Coming off his highest-scoring game of the season, James looks to help the Cavaliers win for the 10th time in 12 contests Saturday night when they host the struggling Philadelphia 76ers.
James banged his left wrist on the basket while dunking late in Wednesday’s 108-91 loss to Washington, but the injury didn’t seem to bother him much in Friday’s 105-95 win at Indiana. The reigning league MVP scored 10 of his season-high 40 points in the final 7:07, and also had nine rebounds and seven assists to help the Cavaliers (9-4) continue their surge after back-to-back losses to open the season.
“When you have a guy as talented as him, sometimes your best coaching on the offensive end of the floor is staying out of his way,” coach Mike Brown said.
After a slow start, James has found his rhythm over the past two weeks. He’s averaging 32.7 points on 54.0 percent shooting in his last seven games, up from 22.6 points on 46.9 percent shooting in his previous five.
He could have trouble building on his latest performance, though.
Although Cleveland has had little trouble lately beating Philadelphia (5-7) with James on the floor, the five-time All-Star hasn’t had a 30-point game against the Sixers since recording 39 in a 118-115 double-overtime loss on Jan. 24, 2007, a span of seven games.
The Cavs had a five-game winning streak over Philadelphia end with a 111-110 overtime defeat in the 2008-09 regular-season finale. Cleveland wasn’t at full strength, though, as James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) and Mo Williams(notes) sat out to rest in preparation for the playoffs.
After sweeping Detroit and Atlanta, the Cavs were eliminated in six games by Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals.
Cleveland acquired the 37-year-old O’Neal in the offseason with hopes the 15-time All-Star could help bolster the team’s inside game to make a championship run, but he has missed the last four games with a strained right shoulder.
O’Neal is averaging 11.3 points and 6.9 rebounds, and Brown didn’t give a timetable for his return.
Like Cleveland, the Sixers were also bounced from last season’s playoffs by the Magic in six games. Philadelphia was knocked out in a first-round series, and hasn’t been playing like a playoff-caliber team lately.
The Sixers are coming off Friday’s 102-97 home loss to lowly Memphis, their fifth defeat in seven games, and are now set to open a three-game road trip with seven of their next eight away from Philadelphia.
They’ve had trouble getting their offense in gear on the road lately, averaging 83.7 points on 25.9 percent shooting from 3-point range in the last three away from the Wachovia Center.
Iguodala averaged 23.3 points on 61.5 percent shooting in four games against Cleveland last season while guard Lou Williams averaged 19.3 points in three games.
Williams finished with a career-high 31 points on 12 of 16 shooting Friday, and is emerging as a legitimate scoring threat for Philadelphia.