November 25, 2004

LeBron Scores 43 As Cavs Pop Pistons 92-76

CLEVELAND - LeBron James soared, swooped and scored almost at will with Larry Brown watching from the opposite bench. Perhaps trying to show his U.S. Olympic team coach that he should have played more in Greece, James scored a career-high 43 points Wednesday night to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 92-76 win over the Detroit Pistons.

Jeff McInnis added 16 points as the Cavaliers won for the seventh time in eight games.

The Pistons were shorthanded, playing without center Ben Wallace, who served the third game of his six-game suspension for brawling with the Indiana Pacers. But even with Wallace, Detroit may not have been able to stop James.

This was his night.

The NBA's reigning rookie of the year scored 21 points in the first half and 12 in the third quarter when he assisted on Cleveland's two other field goals. In the fourth, after Detroit pulled within 10, James made consecutive 3-pointers, punctuating the second with a wag of his tongue as the Cavaliers went up by 16.

James was taken out with 2:03 left to a rousing ovation and the Cavaliers up 87-71. At that point, the rest of the Cavaliers had scored 44 points to his 43.

Richard Hamilton scored 28 points and Rasheed Wallace 11 for Detroit.

Brown wasn't expected to be at the game. But he surprised the defending NBA champions by arriving about 1 1/2 hours before the opening tip after getting permission to travel from doctors.

Brown recently had hip surgery, and there had been concern he could develop blood clots. He missed Tuesday's game in Charlotte.

In Athens, Brown was more comfortable playing veterans to run his system so he sat James, who had never spent so much time on the bench and didn't enjoy being a cheerleader. James averaged just 5.4 points in 11.4 minutes in eight games as the U.S. team settled for a bronze medal.

"It wasn't that I wasn't happy," James said before the game. "I wish I had a better opportunity to showcase my talents. That's all it came down to. There ain't no hard feelings."

James showed his full arsenal of moves in the first quarter, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He had a power dunk underneath, a soaring slam down the lane and tip-in where he appeared to illegally touch the rim to pull himself in front.

For good measure, he dropped a 15-foot jumper and spun through two Pistons on a double-team before flipping in a finger roll. During one stretch bridging the first and second quarter, James scored 15 of Cleveland's 17 points.

The Pistons scored the first eight points of the second half, trimming Cleveland's lead to nine before James scored six in a row to make it 60-47. James then picked up three assists, hit a jumper and made two free throws to put the Cavaliers ahead 71-59 entering the fourth.

Notes:@ James, who will turn 20 on Dec. 30, is the youngest player in league history to reach 500 assists and rebounds, doing it quicker than Magic Johnson, who was 20 years, 213 days when he hit both plateaus. ... The Pistons have trailed at the half in 10 of 11 games. ... Before the game, the Cavaliers activated rookie G Luke Jackson and placed swingman Sasha Pavlovic on the injured list. Jackson made a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left for his first points this season.