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James helps Cavs edge Bryant, Lakers

Dec 21, 2007 - 5:42 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) - In a marquee matchup of the league's two leading scorers, LeBron James finally received some much-needed help.

James collected 33 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers upstaged Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, 94-90, on Thursday night.

Cleveland registered its third win in just 12 outings on the back of its 6-8 superstar, who came into the contest averaging a league-high 29.6 points.

"It's a long season," James said. "I think we know how to win ballgames, and I think we just wanted to play a lot harder on the defensive end. Coach (Mike Brown) got on us a lot, and we just answered the call."

As a result, the Cavaliers, who fell to the lowly New York Knicks on Wednesday night, have now won four straight times vs. the Lakers.

This time, James' teammates stepped up. Daniel Gibson scored 15 points, Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 12 and Anderson Varejao netted 11.

"Our bench was really big for us," Brown said. "I was proud of our second unit."

Bryant, whose still battling through a groin injury, finished with 21 points on just 8-of-22 shooting from the floor.

"I can't explode to the basket like I want to," said Bryant, who entered averaging 26.8 points. "I have to rely on my jump shot a lot more."

Tied at 61-61 in the third quarter, the Lakers took control with an aggressive 17-6 surge, capped by Bryant's layup off a pass by Trevor Ariza to make it 78-67 at the 2:15 mark.

But after sleep-walking through the first 10 minutes of the period, Cleveland responded with a 16-0 run, bridging the third and fourth quarters to forge an 83-78 edge with 9:18 left.

"That second group, we buckled down and got out in transition," Cavaliers reserve Devin Brown said.

"The key to the game was the way we finished the third quarter," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We had control of the game. We just didn't finish that quarter out."

However, Los Angeles regained the lead when Derek Fisher drilled an 18-footer from the left wing to snap an 86-86 tie with 4:58 remaining.

After trading baskets, the 23-year-old James gave the Cavs the lead for good as he hit a jumper and sank two free throws with 1:44 left for a 92-90 edge.

"There was execution in the fourth quarter, and it seemed like whoever had the ball at the end of the game was going to win it," James said. "We were able to make enough plays."

Lamar Odom had a chance to give the Lakers the lead, but his 3-pointer rimmed in-and-out with 15 seconds to go, and Andrew Bynum missed two foul shots seconds later.

Los Angeles got another break when Bryant came down with the rebound on Bynum's second missed free throw.

Following a timeout, Bryant's missed shot from the arc was grabbed by Fisher, but he was called for going over the back of Gibson, who hit a pair from the line to secure the win.

"There was contact," Fisher said. "But I didn't push (Gibson)."

Odom had 19 points and 11 boards and Bynum added 17 and 11 for the Lakers, who gave up 25 second-chance points and was outscored, 21-12, in the final quarter.

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