But James shook off some desperation grab-and-hold tactics by Chicago’s Andres Nocioni to score 12 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 102-91 victory over the Bulls on Monday night.
“He believed he could guard me, I guess,” James said after surpassing 30 points for the 16th time this season and ninth in December.
“He believed his aggressiveness could make me do things that I don’t do. I just tried to use that aggressiveness against him. It’s a great battle. I like it.”
Drew Gooden scored 20 points and Larry Hughes added 19 as Cleveland improved to an Eastern Conference-best 12-3 at home and stretched its winning streak to six games. It was the Cavs’ second victory over Chicago in five days.
“We were feisty out there, but they just hit some tough shots to win,” Chandler said.
James, coming off a 4-for-16 performance with only 14 points in a win over Indiana on Friday night, shot 12-of-25 from the field against the Bulls, adding eight rebounds and six assists.
“I thought Luol (Deng) did a good job on him and Noce did a respectable job,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles . “Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if you’re really doing a good job on him or if he just isn’t kind of trying the way he wants to.”
James certainly turned up the intensity in the final quarter after exchanging glares and occasional words with Nocioni. Both complained to officials that the other was guilty of fouling.
With 3:37 remaining, James snared a rebound and essentially called a play for himself. He went 1-on-1 against Nocioni, who ended up fouling James on a shot attempt. James made both free throws to put Cleveland ahead 95-83.
“I tried to defend him,” Nocioni said. “It’s hard because he’s a great player. I think he’s the best offensive player in the league and it’s difficult for me and everybody.”
James is averaging 32.7 points in 12 games during December, helping the Cavaliers (17-9) move a season-high eight games above .500.
“We’re very confident right now,” James said. “We’re winning games, playing good defense and executing on offense.”
While all five Cleveland starters scored in double figures for the first time this season, coach Mike Brown was more impressed by his team’s defense. The Cavaliers blocked nine shots, had eight steals and limited the Bulls to 42 percent shooting.
“That’s two games in a row holding a team to 42 percent,” Brown said. “I’m starting to see good things on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Bulls came in tied for the NBA lead in 3-point shooting with Milwaukee and Detroit at 40 percent, but went 1-for-10 in the first half and trailed at the break 55-45.
Nocioni and Kirk Hinrich each hit 3s to spark Chicago’s 14-6 run to open the second half.
Eric Snow then made a 20-footer for Cleveland, and a few seconds later James drove to the hoop to put Cleveland back in command. His fallaway jumper from the corner with 25 seconds left in the third quarter put Cleveland ahead 77-66.
Snow scored 10 first-half points, one more than his previous season high for a game. The point guard finished with 12 points.
“People keep saying Eric can’t shoot,” Brown said. “He went 6-for-9 tonight is around 50 percent (.495) for the season.”
Chicago finished 6-for-21 from beyond the 3-point arc. … Along with an eight-game winning streak in November, the Cavaliers now have two streaks of six or more wins in a season for the first time since 1992-93. … Cleveland is 11-0 when limiting opponents to 50 or fewer points in the second half. … The Bulls lead the all-time series 93-69, but have won only four of the last 17 meetings in Cleveland. … Led by Chandler, Chicago’s reserves held a 29-9 scoring edge on the Cleveland bench. The Bulls’ bench has outscored opposing reserves in 26 of 27 games. … Comedian Rob Schneider sat in the front row at center court, wearing a Cavs T-shirt.