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James pours in 37 as Cavs rally past Bulls

Mar 2, 2008 - 10:21 PM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- LeBron James rescued the Cleveland Cavaliers by delivering a potentially devastating blow to the Chicago Bulls.

James scored 23 of his 37 points in the first half and helped the Cavaliers rally down the stretch Sunday afternoon for a 95-86 triumph over the reeling Bulls.

"It's my fifth year," James said. "I know how to turn it on and turn it off. The difficult shots might look difficult but they're not to me."

It was the fifth victory in the last seven games for Cleveland (34-26), which climbed one-half game ahead of the Toronto Raptors (32-25) for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors visit the Charlotte Bobcats later Sunday.

Conversely, Chicago (23-36) has dropped seven of its last 10 contests and is 3 1/2 games behind the New Jersey Nets (26-32) for eighth place in the East.

Playing without injured center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Cavs struggled offensively throughout and faced a 76-68 deficit with 10 minutes remaining.

But James re-entered the matinee contest to spark Cleveland to a win in its first meeting this season with Chicago. He made a layup to give the Cavs the lead for good, 85-83, with 3:10 remaining.

Less than 40 seconds later, James provided the exclamation point in the matinee contest, driving past Andres Nocioni and slamming home a monster dunk over Luol Deng to make it 87-83.

"(James' dunk) got me hyped," said former Bull Joe Smith, who joined the Cavs late last month in a 13-player deadline trade involving three teams. "He is one of the most unselfish guys of his stature, along with Kevin Garnett."

After Chicago's Ben Gordon committed a turnover on the ensuing possession, James scored his final points of the contest when he drilled a jumper to give Cleveland an 89-83 edge with two minutes left.

"It broke their hearts," James said. "They turned it over, and I came down and hit a jumper. That kind of broke their hearts, because they had no momentum after that."

James, who also had six rebounds and six assists, received support from Smith, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West, all of whom were acquired in the blockbuster deal 10 days ago with the Bulls and Seattle SuperSonics.

Szczerbiak scored 17 points off the bench, making a trio of 3-pointers. Smith also contributed off the bench, scoring all eight of his points in the fourth quarter to help spur Cleveland's late comeback.

"You have to give Wally and Joe credit," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "They both came off the bench, and they were big for us in the fourth quarter."

"I've been so amped up and excited for these games that maybe it just slowed me down a little bit," Szczerbiak said. "Just to clear my mind."

West made a game-tying jumper with four minutes left and finished with nine points. Ben Wallace, also acquired in the three-team trade, had seven points and eight rebounds in his first game against his former team.

Former Cavalier Larry Hughes scored 23 points to pace the Bulls, who have lost 13 of their last 20 contests.

"I think it was the right game plan as far as, if coach was going to play me a lot of minutes," Hughes said. "I've got to be aggressive."

"People have to step up and take a leadership role and understand that, at the end of the game, teams are going to play their best defense," Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan added. "Maximum effort is going to be thrown at you and you have to be ready to respond."