for this game

James great late as Cavaliers down Lakers

Jan 28, 2008 - 2:20 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- LeBron James saved his best for last.

James scored 14 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter as the Cleveland Cavaliers continued their recent domination over the Los Angeles Lakers with a 98-95 victory on Sunday afternoon.

James scored his team's final eight points as the Cavaliers pulled away in winning for the fifth straight time over the Lakers.

"Forty-one points means nothing if we don't win basketball games," James said. "Defensively, we held a good shooting team and a good offensive power team to (47) percent shooting from the field, and that's what it's all about."

Larry Hughes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas each added 16 points for Cleveland, which notched its league-high 17th fourth-quarter comeback.

"We've been in big games before," James said. "We're a young ballclub, but we're not young-minded. We know how to win ballgames on the road in hostile environments - and this was another one we found a way to win."

"It was a 48-minute game," Hughes said. "We made some plays late, we were able to take the ball to the basket and draw some fouls. We came up with some big rebounds in the fourth and everything came together for us."

James entered the contest averaging a league-best 29.6 points per game, but has been even better over his previous seven games in which he had averaged 32.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists.

A 7-2 run early in the fourth put the Lakers ahead by nine points, but they gave it all back as Cavaliers responded with a subsequent 15-2 spurt that gave them a 90-86 lead on Hughes' short jumper with 4:22 remaining before the frenzied finish.

The Lakers tied the score at 92-92 on Kobe Bryant's baseline jumper and took a one-point advantage on Luke Walton's free-throw with 1:29 left.

James then went to work, driving to the basket for a layup and following it up with a long jumper with 20 seconds on the clock to put his team up, 93-90.

"We gave them too many easy opportunities and had (too many) mental lapses on the defensive end," Bryant said.

The Lakers had a chance to regain the lead when Walton stole Cleveland's inbound pass and fed the ball to Bryant, but the nine-time All-Star was unable to convert the layup.

James was fouled and calmly knocked down two free throws with nine seconds left to push it back to a three-point lead at 98-95.

Despite taking a timeout that moved the ball to half-court, the Lakers were unable to get off a game-tying attempt.

Luke Walton had the ball on the right wing and, under heavy defensive pressure, passed the ball to Bryant at the top of the key, but time expired before he could release a shot from beyond the arc.

"We ran our last-second play and I was hoping to get the shot off," Walton said. "I kinda fumbled the ball a little bit, wasn't aware the clock was as low as it was, and I soon as I passed it to Kobe, I realized that was a mistake and, unfortunately, it cost us big."

According to Cleveland coach Mike Brown, it was his two perimeter players' defense that made the difference in the waning moments.

"I thought our guys were unbelievable," Brown said. "LeBron and Larry, the way they defended the Lakers so that they wouldn't get a shot off was amazing - and they did that own their own."

Bryant, who came in averaging 27.7 points, finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Lakers, who have now lost three consecutive games for the first time this season.

The Cavaliers overcame an odd early obstacle as well as a key injury to notch their 11th road win of the season.

The game was delayed 12 minutes with 3:36 left in the first quarter because of a small leak in the Staples Center roof. A steady flow of raindrops fell under the north basket, dropping out of bounds but less than a foot from the baseline.

Forward Anderson Varejao was injured at the 3:12 mark of the third quarter, stepping on the foot of Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic as he prepared to jump to follow a made layup by James.

Varejao was helped off the floor by the Cavaliers' training staff, clearly not wanting to put weight on the injured foot initially.

However, he was able to put some weight on the foot before entering the locker room to be examined further. He did not return and his status for Wednesday's game at Portland is unknown.