for this game

James' return helps spark Cavaliers past Clippers

Feb 3, 2008 - 5:16 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- With LeBron James back in the lineup, the Cleveland Cavaliers put together a workman-like effort in beating the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers, 98-84, on Saturday.

The NBA's leading scorer, James collected 28 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists after missing Thursday's game at Seattle with a right ankle sprain.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 22 points and 13 rebounds - his 21st double-double - and Drew Gooden added 14 and 12 for the Cavaliers, who opened February with Saturday's comfortable win after posting an Eastern Conference-best 11-3 mark in January.

"(The Clippers) have a lot of guys out and, sometimes, it's human nature to let your guard down," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "But we didn't tonight."

"We were a little sluggish from the West Coast trip," Ilgauskas said.

The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month, James was injured in Cleveland's 84-83 last-second victory over Portland on Wednesday.

"I'm not as strong as I want to be," James said. "(My ankle) has been better, but it didn't get worse, and that's a good thing. With the two big road wins that we had, if we had slipped up and lost two in a row, it would have been a wash."

The superstar then sat out the Cavaliers' 101-95 loss to the lowly SuperSonics on Thursday.

"This was almost like a road game for us because we didn't get in until (late)," James said.

Cleveland is 0-6 this season without James.

The Clippers held a 47-45 lead at the break but, playing without starters Corey Maggette and Chris Kaman, Los Angeles lost for the fifth time in six games and dropped its ninth straight road game.

"Your mind was telling you to go dive after the ball and go get it, but your body was one second late," Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson said of the team's lack of intensity in the first half.

Rookie Al Thornton had 10 points in the second quarter for Los Angeles, which trailed Cleveland, 73-69, after three quarters and scored the first seven points of the fourth to take charge.

The Cavaliers shot 47 percent (35-of-74) and outrebounded the Clippers, 50-35.

Thornton scored 23 points and Cuttino Mobley added 19 for Los Angeles.

"I thought we played pretty well the first half," Thornton said. "The second half, we took some bad shots, and they opened a spread on us. But I think if we keep playing that way on the road, we'll get some wins."

Tim Thomas scored 15 points for the Clippers, who shot 40 percent (33-of-82) from the field while playing their fourth straight game without Maggette and Kaman - both out with the flu.

"We call ourselves 'The Dirty Nine,' and with what we have, I thought we played pretty well," Thornton said of the nine Clippers who were active Saturday night. "If we can keep building, I think this will be a good road trip for us."






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    Clippers vs. CavaliersFeb 2 11:25 PM


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    CLEVELAND 73 END, 3RD QTR

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    BDigi Added 5 roots

    Clippers vs. CavaliersFeb 2 6:30 PM