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James, Cavaliers dominate Mavericks in second half

Nov 4, 2008 - 5:55 AM By John Tranchina PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DALLAS (Ticker) -- LeBron James found his shot again.

What looked like a showdown bound to go down to the wire turned into a blowout, as James and the Cleveland Cavaliers exploded to come away with a 100-81 victory on the road Monday night.

With the Cavaliers nursing a one-point lead late in the third, LeBron James' driving layup and subsequent free throw sparked a 20-2 run that put the game out of reach with plenty of time to spare. James, who posted a season-high 29 points and eight boards, enforced his will on Dallas' defense, drawing contact all night and finishing 13-of-15 from the foul line.

"It's just part of his aggressiveness," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "He's doing a nice job of just sitting down deep. He's a big strong fellow, so when he sits down that deep, he's a handful. Teams have to start doubling, with as good a passer as he is, he's going to find his teammates for some good looks."

James, who won the NBA scoring title with a 30.0 points per game average last season, was averaging just 19.7 points heading into the contest, but broke out with a big night, scoring 11 in the third quarter.

"I still didn't shoot the ball particularly well from the field, like I know I can," James said. "But I was able to get into the lane and knock down my free throws. I was in attack mode all night, missed some shots I know I can make, but I felt good."

Once the final period rolled around, he let his re-tooled supporting cast take over. Mo Williams, acquired in an offseason trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, opened up the fourth with a pair of pull-up jumpers and capped Cleveland's surge with a 3-pointer to give his new team an 85-68 lead that proved to be insurmountable.

"Mo was terrific during that stretch," Brown said. "We just went to him and he made play after play after play."

Dallas put just 15 points on the board in the fourth, shooting 4-of-15 from the floor in the period.

"We looked slow, we looked sluggish, nobody ever really got it going," Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "We kind of fought our way back there in the fourth, and we can't let Mo Williams put the game away like that."

The Cavaliers finally proved they could defeat a quality opponent after falling short in their first two tries this season. Considered one of the top contenders to represent the Eastern Conference next June, the Cavs were left wanting last week in losses to the reigning champion Boston Celtics and the New Orleans Hornets, a rising power in the West.

But they responded with a strong defensive effort on Monday, holding the Mavericks to 41 percent shooting (29-of-71) while holding a 52-35 rebounding edge - including 18-9 on the offensive glass.

"Our inability to defensive rebound really from the opening tip was our undoing," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "They had four offensive rebounds in the first 3 1/2 minutes, and you know those are all opportunities for us. Get the rebound, get a chance to get out and get aggressive, and it really hurt us."

"It's all about defense, taking the challenge," James said. "Our defense is where we make our mark and we took the stand. After they had tied it up, guys just really buckled down, and it was good to see us really work defensively and we made some shots."

After averaging 32.0 points in the first quarter so far this season, the Mavs managed just 16 as the Cavaliers jumped out to a 12-point lead going into the second quarter. They maintained a large lead throughout the second, holding the Mavericks to 41.5 percent shooting in the first half while taking a 51-42 advantage into halftime.

"I think we got off to a slow start, and that put us behind the eight-ball and we were playing catch-up," Mavericks guard Jason Kidd said.

But the Mavericks used a 9-0 run early in the third quarter to pull to within two, and finally pulled even when Jason Terry nailed a 3-pointer with 3:36 left in the third to make it 63-63. But the Cavaliers answered, scoring nine of the next 10 points to take control.

Williams had nine points and a pair of assists in the first 3:44 of the fourth quarter and finished with 14 and six.

Josh Howard led the Mavericks with 18 points, while superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki was held to just eight on 3-of-11 shooting. He averaged 28.5 points through the first two games of the season.

"It was defense," Brown said. "I thought our defense turned it up a notch and I tell our guys, if we can take care of the basketball and give ourselves a chance possession-wise to score, but we keep remembering that it's about defense, we're going to have a chance to win a lot of games and be good."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, while Delonte West chipped in with 14, five assists and three steals.

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