for this game

James bounces back to lead Cavaliers over Nets

May 15, 2007 - 5:48 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- You can only hold superstar LeBron James down for so long.

Bouncing back from a sub-par performance, James collected 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Larry Hughes added 19 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers took a commanding 3-1 lead over the New Jersey Nets with an 87-85 victory in Game Four of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who held the Nets without a field goal for the final 6:48 to secure the victory.

"It's what we've laid our hat on," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "We've improved a lot defensively from the beginning of last year to now it's part of us, our guys believe in it. They know if you want to win on the road or want to win the playoffs, we've got to defend. Our guys did the job in the fourth quarter."

Cleveland suffered a 96-85 loss in Game Three on Saturday as the Nets double- and triple-teamed James, which led to a 6-of-16 shooting performance and the end of Cleveland's franchise-best six-game postseason winning streak.

James' 18 points was his lowest output of the playoffs and his 16 shots were four less than teammate Larry Hughes hoisted up in the loss. It was a different story Monday for James, who looked adamant about taking the ball to the basket - shooting 9-of-16 from the field and 10-of-15 from the free-throw line.

"The guys look at me as a leader," James said. "I have to let my play do the speaking. I'm going to try to be aggressive and make as many plays for us to win the ballgame. But I don't think it was any plays that I made, it was every play we made defensively that helped us with this ballgame."

But James left the door open in the fourth quarter, shooting just 1-of-5 from the line in the period and splitting a pair with 10.3 seconds left to give his squad an 87-85 lead.

However, the superstar, who has been maligned for his foul shooting down the stretch throughout his career, seemed to enjoy the moment.

"It was fun. The pressure is on and everybody is real intense and fouls are being made and everybody is screaming at the refs," James said. "That's a fun way to play basketball, there is a lot on the line. We pulled together and made sure we got the job done."

On the Nets' final possession, Vince Carter, who was isolated on the right wing, had the ball knocked from his hand and out of bounds by pesky Cleveland guard Eric Snow as he was attempting to post up.

"There were a lot of hands, I felt it was a foul, but that's just the way in goes in the end," Carter said. "If they're going to put the ball in my hands I have to make a play. I tried to pick it up and throw to (Jason Kidd) in the corner, but I couldn't get my hands on it clean enough to get it to him.

"I missed a few free throws, a couple late, and I made a couple at the end but I just couldn't get that ball to (Kidd). I take it hard, it's on me. It's an important time of the year, so every play counts for us."

A dominant scorer, Carter was not himself. A balky knee limited his ability to drive to the rim for his familiar high-flying jams, causing him to shoot just 6-of-23 from the field.

But he made his impact as a playmaker. The beneficiary was surprising forward Mikki Moore, who scored a playoff career-high 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field.

"Thank God for Mikki," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "Mikki shot a very high percentage and he kept us in the game. He made big shots to give us a chance. He was really big tonight, and it was indicative of the way he's played the whole year." However, his three-point play just under the seven-minute mark was New Jersey's last basket of the game.

Along with the exciting finish, the game had a palpable tension. Cavaliers forward Sasha Pavlovic was at the center of two heated exchanges in the second half. The fourth-year forward went nose-to-nose with Moore in the third quarter, taking exception to a hard foul on a baseline drive.

He also had words with Carter, who thought the Cleveland forward was trash talking with his team in front late in the fourth period. Cavaliers coach Mike Brown seemed to agree with Carter and appeared to be threatening to remove Pavlovic from the game for his actions.

But after the game, Brown admitted that the incidents had a positive effect on his team.

"Our guys get fired up by that type of stuff, especially a guy like LeBron," Brown said. "When he sees that, he gets after it, he really gets into it, not just emotionally and physically but mentally. All of our guys did that and it helped us close the deal a little bit."

"It's all about protecting your teammates," James said. "I can't let anyone on the opposing team try and intimidate one of my teammates or hard foul one of my teammates without me saying something, either with my play or with my mouth at times. It definitely fired me up as an individual. I wanted to make a statement and I was able to do that in the third."

Jason Kidd collected a playoff career-high 17 rebounds for the Nets, who will have their season on the line Wednesday in Game Five at Cleveland.

"We put ourselves in a position to win the game and they made plays down the stretch and we didn't," Kidd said. "We've been in this position before, we just need to find a way to win on the road and we can't think ahead.

"We can't worry about being down 3-1, we have to understand that our backs are against the wall now. It's do-or-die. We have nothing to hold back. We have to come out and find a way to win on the road and that's the bottom line."


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