OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—LeBron James’ meager statistics were startling. The identity of the player mostly responsible for them was downright stunning.
Jason Richardson scored 22 points on his 25th birthday, Mike Dunleavy played sterling defense and the Golden State Warriors thrived without suspended guard Baron Davis, beating the lifeless Cleveland Cavaliers 99-79 on Friday night.
Dunleavy scored 22 points, but his teammates and coaches praised the forward’s defense against James, who was held to 14 points—his lowest point total of the season—on 5-of-22 shooting in Cleveland’s sixth straight loss.
A knee-to-knee collision in the first half also slowed James, but Dunleavy’s teammates were both surprised and thrilled by the work from a player generally considered a defensive liability.
“We need Mike to play like that every night,” Richardson said. “Whatever he ate, whatever somebody said to him before the game, we need that. He basically shut down the third-leading scorer in the league.”
Troy Murphy added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors, who won their second straight following a five-game losing streak.
“We did a nice job defensively as a team,” Dunleavy said. “You just try to make (James) work for everything, throw different looks at him, and he missed some shots he normally makes. If you can hold him down, you’ve got a good chance of beating them.”
In front of 20,205 fans—the fourth-biggest crowd in the building’s history — Golden State jumped to a 20-point lead early in the third quarter and never let up. Derek Fisher had 17 points and a season-high nine assists in Davis’ starting spot, and Mickael Pietrus added 11 in a reserve role.
Davis, Golden State’s second-leading scorer and offensive catalyst, wasn’t at the Arena while serving a one-game suspension for slugging Seattle’s Luke Ridnour in the chest during a confrontation Monday.
But the Warriors had more than enough to trounce the Cavaliers, who extended their longest losing streak of the season despite 16 points—all in the first half—and 10 rebounds from Oakland native Drew Gooden, who rested along with James in the final minutes.
“It’s been a while since we played that type of a complete basketball game,” said Fisher, who also had a career-high six steals. “Those are the things that we’ve been searching for as a team, and we found ways to get it done without Baron there.”
James had his second career triple-double in his last visit to Oakland, but he never found a groove on this trip. He had just 10 points in the first three quarters before finishing nearly 17 under his average, along with nine rebounds and six assists.
“My knee just stiffened up on me,” James said. “I didn’t have as much lift as I wanted. It affected me a bit. I couldn’t get any spring going to the basket. … We can’t start pointing fingers. We’ve been through situations like this. We’ll fight through it.”
Cleveland’s losing streak is its longest since dropping six straight last Feb. 25-March 6. The Cavs lost seven consecutive late in the 2003-04 season, famously ruining a playoff shot in James’ rookie season.
Gooden was relentless early on in front of friends and family despite a strained muscle in his right leg, but the rest of the Cavs were dismal. They will finish a six-game trip Saturday at Utah.
“With what we’re going through now, it’s gut-check time,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “They’ve faced some adversity. It’s tough to lose six games in a row. We’re going to see what we’re made of.”
Richardson, who had balloons and a present in his locker before the game, scored 12 points in the first quarter. Golden State scored the first nine points of the second quarter and the first 10 points of the third, jumping to a 64-43 lead early in the second half.
Dunleavy and Richardson scored 16 points apiece in the first half, with Richardson hitting three 3-pointers and adding four assists. Pietrus hit a 3-pointer from just past the half-court line at the third-quarter buzzer, putting the Warriors up 75-55.
Warriors G Calbert Cheaney missed his fifth straight game with a strained thigh. … Davis, whose injury history was a big concern for the Warriors, missed just his second game this season. … Cavs G Sasha Pavlovic fouled out in just 23 minutes of action.