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James leads Cavaliers over .500

Jan 9, 2008 - 4:01 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- LeBron James scored 22 points and Daniel Gibson added five 3-pointers en route to 17 as the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised past the Seattle SuperSonics, 95-79, on Tuesday night.

Anderson Varejao collected 14 points and nine rebounds for the Cavaliers (18-17), who posted their largest margin of victory this season and moved over .500 for the first time since November 30.

The defending Eastern Conference champions now have won four straight and six of their last seven games.

Seattle rookie Kevin Durant missed his first six shots from the floor, but still collected 24 points and six rebounds before leaving early with a left ankle sprain.

"It's feeling better," Durant said. "I tweaked it earlier in the season, so I kept the ankle brace on it for throughout the whole year, but I still managed to get it hurt a little bit. Hopefully, it will be all right by (Wednesday) night."

Durant said he enjoyed his first matchup against James.

"We were back and forth talking to each other on the floor, just laughing, having a good time and having fun on the floor," Durant said.

James, who has led Cleveland in scoring in 13 straight games, had his string of nine consecutive contests leading the club in assists ended at nine. He shot 8-of-18 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds.

The superstar forward was coming off one of the franchise's great performances when he scored 24 points in the fourth quarter - a team record - en route to a 93-90 comeback win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

"I had to start (playing at a high level) early (this season)," James said. "It was just a conscious effort because I knew that we weren't going to have all of our guys start the regular season. I couldn't start late this season."

James also described Gibson as "the best shooter in the NBA" and added, "I wouldn't leave him open."

It is no coincidence that the Cavaliers now are 9-5 since James returned from a left index finger sprain on December 11. Cleveland had dropped five in a row without the 23-year-old All-Star.

The shorthanded Sonics were without the services of Chris Wilcox (right pinkie finger dislocation) and Luke Ridnour (left quadriceps soreness).

Trailing, 45-33, at the half, the Sonics pulled to within nine at 58-49 when Wally Szczerbiak drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 4:31 to play in the third quarter.

But James then scored a fast-break layup at 3:47, and Gibson stole the inbounds pass and stroked a shot from the arc, forcing a timeout by Seattle.

"We re-focused and finished out the game the right way," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.

After their lead had been whittled to nine, the Cavaliers outscored the Sonics, 16-7, to take a 74-56 lead after three quarters.

Sasha Pavlovic snapped out of his shooting slump with 13 points, his first double-digit performance since December 11.

Since mid-December, reserves Gibson, Varejao and Devin Brown have given Cleveland a lift.

"We feel like we're going to change the game (off the bench)," Gibson said. "We come into the game with added motivation."

Szczerbiak wound up with 15 points for the Sonics, who shot 40.5 percent (32-of-79) from the floor and turned the ball over 23 times.

"We shot the ball so poorly that we didn't give ourselves a chance," Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "It's easy to say turnovers more than anything else, but I don't think we matched the aggression."

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