for this game

James, Hughes help Cavaliers win second straight

Dec 28, 2007 - 5:35 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- LeBron James scored 15 of his 24 points in the first half and battled through foul trouble to help the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 88-81 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

James also added eight rebounds and seven assists and punctuated the win with a thunderous dunk in the final minute.

"We're a pretty good team when we defend," James said. "It's as simple as that. The last two games we defend and we looked good. When we don't defend, we're not so good. It's easy but we've got to figure that out."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 18 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland, which beat Miami on Christmas Day and has won two straight for the first time since November 21-27.

It was an ugly shooting game for both teams, as both Cleveland (32-of-88) and Dallas (27-of-74) shot 36 percent.

"We didn't make shots," Mavericks guard Jason Terry said. "We had some great looks, they didn't go in obviously. Both teams shot 36 percent from the field and less than 25 from the three. I think we (normally) win a ballgame like that, but we didn't get it done tonight."

Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 points on just 6-of-17 shooting with a season-high 20 rebounds for Dallas, which suffered only its third home loss of the season.

"He was battling in there," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "He was still missing some of his shots that he likes, but he's battling. Twenty rebounds, that's no easy task right there."

"Losing at home is tough," Terry said. "But the thing about it is now we have a game coming up here on Saturday (Atlanta). It's almost a must win for us. Atlanta beat us once this year and we don't want that to happen again."

James picked up his fifth foul with 5:43 to play, but he played through and contributed two key assists down the stretch.

"I took some blows today," James said. "I don't come out of a game. I'm fine. I shake it off and go to the next play."

Dallas pulled within 81-79 on a layup by Josh Howard with 4:43 to play, but James found Daniel Gibson for a huge 3-pointer that made it 84-79. After a pair of free throws by Nowitzki, James set up Ilgauskas' 15-footer that made it 86-81 with 2:48 to play.

"We just couldn't get timely stops," Johnson said. "We got down and tried to get back into it. We tried for a little bit and scrambled. Then somebody would get a rebound and make a wide-open shot. And on top of that we really couldn't score."

"This is a tough building to play in," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "Avery is a terrific coach and they're obviously a very good basketball team. In a tight ballgame we stayed poised down the stretch when we could've easily been happy with our effort for the first 44 minutes."

James did manage to get one highlight in the period as he stretched out for thunderous one-handed dunk in the lane that provided the final margin with 1:09 to play.

"Numerous times we had the opportunity to bump the lead up to five," James said. "We kept slipping. We kept missing some easy shots. I was just being aggressive. They were blitzing me and double-teaming me all game. I just wanted to be aggressive. I got to the interior and wanted to finish off."

Nowitzki tried to shake off his bad shooting night by scoring 10 points during a third quarter in which the Mavericks used a 15-6 run to pull within 68-62 heading into the final period.

Howard scored 19 points for Dallas , which had won 12 of the previous 14 meetings between the clubs.