James hopes to make his return to the lineup when the Cavaliers visit the Orlando Magic.
The reigning NBA rookie of the year missed his second straight game Sunday with a sprained left ankle, but the Cavaliers pulled out a 104-87 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Drew Gooden scored a career-high 33 points, including 27 in the second half, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 28 points and 18 rebounds for Cleveland, which trailed by five heading into the final period.
“We needed to win this game,” guard Lucious Harris said. “We have to hold the fort down until LeBron gets back.”
James, who ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring heading into Monday’s games, wasn’t the only player out Sunday. Cleveland entered the game with just nine players and was down to seven by the end after Harris (bruised chest) and Sasha Pavlovic (right hip flexor) left with injuries.
“They know LeBron fuels this whole thing,” Cavaliers coach Paul Silas said. “But playing as a team, they got the win. As this thing unfolds, bringing more people into the rotation and producing will be important.”
Ilgauskas and Gooden scored 42 of Cleveland’s 50 second-half points, including 28 of 32 in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody knew we had to step up with LeBron down,” said Jeff McInnis, who matched a career high with 15 assists. “We only had like six guys available at the end. But Z, myself and Drew weren’t going to let us lose this game.”
The Cavaliers were already without starting forward Ira Newble (Achilles sprain) and key reserve Anderson Varejao (ankle sprain). In addition, rookie Luke Jackson is likely done for the year after undergoing back surgery and guard Dajuan Wagner has been struggling with a stomach disorder.
“It’s just that time of year where these things come about,” Silas said. “Other guys have got to step up.”
Harris and Pavlovic traveled with the team to Florida and are listed as probable for Tuesday’s game. James is listed as a game-time decision, but Silas, who canceled practice on Monday mainly to give his battered team a rest, is confident he will be back on the floor.
“The swelling is down. The soreness is still there, but it’s not nearly as much,” Silas said. “I think he will be back.”
The Magic lost 80-79 to the Eastern Conference-worst Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Rookie Dwight Howard added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando, which managed just one point more than its season low, set on Jan. 24 in a loss at Houston. The Magic are averaging 105.1 points at home, nearly 10 more than they are scoring on the road.