Rarely has James taken it easy against the Indiana Pacers.
James has averaged more than 41 points in the Cavaliers’ last three visits to Conseco Fieldhouse, and he’ll look to help Cleveland win for the 12th time in 13 games against the Pacers on Friday night.
James came into Wednesday’s game against Minnesota having averaged 32.9 points, 7.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds in January, likely cementing his third straight Eastern Conference Player of the Month Award.
Many of those big efforts came in tight games. The Cavaliers (36-11) had won five straight - all by single digits and three by one point - before finally getting a breather against the Timberwolves. James scored 12 points but dished out 11 assists before taking a seat for the fourth quarter of a 109-95 win.
“It’s good every now and then to get one of these wins and be able to relax,” James told the NBA’s official Web site. “A win is a win.”
J.J. Hickson(notes) led the Cavaliers with a career-high 23 points, one game after going scoreless in 13 minutes against Miami. Hickson has shown positive signs in his second season - his 11 points and 14 rebounds were instrumental in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers last week - but he’s often made mental errors that have forced coach Mike Brown to limit his minutes.
When Hickson tops his average of 6.9 points, however, the Cavaliers are 19-0.
Hickson had 15 points and seven rebounds in a 105-95 win at Indiana on Nov. 20 in which Cleveland was without Shaquille O’Neal(notes) and Delonte West(notes). James had 40 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
That effort was hardly unusual for James against the Pacers (16-30). He’s averaged 41.3 points in his last three road games versus Indiana, and he had a triple-double in his two previous visits to Conseco Fieldhouse.
Cleveland, which could get West (fractured finger) back Friday, has outscored Indiana by an average of 11.2 points in winning 11 of 12 meetings.
Indiana will be facing its second straight elite team after losing 118-96 to the Lakers on Wednesday night. The Pacers were down three at halftime but were outscored by 19 in the second half and outrebounded 62-42.
“We played them pretty well the first half, but we couldn’t get it going and let them beat us up on the boards in the second half,” said Troy Murphy(notes), who had five rebounds after averaging 11.8 in his past 11 games. “We just didn’t have the run in it to get us back in there and get the game to our side.”
The Pacers are 0-20 when Murphy fails to record at least 11 rebounds.
Murphy and center Roy Hibbert(notes) will have their hands full inside with O’Neal, Hickson, Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) and Anderson Varejao(notes), but to stay close they’ll likely need more from Danny Granger(notes).
Indiana’s leader with 23.2 points per game, Granger has been held to 19.3 on 35.1 percent shooting in his last four games against Cleveland.