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LeBron notches triple-double as Cavs bounce Bulls

Jan 3, 2009 - 4:52 AM By Jeff Brewer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- LeBron James recorded his first triple-double of the season to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 117-92 rout of the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

James collected 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds and Anderson Varejao scored a season-high 26 points for the Cavaliers, who played without center Zydrunas Ilgauskas (left ankle).

The 24-year-old James was having, by his standards, a pedestrian game heading into the fourth quarter with the Cavaliers in control at 89-72.

But midway through the quarter, in a span of 16 seconds, James buried a 3-pointer, gathered his 10th rebound to clinch the triple-double and then sank another a shot from the arc, much to the delight of a sellout crowd of 20,562.

"The crowd loved it," said James, trying to downplay the significance of the accomplishment for him personally.

Varejao, starting in place of injured Ilgauskas, was on the receiving end of several assists from James. The Brazilian center shot 9-of-14 from the floor, 8-of-13 from the line and gathered eight rebounds - easily surpassing his previous career best of 18 points.

"I'm just trying to be active and trying to find the open spots," Varejao said. "I know (LeBron) is going to find me."

Cleveland shot 56 percent (19-of-34) from the floor in the first half and had seven players score in double figures.

"For LeBron James to take eight shots and for us to score 117 points is just a tribute to him being a special player," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.

Ben Gordon scored 22 points to lead Chicago, which shot a dismal 37 percent (30-of-82) from the field for the contest and had eight of its shots blocked.

"You have to put so much attention to LeBron that Ben Wallace, Varejao and those guys hurt us a lot," Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Orlando and Cleveland are two of the top teams in the league. We're not healthy and we're not playing particularly well."

James had torched the Bulls for 41 points in each of their previous two meetings this season, but didn't start out as hot in this one.

"I had gone off the first two times against Chicago, so I figured they would try to get the ball out of my hands," James said. "I could have turned it up any time I wanted to."

Both teams were without key players.

A bone chip in his left ankle is expected to keep Ilgauskas sidelined for at least two weeks. Chicago's Luol Deng missed his fourth straight game with a left ankle sprain.

Cavaliers rookie forward J.J. Hickson had 13 points, six rebounds, and two blocks. Hickson will see more action with Ilgauskas hurt.

"It's all about confidence," said Hickson, who played 18 minutes.

Cleveland led 32-17 after one quarter and led by at least nine points the rest of the way as the Bulls lost for the fifth time in their last six outings.

"Our effort definitely isn't what it's been throughout the season," Chicago's Joakim Noah said. "Is there a drop off? Yeah, I mean the last two games we really haven't played to the level we are capable of."

The Cavaliers ran up a 61-47 halftime lead, with James scoring just six points. Cleveland scored the first 11 points of the third quarter and led by as many as 25 on the way to the easy win.

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