MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- If the Eastern Conference gets off to a slow
start in the All-Star game on Feb. 19, coach Flip Saunders may want
to try playing forward LeBron James at point guard.
It worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Playing the point almost exclusively in the second half, James
scored 12 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter to lift the
Cavaliers over the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-91.
"It does wonders for us because he's not only making plays for
others, but he's also in attack mode from one end to the other,"
Cavs guard Damon Jones said of James' position switch.
In a matchup of two of the most successful players to make the
jump from high school to the NBA, James and Kevin Garnett needed
plenty of help from their teammates in this one.
James dominated the fourth quarter, while Garnett disappeared.
James got off to a slow start and was just 11-of-34 from the
field, but he made the big shots when Cleveland needed them most,
following a turnaround jumper on the low block with a 3-pointer
that gave the Cavs a nine-point lead with 3 minutes to play.
"He's like a locomotive going to the basket," Timberwolves
coach Dwane Casey said. "It's almost physically impossible to stop
him without fouling him."
Trenton Hassell did an admirable job harassing James, but unlike
Garnett, the 21-year-old James took control when he wanted to.
"It's kind of hard to guard me 94 feet," James said. "I put a
lot of pressure on the defense when I'm playing point guard."
Garnett was just 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter and finished with
21 points, 18 rebounds and six assists.
The Timberwolves went on a 6-0 run late in the game to cut
Cleveland's lead to 90-88 with 36 seconds to go, but James came
right back with a driving layup to hand Minnesota its fourth loss
in five games.
Ilgauskas scored 10 of his 21 points in the first quarter and
Marshall had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The Cavaliers trailed by 15 midway through the first quarter,
but their control of the boards allowed them to creep back in the
Cleveland outrebounded Minnesota 51-41 and had 16 offensive
"Kevin did a masterful job of rebounding," Casey said. "We
have to have somebody to help out on the boards in the paint."
Two of Minnesota's biggest players, Eddie Griffin and Mark
Blount, combined to grab two rebounds.
At times it appeared as if Garnett was left to battle the Cavs
alone on the boards, and it clearly wore him down in the closing
Ricky Davis led the Timberwolves with 33 points, and his 29-foot
3-pointer made the score 93-91 with 9.3 seconds left, but Ilgauskas
and James closed the game out at the free throw line.
Playing against one of his former teams, Davis scored 13 points
in the first quarter to help Minnesota to a 15-point lead.
When the Cavaliers shipped Davis to Boston, it was rumored that
a poor relationship with James prompted the trade. But both Davis
and James shot down those rumors before the game, with James
saying, "There is no hard feelings between Ricky and I and there
After the Wolves' fast start, Cavs coach Mike Brown switched to
a zone defense for the rest of the game. That slowed the up-tempo
Wolves down. They followed up 55-percent shooting in the first
quarter by shooting 34 percent the rest of the way to let the lead
"The zone tonight was a big problem," Garnett said. "The zone
slowed us down and made us stagnant and not as aggressive."
Cavs reserve F Ira Newble was released from the Cleveland
Clinic on Wednesday after eight days of being treated for a facial
abscess. ... The Timberwolves observed a moment of silence prior to
the game for Coretta Scott King. ... Hassell received a few boos
late in the second quarter when he fouled James to prevent a
breakaway dunk. ... Wolves PG Marcus Banks finished with 15 points.