Chicago (29-45) at Cleveland (42-33)

Fair Currently: Cleveland, OH
Temp: 79° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EDT Thu Apr 3, 2008
  • TV: TNT
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Last season, LeBron James led the Cavaliers to the NBA finals for the first time, but with little help from his teammates, Cleveland was easily swept by San Antonio.

James got a big lift from his teammates in his last game, which may prove to be critical to their playoff preparation.

James and the Cavaliers look to build off their latest victory and win their third straight game when they host the fading Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

Cleveland (42-33) defeated Charlotte 118-114 on Wednesday, as seven Cavs reached double figures.

James scored 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting, but was called for his sixth foul with 3:56 remaining and Cleveland ahead 104-101. After James fouled out for the only the third time in his career, Wally Szczerbiak, Devin Brown and Zydrunas Ilgauskas all made big plays for the Cavs, who have won two straight after dropping three in a row.

“I don’t like sitting on the bench and not being out there for my teammates,” James said. “But I think we made a big step forward.

“It’s kind of special. The guys did a great job of not worrying about me being on the bench. They stepped in and made some big plays.”

Cleveland has already clinched a playoff spot, and appears to have a stronghold on fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

James is averaging 22.3 points in his last four games - 8.0 points below his league-leading average - but has had no trouble scoring against Chicago (29-45) this season.

The four-time All-Star has scored 76 points in two games against the Bulls, and is averaging 33.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 10 games versus them since the start of the 2005-06 season.

Cleveland has split two games with Chicago this season, the home team each winning once. The Cavs have won 12 of the last 15 meetings with the Bulls in Cleveland.

The Cavs have won 10 of their last 11 overall at Quicken Loans Arena, and open a three-game homestand Thursday. Chicago, meanwhile, has lost 10 of its last 11 on the road, including six in a row.

The Bulls are coming off a 106-92 loss to Boston on Tuesday.

Chicago has lost five of seven since pulling within two games of the East’s final playoff spot with a 112-96 win over New Jersey on March 18. The 11th-place Bulls are now 5 1/2 games out of eighth place with eight games remaining.

“Making the playoffs is my focus and the main focus of the team right now,” said Tyrus Thomas, who finished with a season-high 24 points and seven rebounds against the Celtics.

Thomas made his second straight start on Tuesday in place of Drew Gooden, who is out with a lower abdominal strain. Thomas had 10 points and seven boards in Saturday’s 114-111 win over Milwaukee.

“(Thomas) played hard, competed, rebounded, attacked the basket and he made some perimeter shots,” interim coach Jim Boylan said. “With Drew Gooden out, there will be extra minutes for Tyrus and I hope he takes advantage of it. I hope he knows consistency is the key for him.”

Thomas had 12 points and seven rebounds in his only game against Cleveland this season, a 95-86 loss on March 2.

The Bulls and Cavaliers wrap up their season series April 11 at the United Center.

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Thursday, Apr 3