LeBron James shows he can still carry the Cavs on his back
Before Thursday's 104-100 win over the Thunder, LeBron James spoke glowingly of superstar counterpart Kevin Durant and his prolific scoring ability that, James says, rivals some of the greatest players to ever take the court.
Then James hoisted the depleted Cavaliers onto his aching, aging back and showed why he's allowed to draw those parallels.
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It was another classic case of James taking over a game while his inferiors looked on. He fell one rebound shy of a triple-double, which would have been his first of the season, scoring 33 on 12-of-17 shooting with 11 assists and nine boards.
James, who once vowed to take it easy and save himself for the postseason, isn't. His 39:37 minutes played was second only to Durant, who finished with 25 points to go with 27 from Russell Westbrook and 23 from Serge Ibaka. Westbrook also had 10 assists, and Ibaka contributed nine rebounds.
The Cavs (17-7) are clinging to first place in the East with a quartet of teams hot on their trail.
James' supporting cast included Matthew Dellavedova, who had a double-double (11 points, 10 assists). Kevin Love was a non-factor (11 points on 4-of-10 shooting), and it's ever apparent the Cavs can't get Kyrie Irving back soon enough.
It's no wonder James marvels at Durant. Few are as talented around the NBA, and certainly none of his ilk accompany James in Cleveland as he longs for help to bring a title to the long-suffering city.
Stud of the night:
Jeremy Lin showed glimpses of his "Linsanity" days, turning in his best performance in years. The Hornets guard, who has seen an increase in minutes lately, took on a starring role and went off for 35 points, five rebounds and four assists in a 109-99 win over the Raptors. Lin logged a season-high 47:27 and shot 13 of 22 from the field. It was the fifth 30-point game of his career and first since November 2013, when he scored 34 while with the Rockets.
Dud of the night:
On the opposite end of the court, it was a brutal shooting night for the Raptors in general and guard Kyle Lowry specifically. Lowry missed 23 shots in total, finishing 6 for 29 from the field and 3 of 17 from 3-point land. His Toronto teammates echoed the effort, shooting 36.1 percent from the field collectively.
Old man Kobe Bryant showed he's still got some pep in his step, charging the rim on a third-quarter dunk and posterizing poor 6-10 center Clint Capela, who was reduced to a deer-in-the-headlights look. Even old Lakers adversary Dwight Howard couldn't suppress his smirk from the bench. Bryant finished with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but the Rockets prevailed 107-87 thanks to six players reaching double figures, led by James Harden's 25 points.
There was a scary moment late in Cleveland's win when Ellie Day, the wife of PGA Tour star Jason Day, broke the fall of a stumbling James as he chased down a wayward ball into the couple's courtside seats. Officials halted the game as Ellie Day left on a stretcher. She was taken to a local hospital and held overnight for observation. She's expected to be OK, and James issued an apology afterward.
Clippers (16-10) at Spurs (22-5), 8 p.m.:The "same old boring" Spurs will attempt to continue to lull opponents to sleep in a clash between the second- and fourth-place teams in the Western Conference. The Clippers are hot, having lost only twice in their past 11 games, but so are the Spurs, winners of eight out of nine.
Bucks (10-17) at Warriors (25-1), 10:30 p.m.: The Bucks have lost two straight — including an awful showing against the Lakers — since ending the Warriors' record winning streak, while Golden State rebounded with a 25-point victory over the Suns. With the teams trending in opposite directions, and a swap in home venue, the outcome of this one figures to be a polar opposite of their meeting last weekend.