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James carries Cavaliers over Hawks in second half

Jan 3, 2008 - 4:12 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- LeBron James scored 32 of his 36 points in the second half, including 19 of his team's last 22, as the Cleveland Cavaliers made it four in a row over the Atlanta Hawks with a 98-94 victory on Wednesday night.

Larry Hughes scored 14 points for the Cavaliers, who have won three of their last four and six of 11 since James returned from a finger injury.

It was an all-around performance for James, who took over down the stretch with a barrage of tough jumpers and also collected six assists and five rebounds. The All-Star forward scored just four points in the first half on two first-quarter field goals.

James hit six fourth-quarter jumpers and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 16.1 seconds to finish 13-of-22 from the field.

"You know for a fact he's going to put the game on his shoulders, and he's going to try to make plays at the end," Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson said. "He got into one of those zones - that we all love - and it was fun to watch."

With the Hawks leading by one point with 7:11 to play, James took over to carry the Cavaliers to their third win in their last four games. But it wasn't without some adversity.

James' 6-of-10 fourth-quarter shooting effort included an 0-of-4 stretch in the middle of the period, but "The King's" confidence never waivered.

"I never doubt myself or my ability to shoot the basketball," James said.

"In the first half, (Atlanta) tried to deny (James) and every time he touched the ball, they hit him (with a double-team), so we just put him at the top of the floor," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.

James completed a 13-point third quarter with a long jumper at the buzzer to give Cleveland a 69-68 lead heading into the final period.

"We tried to get (the ball) out of (James') hands, but he was in an isolation position from the top which is tough when you leave wing guys," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said.

"We let (James) shoot contested jump shots, and that's what we wanted," Atlanta guard Joe Johnson said. "He came through for his team."

Johnson's 3-pointer pulled Atlanta even at 71-71 with 10:37 to play.

Gibson hit a 3-pointer and a long two-point jumper to put the Cavaliers back on top 76-75 with 8:22 left.

The much-maligned Hughes, who has battled numerous injuries, hit a pivotal jumper to put Cleveland on top 85-82 with 2:32 to play.

However, the Hawks used an impressive run 16-0 run, bridging the second and third quarters, en route to a 45-37 lead.

But Cleveland woke up and answered with a 14-2 spurt to go on top 51-47 after James' dunk and free throw at 7:14 of the third quarter.

"I think it was more a matter of shaking off New Year's Eve," Gibson said.

Johnson finished with 24 points and Josh Smith added 20 for Atlanta.

"I thought we succumbed to them from a defensive standpoint," Woodson said. "LeBron stepped up tonight and that's what he does."

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