CLEVELAND: While Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue continues to weigh the merits of resting LeBron James against increasing the Cavs’ lead in the Eastern Conference, James continues to insist he feels great and doesn’t need to rest.
Judging by his performance Wednesday, he might be right.
James rebounded from one of his worst games of the season to score 23 points, grab seven rebounds and pass for seven assists in the Cavs’ 114-103 victory against Charlotte, ending the Hornets’ five-game winning streak.
James managed just 12 points and six turnovers in Monday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons and conceded after the game that he lacked energy. A little rest and recovery, however, changed everything. James was back to his active self. The Cavs erupted for 40 points in the second quarter — their first 40-point quarter of the season — and they surpassed 100 points just three minutes into the fourth quarter after the Hornets held teams to an average of 96.2 points during their winning streak.
The Cavs lost to the Hornets in Charlotte three weeks ago, ending James’ streak of 21 consecutive victories over the franchise. He didn’t take long to plant the roots for a new streak.
Kyrie Irving scored 23 points and J.R. Smith scored 16. Channing Frye scored 15 off the bench, including four 3-pointers, in his second game with his new team.
As for James, he made the flippant remark following Monday’s loss that he has been playing hurt all season. He isn’t injured, he made clear — it’s simply the mileage compiled over 13 NBA seasons showing its wear. He does, however, feel infinitely better than he did last season when he was forced to take two weeks off because of knee and back issues.
“I’ve played so much basketball, man; feeling great, those days are pretty much over,” James said. “Last year, I was banged up. This year, I feel 10 times better than I did last year.”
Frye’s 3-pointer with 8:42 to play stretched the Cavs’ lead to 101-81. They eventually pushed it to 24 in the fourth before cruising.
Kemba Walker, who missed the game against the Cavs two weeks ago, scored 20 points for the Hornets, and Frank Kaminsky scored 16 off the bench.
The Hornets entered as the hottest team in the East and a surprise playoff contender following a disappointing season last year. But Hornets coach Steve Clifford said the goals between the two teams are clearly different.
“If you’re the Cavaliers, your goal coming into the season was to be the No. 1 seed because they have the best roster,” Clifford said. “For us, we wanted to make the playoffs. Our goals are to qualify for the playoffs and be playing at a level to be a factor in the playoffs.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ.