Cavaliers 102, Jazz 96, OT
James had another big night with 29 points before spraining his right ankle late in the fourth quarter of a 102-96 overtime victory Saturday night, Cleveland’s first win at Utah in more than 14 years.
The 19-year-old predicted he would recover quickly.
“I’m a soldier. I got banged up tonight, but I was able to keep getting back up. I got up on the ankle injury, but I just couldn’t stand on it,” James said.
James, who was helped from the court, plans to play Tuesday when the Cavaliers are home against Seattle. It will be their first game after a tough road trip that almost was worse. Cleveland trailed by 18 at halftime, but chipped away at the lead in the final two quarters as James recovered from a slow first half.
Instead of going 1-5 on the trip, Cleveland finished 2-4.
James was in the locker room during overtime when the Cavaliers came away with just their fourth road win of the season.
“Once we made it to the overtime, I knew we had enough firepower to come out and step up and just get us the win,” said James, who also had seven rebounds.
Carlos Boozer led the Cavs in overtime, scoring 10 of his 32 points. He also finished with 18 rebounds as Cleveland played most of the second half without center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was ejected for fighting with Utah’s Greg Ostertag in the third quarter and Cleveland down 58-42.
“I think it ignited us. We really started playing after that happened,” James said. “I kind of like took over, then Booze took over in the overtime. That’s what we need. Everybody just made an impact tonight and we got the win. First one here since ’89.”
James was aware how long it had been since Cleveland had won at Utah—a 113-110 victory in overtime on Dec. 11, 1989 in the old Salt Palace.
Andrei Kirilenko had 27 points and six rebounds for the Jazz, who led by 18 at halftime but couldn’t hold off the Cavaliers as James warmed up after a slow first half.
“We had control of the ballgame and we could really have had control of it, but then we put ourselves in a situation where we just got to hanging out,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “Now you’ve got a ballgame with two or three baskets and that’s what happened.”
James, averaging 20.2 points in his first season out of high school, was just 4-for-14 for nine points in the first two quarters. But in the second half he took over as Cleveland erased a 51-33 halftime deficit.
James had 20 points and six rebounds after halftime and took a couple of hard offensive fouls in the final quarter. After the second, he shook his head a couple of times before being helped up, but stayed in the game.
It wasn’t until he landed awkwardly in a tangle of players that he was forced to leave.
“That was tough right there,” said Ira Newble, whose free throw right after James’ injury tied the game at 85. “You don’t want to see a guy like that go down. You just hope for the best and hope that it’s not that bad so he can play in the next game.”
Cleveland rallied without its young leader, scoring the first four points of OT and hanging on for its first win at Utah’s Delta Center.
Kirilenko cut the lead to 93-92 with a 3-pointer, then had a chance to tie it after being fouled on a 3-point attempt, but went just 2-for-3 from the line. Boozer, who got the rebound after Kirilenko’s miss, was fouled and made both free throws.
Eric Williams added 10 points and five assists for Cleveland.
Jazz rookie Mo Williams did not dress because of tendinitis in his left ankle. … Ostertag was also ejected for the fight with Ilgauskas. … James was scoreless through the first five minutes, then intercepted a pass by Carlos Arroyo at midcourt and went uncontested for a towering dunk that drew an “oooh” from the crowd and put the Cavs up 7-6. Then on the other end, Jamesswatted away a shot by the 7-foot-2 Ostertag.