for this game

'King James' returns to help Cavaliers rout Pacers

Dec 12, 2007 - 4:16 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers are one big, happy family again.

With LeBron James and Anderson Varejao returning to action, the Cavaliers routed the Indiana Pacers, 118-105, on Tuesday to snap a six-game losing streak.

James, who sprained his left index finger on November 28 at Detroit, came off the bench for the first time in his career and collected 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 23 minutes. He missed the previous five games.

"It felt like it did last year," James said. "We're back now, we'll see what happens."

Varejao, an integral part of Cleveland's 2007 run to the Finals, was in uniform for the first time this season and grabbed nine rebounds in 24 minutes. The 25-year-old center played for the first time this season after Cleveland matched Charlotte's offer sheet on December 5 for the Brazilian's services.

"It was a weird feeling (to have almost all of our players)," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "It's not just that we've been without LeBron."

James and Varejao checked into the game together, along with Larry Hughes, at 5:59 of the first quarter.

"The last time I didn't start was probably - never," James said. "I had no problem with it. It's one time. Andy, Larry, and LeBron coming off the bench, it's kind of dangerous. It raised the intensity level of the fans."

Cleveland was clinging to a 15-11 lead at the time, before exploding on a 22-5 run to finish out the opening quarter. Hughes scored 12 of his game-high 36 points in the period and the Cavaliers led, 37-16, after one.

"Off the bench or start? My preference is to play off the ball. That's the focus right now," Hughes said. "We're not going to waiver on how good we think we can be."

Cleveland shot 61 percent in the first half and scored a season-high 65 points, taking a 16-point lead into the locker room.

"I thought they had two LeBron James' out there," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "They were just too much for us tonight."

Jamaal Tinsley hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Pacers within 70-61 at 7:29 of the third quarter, but the James-led Cavaliers would not be denied. Leading 74-64, the Cavaliers ran off a 14-0 spurt to put the game away.

Cleveland scored more points in three quarters (97) than they had in any one of the previous six games.

"We wanted to watch (LeBron's) minutes," Brown said when asked about the superstar's reserve role. "That the most points we've scored off the bench (74) since I've been here."

O'Brien was surprised James did not start.

"I thought if they didn't start him, I thought maybe he wasn't going to play," O'Brien said.

Mike Dunleavy led the Pacers with 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

"They were just on fire and we didn't do a very good job of ball containment and we didn't do a very good job of helping each other," Dunleavy said. "That's why they got so many wide-open looks, and that's why they made so many shots."

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