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James dominates again, leads Cavaliers to eighth straight win

Nov 19, 2008 - 4:22 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- LeBron James gave the New Jersey Nets' faithful an up-close-and-personal glimpse of what they might be competing for two years from now.

The superstar forward - who in 2010 will likely be the most sought-after free agent in NBA history - continued his streak of dominance Tuesday night to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 106-82 triumph over the Nets.

James has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week each of the last two weeks and got a nice start on making it three in a row as he scored 21 of his 31 points in the first half. Still, the Nets were able to keep up with the red-hot Cavs - for 24 minutes, at least.

"That's the luxury of having a guy like LeBron. In the first half when we were turning the ball over, not getting great looks and not knocking down shots, he made shots for us," Cleveland head coach Mike Brown said. "He made shots the right way by aggressively attacking the rim.

"This team is deep enough and talented enough with different types of players, it takes just a little bit of time for guys to get going."

The third quarter was a different story, however. And for once, James took a backseat as the Cavaliers stormed ahead for good.

Cleveland opened the second half with four consecutive 3-pointers - two apiece by Mo Williams and Delonte West - to turn a three-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead. The Cavs cruised from there, picking up their eighth victory in a row.

"Our mindset is to go out and get better every night," James said. "You are not going to win every night, you are not going to go 82-0. We hope the streak doesn't end, but it probably will. You want to continue to get better every game."

It was James that put the finishing touches on the win, physically enforcing his will on the soft Nets' defense, hammering down an emphatic dunk to make it 63-56 and repeatedly drawing contact inside. He drained six foul shots over the final six minutes of the third as the Cavaliers pushed their lead to 77-63.

"We had that killer mentality," James said. "We didn't want the crowd to get into it. We were able to continue to defend. We stopped turning the ball over. We started playing defense without fouling. We were able to do those things in the third quarter. We never let down after that."

James finished 9-of-20 from the field and 12-of-17 from the free-throw line. Williams and West added 16 apiece, hitting seven 3-pointers between them.

"We went on a roll," Williams said. "We got stops and that separated us in the game. We put it out of reach."

New Jersey has been seen as a possible destination for James once his current contract with the Cavs runs out - largely on the basis of his friendship with the team's part-owner, Jay-Z.

The perennial All-Star has certainly done his part to whet the Nets' appetites. For most of his career, he's had his way with them - averaging 28.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.2 assists in head-to-head meetings.

He had a 42-point outburst in New Jersey last season and led the Cavaliers to second-round playoff victory over the Nets in 2007.

"It starts with LeBron," Nets head coach Lawrence Frank said. "Even if he doesn't score or get the assist, it's a result of the pressure he puts on the defense."

On Tuesday, the Nets did well to counteract James' strong first-half showing - thanks in large part to the trio of Devin Harris, second-year forward Yi Jianlian and rookie center Brook Lopez, around whom the Nets are currently trying to build their team.

"I thought that we gave LeBron too many easy scores in the first half. (But) we had some good offensive stretches," Frank said. "We were plus-three going into the third quarter in our own building, but in the second half we just didn't have the energy level for whatever reason."

Harris - who had scored at least 30 points in each of his last three games coming into the night - hit his stride midway through the opening quarter.

The 25-year-old point guard tied the game with a 15-footer, snapped the tie with a three-point play and later drained a 3-pointer as the Nets opened up a seven-point lead. Lopez had a double-double by halftime with 10 points and 10 boards, while Jianlian added nine points.

However, the Cavaliers put the clamps on them after the break. Harris finished with 23 points but was held to just two - a pair of free throws - in the final quarter as Cleveland opened up a huge lead. Lopez collected 15 and 13 rebounds and Jianlian did not score in the second half.

Vince Carter was held in check as well, hitting just 3-of-12 from the field for 12 points for New Jersey.

"In the second half, you could sense it, our ability to get to the basket dwindled as they turned their defense up," Carter said. "We couldn't step it up ourselves, so hats off to them."