As the league’s leading scorer on the first-place team in the Central Division, LeBron James is in the midst of another All-Star season. Although James wasn’t as sharp his last time out, returning to Cleveland should help him get back on track.
James looks to help the Cavaliers open a season with seven straight home wins for the first time in 17 years when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
James can only carry Cleveland (9-3) so far, and on Wednesday in Detroit, the four-time All-Star was not at his best.
James had his worst shooting performance of the season, hitting just 8-of-21 from the floor and missing all four 3-point attempts, as the Cavs’ eight-game winning streak ended with a 96-89 loss to the Pistons. James did hit 9-of-10 free throws, though, to finish with 25 points - 4 1/2 below his league-leading average.
“That happens in this league,” James said. “You have good games and bad games.”
James has not had many bad games in Cleveland, where the Cavs play five of their next seven.
He is averaging 31.8 points on 55.1 percent shooting in six games at Quicken Loans Arena, compared to 27.2 points on 42.1 percent shooting in six road games.
While the Cavs look like a mediocre team on the road, going 3-3 and averaging 96.3 points, they have averaged 104.7 points in winning all six of their home games.
They’re off to their best start at Quicken Loans Arena since the 2005-06 team also won its first six. They haven’t opened a season with seven straight home victories since the 1991-92 club matched the franchise record with nine consecutive home wins to open the season.
Cleveland has won two straight home games over the Hawks (8-4), and seven of the last nine meetings there. The Cavs took two of three from Atlanta last season, and have won 14 of the last 17 overall.
James averaged 31.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in three games versus the Hawks in 2007-08, and is averaging 33.0 points in four home games against Atlanta since 2005-06.
The Hawks appear to be turning things around after a rough stretch, defeating Charlotte 88-83 on Friday for their second straight victory.
They fell behind 21-8 on Friday after trailing 13-4 early in Wednesday’s 91-87 win over Washington.
“We’ve got to start playing the first quarter,” guard Mike Bibby said. “We’ve got to start playing from ahead instead of playing from behind.”
While Atlanta’s offense needs to get going early, its defense has improved over the last two games. The Hawks have limited their last two opponents to 85.0 points on 41.7 percent shooting after yielding 112.5 points on 49.8 percent shooting in their previous four contests - all losses.
Joe Johnson had a game-high 30 points on Friday, while center Al Horford returned to Atlanta’s lineup and finished with four points and four rebounds after missing Wednesday’s game with a sprained right ankle.
Last season as a rookie, Horford averaged 9.0 points and 10.3 boards in three games versus Cleveland. Johnson averaged 25.3 points in those contests.