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James leads Cavaliers past Hornets

Feb 28, 2007 - 4:07 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- "The King" protected his castle from a swarm of Hornets.

LeBron James had 35 points and eight assists to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 97-89 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

Leading by as many as 15 points in the third quarter and holding a 77-65 advantage entering the final period, the Cavaliers squandered their cushion.

David West's jumper with 4:13 remaining pulled the Hornets into an 83-83 tie. But they were unable to contain the Cavaliers' superstar down the stretch.

"They did a great job of making a run, which they hadn't done all night, and we knew they were going to," James said. "It was just a matter of how we were going to attack that, and we were able to execute on the offensive end and the defensive end and took care of business."

James scored eight points in the last 3 1/2 minutes, including a pair of 3-pointers with under a minute remaining.

"When we tied the game up, we weren't able to capitalize," West said. "We knew down the stretch (James) was going to have the ball, but we forced him into some tough shots. We'd rather him take those (3-point shots) than get a layup or a dunk."

Rookie Daniel Gibson celebrated his 21st birthday by making three 3-pointers and scoring 12 points for the Cavs, who shot 49 percent (40-of-82) from the field.

"The ball came my way and I had to make it on my birthday," said Gibson, whose 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining gave the Cavs a 91-85 lead.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 11 and nine rebounds for Cleveland, which avenged an 95-89 loss to New Orleans on December 11.

West scored 25 points to lead the Hornets, who received a sub-par game from Chris Paul. The point guard was limited to seven points on 3-of-6 shooting.

"Something that was unseen was Z's (Zydrunas Ilgauskas) defense, especially trying to help defend Chris Paul on the pick and roll," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "When we played them in Oklahoma, he literally shredded up apart in the fourth quarter just playing pick and roll basketball."

The Hornets (27-30) dropped into ninth place in the Western Conference, one-half game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the final playoff spot.

"We weren't very focused and ready to play," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "It was almost obvious from the start. We didn't have that intensity, that get-up-and-go in our step. We played to their tempo, and I thought they (Cavaliers) played faster than they normally play."








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