The Cavs look to extend their win streak to six when they face the Chicago Bulls for the second time in five days.
James entered Friday’s game against Indiana averaging nearly 36 points in 10 December games before finishing with a season-low 14 in a 94-89 win over the Pacers.
The third-year forward was just 4-for-16 from the field, but Drew Gooden scored a season-best 21 points to go with 12 rebounds and Larry Hughes added 18 points to lift the Cavs to their fifth straight victory.
“I missed shots. I’m going to have off nights,” said James, third in the NBA with a 30.3 scoring average. “But it doesn’t matter to me as long as we win.”
Cleveland lost five of six games to start the month, a stretch during which James never scored less than 30 points. His offensive output is not going to waste anymore and the Cavs now have a chance to move a season-high eight games above .500.
Friday’s win, though, showed the team can be just as successful when James isn’t dominating.
“That was one of our biggest games of the year thus far,” said James, who had nine assists and eight rebounds. “They’re a good team even without Ron Artest. They came to play, and we came to play.”
James had a big game the previous night in Chicago, scoring 37 points and making 4-of-6 from 3-point range in a 108-100 victory.
The Bulls will be looking to avenge that defeat and avoid a fourth straight loss overall. They opened a three-game road trip with a 95-77 defeat at Memphis on Friday.
Luol Deng struggled from the field with 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting for Chicago, which shot 35.6 percent from the field (26-for-73) and missed matching its season-low point total by one.
“It’s tough when our defense is struggling, and we’re also not making shots like that,” said guard Chris Duhon, who had four points.
Chicago’s road trip concludes at Charlotte on Wednesday.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 25): Bulls - 5th place, 10 1/2 GB, Central Division. Cavaliers - 2nd place, 6 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Bulls - Deng, 14.4 ppg; Tyson Chandler, 8.4 rpg; Hinrich, 6.4 apg. Cavaliers - James, 30.3 ppg and 5.5 apg; Gooden, 8.4 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Cavaliers, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Thursday; Cavaliers, 108-100. At Chicago, Ilgauskas scored 25 points and Damon Jones hit three consecutive 3-pointers during a 15-0 fourth-quarter run to spark the Cavs.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bulls - 5-7 on the road. Cavaliers - 11-3 at home.