James shows Cavs the way

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James dunking against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Centre. The Cavaliers won 95-85.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James dunking against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Centre. The Cavaliers won 95-85.PHOTO: REUTERS

His 37pts help them win 7th straight game despite team shooting just 38.9% from floor

PHILADELPHIA • LeBron James was struck in the face by a pass from a Cleveland Cavaliers team-mate while warming up on Sunday before a National Basketball Association (NBA) game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The star forward later inflicted far more punishment on the lowly Sixers.

James scored 12 of his 37 points in a decisive 14-0 fourth-quarter run as the Cavaliers beat Philadelphia 95-85. With that, they secured their seventh consecutive victory.

James, whose point total matched a season high, also finished with nine assists and seven rebounds for Cleveland, who improved their Eastern Conference-leading record to 26-9.

The Cavaliers also won their fifth straight game on the road and their sixth straight game over Philadelphia, and they completed their first four-game season sweep of the Sixers since 1995-96.

"I've played in a lot of big games in my career, and I've seen it all," James said, adding that he was trying to stay "even-keeled" on a night when the Cavs shot just 38.9 per cent from the floor.

"They look at me as the leader of this team, and I've got to be that way all year round," he said of his team-mates. "They needed me a lot tonight, and I was able to come through."

James, who was struck by a pass from reserve forward Anderson Varejao beforehand, shot 15-for-22 from the floor, including 3-for-5 from three-point sniping.

Forward Kevin Love added 15 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists for Cleveland, and guard J.R. Smith scored 14 points. Forward Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 10 boards.

Centre Jahlil Okafor had 21 points to lead Philadelphia, who dropped their third straight game and saw their NBA-worst record fall to 4-36.

Guard Ish Smith had 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, and forward Nerlens Noel contributed 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

"They are championship material," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said of the Cavaliers. "I was proud, for the most part, of our effort tonight."

The Sixers cut a 12-point deficit to 79-81 early in the fourth quarter, but James returned to the game with 7min 32sec remaining after resting early in the period.

He made a jumper, then a free throw, then a fast-break lay-up off Love's outlet pass.

James' three-pointer with 6:05 remaining increased the Cleveland lead to 89-79, and, after a stick-back by Thompson, James capped the flurry with a dunk on the break, again off a feed from Love.

That put Cleveland ahead 95-79 with 3:21 left.

"He's been doing that for a long time," Cleveland coach David Blatt said of James. "It's nothing new, and we have confidence in him, and obviously he has the confidence in himself to make the plays because he's done it so many times."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'JAMES SHOWS CAVS THE WAY'. Print Edition | Subscribe