for this game

James takes over in third as Cavaliers rout Nets

Apr 13, 2007 - 5:33 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Unfortunately for the New Jersey Nets, LeBron James made a crucial adjustment in the second half.

James scored 15 of his 35 points in the third quarter and Larry Hughes added 19 as the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 94-76 victory over the Nets.

The Cavaliers (47-32) are tied with Chicago (47-32) for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. However, the Bulls own the tiebreaker, meaning the Cavaliers right now would drop to the fifth seed behind division winners Toronto (45-33) and Miami (43-36) should the clubs end the season in a tie.

But Cleveland now is assured to be on its home floor even if it fell into a first-round matchup with the Heat.

"We're still trying to fight for our (playoff) positioning," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "I didn't emphasize this game as being more important than the next because, if we go out and lose the next three, then this game doesn't mean anything."

In the first half, James had 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting but was settling for too many perimeter jumpers. The superstar forward turned that around in the third, shooting 6-of-7, mostly on defiant drives to the hoop.

"Since LeBron has been in the league, I've never seen him post-up with as much force as he did tonight," Brown said. "He decided to sit down with two feet in the paint and post up very strong and that was very fun to watch. That's something he is capable of doing almost every night and that was huge for us tonight."

The 6-8, 240-pound James showed off his strength and athleticism around the basket, netting a trio of three-point plays in the first seven minutes of the third. He shot 15-of-27 overall, collecting eight rebounds and four assists.

"I felt good tonight. I played pretty strong in the post tonight," James said. "That's what they were giving me, so I kind of took advantage of that. I'm very comfortable down there. It definitely was a struggle in the first half, and I think that was the best way to get some easy buckets and try to help our offense get moving."

Because of James, Cleveland outscored New Jersey, 36-19, in the third period to secure the victory. Hughes shot 7-of-15 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from the arc.

"We just hit a rhythm. We were able to get stops," Hughes said. "Get good looks. Get quality looks. We made the game easy. We made it simple. We didn't have to take shots. We didn't get the shot clock down too many times. We just made it simple and attacked."

New Jersey forward Richard Jefferson, who is known for his strong finishes in transition, missed numerous wide-open layups and dunks en route to a miserable five points on 2-of-13 shooting. He was coming off a season-high 35 points on Tuesday.

Vince Carter scored 26 points and Jason Kidd had eight, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Nets (37-41), who are one game ahead of eighth-place Orlando (36-42) in the East. They also are two games in front of No. 9 Indiana (35-43).

"Hopefully, we can bounce back (Friday vs. New York)," Carter said. "That's the goal right now, just locking down a spot and being a playoff team. We played like we wanted to be in the playoffs (Thursday) for maybe 2 1/2 quarters."

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