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James shakes off ankle injury; Cavaliers snap two-game slide

Mar 1, 2008 - 4:53 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Showing no ill effects from an ankle injury suffered two days earlier, LeBron James continued his drive toward his first MVP award.

James had 30 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds for the Cleveland Cavaliers en route to a 92-84 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

After spraining his right ankle in Cleveland's most recent loss, 92-87, to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, James - the NBA's leading scorer - looked completely healthy a mere 48 hours later.

James struggled early on, hitting just one of his first five shots, before turning it on in the second half, scoring 19 of his points after the break. He even unloaded five of his six dunks after halftime.

"He makes things happen, especially in transition," said Timberwolves rookie swingman Corey Brewer, who had the unenviable task of defending James for most of the evening. "He's a tough guy to stop, probably the best in the league."

A dunk by James gave Cleveland a 74-63 lead with 8:35 to play but the Timberwolves rallied back for six straight points.

James answered with another power dunk to make it 76-69 with 6:40 remaining. Minnesota made one last run to narrow the deficit to 79-75, but Cleveland reeled off 11 unanswered points to seal the contest.

"Delonte (West) is a push guard," James said. "I'm starting to realize that I can just run the floor and get down the lane quicker. That's what I'm good at. I run the floor extremely well and, when you have a good push guard like that who can see the floor like that, it's pretty good.

"We were crisp in the last 4:30 (with our offensive execution)."

A late-game highlight was turned in by West, who took his dribble behind his back in traffic near midcourt and broke away from the pack for a dunk with 1:52 remaining.

"I'm starting to react," West said. "I didn't realize how extensive coach (Mike) Brown's playbook was."

Devin Brown scored 13 points and West added 12 for the Cavaliers, who ended a two-game skid and improved to 2-2 since the three-team, 11-player trade which brought center Ben Wallace, swingman Wally Szczerbiak, forward Joe Smith and West to the Cavaliers.

"We have to use these games as some of our practices," Brown said. "We've got to coach, teach and figure these things out on the fly. All the basics will be covered come playoff time, we've just got to make sure that we try to do it at a high level."

Al Jefferson had 22 points - but just four after halftime - and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who fell to 2-25 on the road this season. After hitting 8-of-16 shots in the opening 24 minutes, Jefferson was held to just 2-of-6 shooting in the second half.

"Defensively, Al Jefferson's a load - he had 18 at half," Brown said. "We decided to turn up our aggressiveness on him and double him quicker and we did it as a team."

"The perimeter (shooters) really struggled," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "When that begins to happen, the floor shrinks up on Al. When you can get perimeter play and scoring with Al scoring down low, that's when you become good offensively. Tonight, that was a struggle for us."