CLEVELAND (AP)—The Cleveland Cavaliers are off on another streak, and this is finally one they’re not ashamed of.
Rookie LeBron James scored 22 points and Eric Williams scored 13 of his 16 in the fourth quarter Tuesday night as the Cavaliers rallied for their third straight win, 97-86 over the New Orleans Hornets.
The Cavaliers, who recently snapped a 34-game road losing streak, have won three in a row for the first time since April 6-10, 2002—a span of 113 games.
“I like to win,” said James, who shot poorly but added six rebounds and a season-high six steals. “I’m a winner, so yeah, I’m happy.”
James took over in the third quarter, scoring 11 points, and Williams carried Cleveland in the fourth when the Cavs stepped it up on the defensive end to turn things around and give coach Paul Silas a win over his former team.
“This was sweet, no doubt,” said Silas, fired by the Hornets after last season. “I’m not going to say it wasn’t.”
James shot just 7-of-22, but stayed aggressive in the third, twice stole the ball from Hornets guard Baron Davis in the fourth and wouldn’t let the Cavs lose.
Carlos Boozer added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavs, who at 9-19 are more than halfway to their win total (17) of last season.
Davis had 27 points to lead New Orleans. However, after making his first five shots, the Hornets’ leading scorer went just 4-of-22 from the field.
“I had to go out and stop him, and I kind of did that in the second half,” James said. “We locked down on defense in the second half.”
P.J. Brown had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets.
New Orleans, which led 70-66 after three periods, was outscored 31-16 in the fourth quarter and lost for the fourth time in five games.
David Wesley’s basket gave the Hornets a 72-68 lead early in the fourth, but the Cavs, who until last week had been struggling late in games, came all the way back from a 16-point deficit.
They took their first lead at 75-72 on Williams’ 3-pointer with 7:33 remaining. Williams then made a short jumper in the lane to finish off an 11-0 run that put the Cavs up by five.
With Cleveland’s defense contesting every pass and shot, the Hornets missed five straight attempts and made three turnovers to help the Cavs’ comeback.
“We just missed shots,” Davis said. “And as a team, we didn’t defend. We didn’t get into our offense, we didn’t look to penetrate. We had some easy shots that we just didn’t knock down.”
George Lynch’s 3-pointer got the Hornets within 77-76, but the Cavs reeled off eight straight points with James hitting the big shot—a 3-pointer with 2:37 left.
James, averaging 28.5 points in his last six games, then stole the ball from Davis and scored a layup to make it 87-80, sending the crowd of 16,609 into the kind of frenzy that had been missing the past few years at Gund Arena.
“Somebody whispered in my ear that this was the loudest crowd they’ve seen here,” said Williams, who came over in the six-player trade from Boston on Dec. 15. “That’s what we want.”
James was just 3-of-14 from the floor and the Cavs were down by 12 in the third when he decided it was time to get busy. He hit a 15-foot jumper and three free throws as Cleveland cut it to 64-58.
James then buried another 15-footer, made a technical foul, a runner from the right side and drained 17-footer to cap a 16-6 spurt that brought the Cavs within 68-66.
“I’ve got to step it up, I know that,” James said. “I got on myself athalftime.”
The Cavs are 3-1 since the deal that sent Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm and Michael Stewart to the Celtics for Williams, Tony Battie and Kedrick Brown. … Former Indians first baseman Jim Thome had a courtside seat. … Silas hasn’t been standing or patrolling the sidelines as much as he was earlier this season. His reason? “I just got tired, so I decided to sit down,” he said with a laugh. … Davis, among the league leaders in scoring (23.5 ppg coming in) and assists (8.5), could become the first point guard to finish the season ranked in the top 5 in both categories since Nate “Tiny” Archibald in 1975-76. … The Cavs will play on Christmas Day for the seventh time in theirhistory and first since 1989 when they face Orlando on national TV Thursday.