for this game

James, Cavaliers spoil Christmas for Heat

Dec 26, 2007 - 1:10 AM By Todd Krepop PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Even the grinch wouldn't have booed LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day.

James scored 25 points and added 12 assists to lead the Cavaliers to a 96-82 victory over the woeful Miami Heat on Tuesday.

Drew Gooden added 18 points and Daniel Gibson scored 16 off the bench for the Cavaliers, who were booed off the court after dropping a 105-96 decision to Golden State on Sunday.

Cleveland (13-16), which had lost 10 of 13, is currently in ninth place in the conference while Miami (8-20) is in last.

"It has to start now," James said. "We can't keep taking one step forward and two steps back at this point. We need to continue to go, because we are heading into January. Going into the playoffs, we need to start getting in tune."

As for the Heat, they could probably hear the booing from Miami. Dwyane Wade, who is nursing a sore right shoulder, scored 22 points, making just 7-of-18 shots from the floor and only 8-of-16 from the free-throw line.

"I was just shooting them and missing some," Wade said. "Just missing some shots. It wasn't their defense; it was nothing they did special. The shoulder wasn't a factor; I was just missing my free throws."

To make matters worse, Shaquille O'Neal was on the bench for most of the fourth quarter and narrowly avoided tying an NBA record by fouling out in a sixth straight game.

"I have no idea (what's wrong)," Wade said. "If I knew, I'd try to correct it, so I have no take."

It was a matchup between the past two Eastern Conference champions, but neither team looked quite like it is ready to lay claim to that title this season. The Cavaliers got the upper hand in this matchup because they got key contributions from everyone, as well as the usual from James.

Miami led, 47-43, at halftime but bumbled and turned the ball over 10 times, leading to 16 Cleveland points during a forgettable third quarter. The Cavaliers took advantage of the turnovers by Miami and went on a 15-0 run to take a 59-47 lead.

"It was an absolute, complete turnaround," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "I am really perplexed. The turnovers led to fast breaks that got them close. Then they go the (15-0) run, Gibson hit a couple of threes and LeBron started making all the plays. We just let it go."

Surprisingly, Cleveland did not rely on James during the run. The 22-year-old scored just four points during that span. Instead, Cleveland got field goals from Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, Gibson, Anderson Varejao and Gooden.

"We were in tune defensively," James said. "We wanted to get stops and when we get stops we are very good at running out. We held (Miami) to 14 points in the third. It enabled us to go out and do what we had to do on the offensive end."

The Heat continued to struggle offensively, and Gibson opened the lead up to 10 points by hitting consecutive 3-pointers to make the score 79-69 with 7:54 to play. The Cavaliers finished the game by outscoring the Heat, 44-21 over the final 19 minutes.

"I thought everybody that came in the game contributed," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "It was a very good team win."

James hit a driving layup over O'Neal which caused him to pick up his fifth foul with 6:56 to play to make it 84-70.

He then punctuated the rout by slicing through the defense for a two-handed jam that stretched the lead to 96-80 with a minute left.

"It was a good win," James said. "Both us and Miami are struggling, so you don't want a team to come in here and beat you on your own court."

Ricky Davis had 15 points and O'Neal added 13 for the Heat, who were trying to win consecutive games for just the second time this season.

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