CLEVELAND (AP)—LeBron James took complete command at precisely the right time.
Cleveland’s rookie scored 32 points, including 12 in a 14-2 spurt that closed the Cavaliers’ 86-74 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
James outscored the Trail Blazers all by himself in the fourth quarter, 12-8. He also had 10 rebounds and nine assists, but did not know he was near his first triple-double.
“Somebody should have told me,” he said. “Of all the people in the crowd, one of you should have told me.”
James scored six straight points to put Cleveland ahead 78-72 with 5:48 to play, then capped the 14-2 run with the final six points of the game—the last two on a resounding reverse dunk with 34 seconds left after stealing the ball from Damon Stoudamire near midcourt.
“I pretty much knew it was over and I had an opportunity to stroll around like a big bull,” said James, who waved to the crowd when Portland called a timeout.
“When I heard the crowd after that dunk, I had to stop and say, ‘Is this really Gund Arena?’ I’m just trying to bring more excitement.”
He’s also bringing more wins.
James shot 15-for-23 from the field as the Cavaliers won their 10th game— something that didn’t happen last season until Feb. 5.
“Any time there’s a close game they look at me as a leader and it’s time for me to take over,” he said. “I wasn’t going to let us lose.”
Zach Randolph scored 20 points and Rasheed Wallace added 17 for the Trail Blazers, the only NBA team without a road win (0-10). Portland’s eight-point fourth quarter was the lowest-scoring final period in team history.
James began the game-ending spurt by hitting an off-balance jumper from the corner, then drove aggressively to the basket 50 seconds later.
“Before, he wouldn’t do that, but he’s definitely learning that if he’s got a little guy on him, he should just take it to the hoop strong,” Cavaliers coach Paul Silas said.
Leading 76-72, James called for the ball on the left baseline and posted up against Randolph. When Stoudamire came over to help, James spun to his right and split the double-team to score.
“He defended, he made shots, he basically did whatever he wanted,” Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said of James.
Darius Miles scored six points as Cleveland opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run.
Miles, who had not played in four games before scoring 11 points off the bench in a loss to Chicago on Friday night, started at forward and scored 10 points.
“D. Miles played very well,” Silas said. “He was really focused the whole way.”
Cleveland’s starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas shot 3-for-4 and blocked two shots in the first 10 minutes—then did not play again. Before the game, Silas said he wanted to see a better defensive effort from the 7-foot-3 center.
When Ilgauskas went to the bench, he appeared to have a brief exchange of words with Silas.
“There’s no problem,” Silas said. “We wanted to go with guys who could keep up. (Portland) was really quick.”
Tony Battie played 33 minutes at center and had a key blocked shot against Randolph with 2:35 to play. James converted at the other end with a driving layup to put Cleveland ahead 82-74 with 2:20 remaining.
Blazers center Dale Davis strained his back and played only four minutes.
Wallace had 15 points in the first half as the Trail Blazers led at the break 46-42. Wallace finished with 17 points, shooting 5-for-19—including 1-for-8 in the second half.
James had 11 points at halftime and picked up the pace in the third quarter, scoring nine more. He scored on consecutive drives to the basket to cap a 9-2 spurt that put Cleveland ahead 64-59.
The Trail Blazers bounced back, however, and Jeff McInnis hit a running3-pointer at the buzzer for a 66-64 lead entering the final 12 minutes.
The Blazers have lost 13 straight regular season road games since an 81-66 triumph at Houston on April 8—Portland’s longest road winless streak since the 1985-86 season. Portland had won the previous five meetings and seven of the past eight between the teams. … Cavs F Carlos Boozer had 10 points and 13 rebounds—his 10th double-double this season and fourth in a row. … Silasneeds four wins to become the 46th NBA coach with 300 victories.