Cavaliers 124, Kings 100
James was a late scratch from the lineup because of back spasms. The Cavaliers are 3-0 this season without their superstar and 9-2 without him since he joined the team in 2003-04.
“We always get scared a little bit when he’s out, so we try to step up and get a win,” Pavlovic said.
James felt something in his back Monday night and then again after the Cavs’ shootaround Tuesday. He traveled with the team Tuesday night to Memphis and was to be re-evaluated before Wednesday night’s game. He was listed as questionable.
The All-Star forward didn’t say much to reporters after the game. As James left the locker room, he was asked how he felt.
“I’m movin’ aren’t I?” he said.
“He wanted to play,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “He was going to play with the spasms, but I told him I thought it would be best for the team and best for the long run to sit this one out.”
James has led the Cavaliers’ recent surge, averaging an NBA-best 33.3 points on 53 percent shooting since Feb. 15.
But without James even on the bench, the Cavaliers improved to a season-best 14 games over .500.
All five starters scored in double figures as the Cavs shot 54 percent and easily handled the lackluster Kings, who have lost three straight.
Ron Artest, who missed two games last week following his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence, led the Kings with 19 points in his second game back.
Artest was booed every time he scored and said it doesn’t bother him anymore because it happens everywhere.
“When I go back to Sacramento, it’s like I’m playing on the road,” Artest said. “When you play home, you don’t expect to get booed. It’s not comfortable.”
The score was tied at 51 at halftime, but the Cavaliers outhustled the Kings and went on a 24-5 run to open the third quarter.
Pavlovic capped the run by tracking down a loose ball past halfcourt, beating a jogging Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who was looking the other way. He fouled Pavlovic, who hit two free throws to make it 75-56 with 6:07 left.
Pavlovic scored on an array of dunks, drives and off-the-glass jump shots, putting on the show that James typically provides.
He ended the pivotal third period with a reverse dunk on an alley-oop from Hughes. Pavlovic, who tied a career high with six assists, scored 18 points in the quarter and fans gave him a standing ovation as he headed to the bench.
“Sasha’s a confident player,” Brown said. “He could go 0-for-10 and I’m going to step up and tell him to shoot it because he can make plays offensively.”
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 19 points with 10 rebounds and tied a career high with seven assists.
Little-used backup Ira Newble started in James’ place and scored a season-high 12 points, including three 3-pointers in the first quarter that set the tone. His previous high was three points in a win Saturday at Milwaukee.
The Cavaliers tied a season high for points, matching a mark set Jan. 30 against Golden State. They were without James that night, too.
“Go figure, because you lose a lot without a player like that,” Newble said. “Everybody has to pick up the slack.”
The Cavaliers made a season-high 13 3-pointers in 23 attempts (56.5 percent) and outrebounded Sacramento 51-33.
“We have to do a better job defensively, and we have to do a better job rebounding the ball, and we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Kings coach Eric Musselman said. “When you add all that up, it’s a 24-point game.”
Rookie G Daniel Gibson, who has missed five games with a toe sprain, was expected to practice Friday. With the Cavaliers playing well with Hughes at point guard, Brown said he’d wait to determine how he uses Gibson. … Sacramento had won five straight at Cleveland. … The Cavaliers are 16-9 against Western Conference opponents, the best record of any East team. … Former Giants running back Tiki Barber sat courtside.