time after
suffering whiplash when he collided with Clippers center Chris
Kaman on Wednesday.