CLEVELAND (AP)—LeBron James had no trouble with his aching ankle Friday night.
The NBA’s leading scorer was hurt in Wednesday’s loss in Boston. James showed no effects from the injury against the Timberwolves. He had six dunks, keyed several fast breaks and fell two rebounds short of his seventh triple-double of the season.
“LeBron was terrific,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.
Cleveland led for most of the second half, but Minnesota cut the lead to 79-75 with 4:37 left in the game. The Cavaliers regrouped after a timeout, scoring the next 11 points. Ben Wallace scored two baskets in the lane off passes from James, and Delonte West stole the ball at midcourt and scored on a dunk to spark the run. James finished it off with a dunk.
“He makes things happen, especially in transition,” said Timberwolves swingman Corey Brewer, who spent time trying to defend James. “He’s a tough guy to stop, probably the best in the league.”
James brought the crowd to its feet with a dunk off an alley-oop pass from guard Damon Jones on a fast break late in the second quarter.
“He had a one-on-three,” said James, as he soaked both feet in a large tub of ice water. “He threw it up there and he let me go get it.”
There may be even more bad news for the Cavaliers’ upcoming opponents. The four players acquired in the Feb. 21 three-team, 11-player trade are meshing with their new teammates.
“Delonte is a push guard,” James said. “I’m starting to realize I can just run the floor and get down the lane quicker. That’s what I’m good at.”
“That’s the result of more practices,” said West, who added 12 points. “We have guys here who have been in the league. It’s not that hard to pick up guys’ tendencies.”
The Cavaliers’ defense tightened up late in the game. Minnesota missed its next five shots and had two turnovers after cutting the lead to four.
“It was crisp in the last 4 1/2 minutes,” James said. “We locked down defensively and that allowed us to get what we wanted on the offensive end.”
The Timberwolves have lost nine of 11 and are 2-25 on the road.
“You’re going to have games like that,” Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. “We just have to bounce back, which we will.”
Leading by four at halftime, the Cavaliers quickly jumped out to an eight-point advantage again early in the third period, but Minnesota took a 54-53 lead on a 3-pointer by Sebastian Telfair.
The Cavaliers went on a 13-5 run to end the period. James had two dunks, including one off a nice pass from West on a fast break. West hit three baskets, including a 3-pointer.
A 3-pointer from the corner by Jones, a three-point play by James and another dunk by James upped the lead to 74-63 early in the fourth, but Minnesota got back in the game.
The Cavaliers host Chicago on Sunday afternoon, 10 days after the teams and Seattle were involved in the 11-player deal. Guard Larry Hughes and forward Drew Gooden, two key players dealt to the Bulls in the trade, will return to Cleveland. The Cavaliers also dealt guards Shannon Brown and Cedric Simmons to Chicago. Wallace and Joe Smith were traded from Chicago to Cleveland.
“It’s going to be a little personal,” James said. “It’s going to be different for me playing against those guys. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Cavaliers were without recently acquired Wally Szczerbiak. His wife, Shannon, is expecting the couple’s third child. In three games with the Cavaliers, he is averaging 11.7 points.
The Cavaliers are 2-2 since the players acquired in the deal joined the team. … … Guards Daniel Gibson (left ankle sprain) and Sasha Pavlovic (left foot sprain) are still out with injuries. … The Timberwolves fell to 12-45. … Minnesota forward Antoine Walker was inactive. The veteran is seeking a buyout of his contract by Saturday, but an agreement doesn’t appear imminent.