James’ triple-double helps Cavaliers squeak past Hornets
CLEVELAND — LeBron James changed shoes at halftime on Friday night. Then, he turned the game in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ favor in the second half.
James notched another triple-double and was all over the court during the Charlotte Hornets’ final possession, and the Cavs hung on to beat the Hornets 100-99.
James finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists for his 57th regular-season triple-double and second this season. He was already in double-digit points, rebounds, and assists before the fourth quarter started, but scored just six points on 3-of-8 shooting at halftime.
Then he switched out of a yellow pair of his Nike signature shoe and into a black pair.
“I just wasn’t playing well,” James said. “So, I’m a little weird sometimes. I wasn’t playing well, up to my standards.”
He fixed that, and then some.
J.R. Smith, who contributed 16 points for the Cavs, put them ahead for good with a free throw with 48.2 seconds left, making the score 100-99.
The Hornets had the ball with 11.1 seconds left and looked to Kemba Walker, but he couldn’t get past James for a layup and gave the ball to Jeremy Lamb. Facing pressure, Lamb heaved a 3-pointer that missed. James then blocked Walker’s 3-point attempt from 38-feet away as time expired.
“It’s always rewarding (to know they can win with defense), and we had to do that, do that all the way to all the zeroes on the clock,” James said. “We had some great looks, just couldn’t string a few together, especially in the fourth quarter, but defensively we was in tune. We had a couple calls that didn’t go our way in the fourth quarter, but we just stayed with it and it allowed us to win this game.”
The Cavs have won seven straight overall for the longest active streak in the NBA, and eight in a row over Charlotte. Cleveland entered the game as the worst-rated team on defense in the NBA, but limited the Hornets to a season low .38.3 percent (36-of-94) shooting.
“We missed six free throws in the fourth quarter on the road in a one-point game,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “I think that is a big part of the story, obviously.”
The Hornets, who had their three-game winning streak stopped, were 16-of-27 from the foul line.
The Cavs beat the Hornets 115-107 on Nov. 15. Dwight Howard scored eight points with five rebounds and took five shots in that game; Friday he led Charlotte with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“Down the stretch they were going to Dwight a lot,” Smith said. “(With a) big body like that, we were just trying to tell everybody to stay home, guard your man and we’ll live and die with whether he hits it or not.”
Kyle Korver scored 13 off the bench and Kevin Love added 11 points and 13 rebounds. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams scored 17 each for the Hornets. Walker finished with 15 points and eight assists but shot 6-of-21.
“They executed down the stretch and we missed some shots,” said Michael Carter Williams, scored 11 off the bench for Charlotte. “They got to the line, LeBron was great and they came up with a win. We probably have to go back and fix some things but we fought hard.”
James shot 4 of 5 in the third quarter following his shoe change, and his 3-pointer with 31.5 seconds remaining put Cleveland ahead, 83-82, heading into the fourth. He scored eight in the final period.
James equaled his game average in assists in the first quarter, where he recorded eight of Cleveland’s nine assists. He scored or assisted on 10 of Cleveland’s baskets, and was an assist shy of his personal record in any quarter (nine, against Indiana on Jan. 29, 2010).
The Hornets led after one period, 28-27, and 57-54 at halftime.
NOTES: Cavs G Derrick Rose left the team to deal with a “personal matter.” According to ESPN, Rose, 29, stepped away to consider his NBA future because of recurring injuries. Rose has played in just seven games this season because of complications from a sprained left ankle suffered Oct. 20. The Cavs didn’t deny the report, but coach Tyronn Lue said he expected Rose to rejoin the team at some point. Rose, the NBA MVP in 2011, signed a one-year, $2.1 million contract with the Cavs in July. Lue said he texted Rose to tell him there was a still a place for him on the team. He’s been gone since at least Wednesday. ... Hornets G Nicolas Batum was out for Friday’s game because of an ulnar nerve contusion suffered Wednesday, but the injury is not believed to be serious. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said the team would take Batum’s absence day by day; he might even play Saturday against San Antonio. Batum missed the first 12 games this season because of an injury to the same elbow. ... Cavs F LeBron James, who has a lucrative professional relationship with Nike, said he played a small role in the design of the company’s new, all black Cavs jerseys the team wore Friday night.