Cavaliers 82, Jazz 73
James came through with 24 points, a season-high 17 rebounds and some stunning dunks to help the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Jazz 82-73 Saturday night for their eighth straight win.
Boozer, in his first game back in Cleveland since he left nearly three years ago for more money in Utah, scored 19 points and had 14 rebounds, playing through steady boos and derisive chants.
“It wasn’t even that bad,” Boozer said. “They had a lot of signs. I saw a couple of them. Chants were OK. They could have been more creative with their chants. It was good though.”
He clanked a pair of free throws off the rim with 27 seconds left and his team down 79-73, much to the delight of the heckling crowd.
“They were great tonight,” James said. “I wish they could be like that every night. They do a good job. It was awesome tonight to see the electricity in here.”
James, who was one assist shy of a triple-double, drew even more emotion from the fans.
He broke the Cavaliers out of their first-half malaise with 10 straight points during a 12-0 run that put Cleveland up 65-56 early in the fourth quarter.
James’ scoring outburst included a pair of two-handed slams. On the second, Larry Hughes lofted the ball high for James, who soared, jammed it in, then came down screaming for several seconds in exhilaration.
“That’s LeBron James. He can take over at anytime and did,” Jazz guard Deron Williams said. “Once he got into transition, we couldn’t stop him.
The Jazz have lost four straight on the road after winning six straight. They haven’t scored more than 90 points during the streak.
“We have to get home and regroup,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “If we continue to play like this, we’ll be going home early for the next 10 years and not worry about the playoffs.”
Mehmet Okur scored 19 points and Williams added 12 for the Jazz, who lost on back-to-back nights.
The Cavaliers got another strong performance from Sasha Pavlovic, who scored 21 points and was the recipient of several of James’ assists.
Hughes, who had been playing well since taking over the point guard duties, had a rough night shooting 2-for-17 for four points. He missed all four of his 3-point attempts and three free throws.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had just eight points, but scored six straight late in the fourth quarter when the Jazz pulled to within four to help end their comeback attempt.
“Z came off the bench after sitting a long time and he played big for us down the stretch,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.
James led the Cavaliers despite shooting 8-for-21 and 0-for-6 from 3-point range. He entered averaging 32.9 points on 53.6 percent shooting over his past 12 games.
Drew Gooden has been Cleveland’s starting power forward since Boozer left. He gave fans no reason to miss Boozer, with 14 points and 12 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds.
“We were in a little rut there and he was doing the dirty work to help us get that lead, stay in the game,” Brown said. “He was dirty. I like that.”
Gooden at times felt like he was personally up against Boozer.
“If Boozer didn’t do what he did, I feel like I wouldn’t be here,” Gooden said.
Boozer said before the game that he was glad to be back in Cleveland and has moved on since leaving after the 2003-04 season. The fans clearly haven’t.
They booed Boozer during his introduction and every time he scored, rebounded and even when he inbounded the ball. “Boozer is a Loozer” was among the signs in the crowd.
“I don’t think it affected him,” Sloan said. “I kind of think he liked it. But that’s what being a pro is all about.”
Both teams struggled in the first half, each shooting less than 34 percent. The Jazz, who missed 16 straight shots between the first and second periods, led 32-31 at halftime.
Utah G Gordan Giricek was inactive with bruised right ribs after a hard hit on a screen by Philadelphia’s Samuel Dalembert on Friday night. G Matt Harpring did not play because of inflammation in his right knee. … Cavaliers G Daniel Gibson is questionable with a left big toe sprain. … The Cavaliers have won five of their past six games against Utah and three straight at home. … Cleveland is 18-9 against the Western Conference, the best record of any East team. “We get disrespected when it comes to Western Conference teams playing the Eastern and that always energizes me,” James said.