CLEVELAND (AP)—LeBron James is playing at such a high level, not even a triple-double impresses him anymore.
“As an individual, I didn’t feel I played particularly well,” he said after the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 88-80 on Monday night. “If you didn’t play well and you have a triple-double, something is wrong. I could have played better.”
Just about everyone else who saw the game would beg to differ.
James had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in his seventh triple-double of the season as the Cavaliers rallied in the second half. It is the 17th triple-double of his career.
James was in the minority when it came to his assessment of his performance. Wally Szczerbiak, who joined the Cavaliers in a Feb. 21 trade, laughed when told of James’ comments.
“It’s scary, it really is,” he said. “It’s pretty special being on this team and seeing him day in and day out. Being able to watch it, the fans are probably watching the best basketball player in the world. It’s arguable between him and Kobe (Bryant), and I’m going to argue for him every day.”
James, who has scored 20 or more points in 41 straight games, also recorded the 100th double-double of his career.
“LeBron obviously was phenomenal,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.
The Cavaliers were down by 13 points in the second quarter and didn’t take their first lead until late in the third. Szczerbiak’s two free throws with 8:03 left broke a 69-all tie and gave Cleveland the lead for good.
James hit a key 3-pointer and made six free throws down the stretch. His bounce pass in the lane led to Anderson Varejao’s dunk, giving Cleveland a six-point lead with 1:16 to play. On Cleveland’s next possession, James found an open Szczerbiak, who hit a 15-footer for an 85-77 lead with 42 seconds left.
“I was able to find Andy on the dunk and find Wally on the shot,” James said. “I grabbed some rebounds. We pretty much put the game away in the last 2 1/2 minutes.”
The Trail Blazers accomplished their strategy of making James give up the ball, but that worked to the Cavaliers’ advantage.
“We tried to do some things to take the ball out of LeBron’s hands, but he did a good job getting it to his teammates and they made plays,” said guard Brandon Roy. “When they play well off him, they’re a tough team to stop down the stretch.”
LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 25 points and had 10 rebounds. Roy added 15 points.
The Cavaliers forced Portland into a shot-clock violation and two turnovers in the final 2 minutes.
“Their defense tightened up and we couldn’t score,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “You can’t turn the ball over or come down with as many empty trips as we did in the second half.”
After the Cavs trailed the entire game, Varejao’s 3-point play with 9.2 seconds left in the third quarter gave them a 62-61 lead. Roy’s free throw tied it going into the fourth.
Portland led the entire first half. Portland’s biggest lead came at 27-14 early in the second quarter. Aldridge scored 17 points in the half on 8-for-12 shooting.
Wallace was scoreless with five rebounds in 15 minutes in the first half. Cleveland is already playing without center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has missed the past five games because of a strained back.
Wallace doesn’t know if the back will keep him out of any further action.
“I really can’t tell right now,” he said. “We’ll have to work on it and see if we can loosen it up.”
Notes:@ The Cavaliers (37-27) are 10 games over .500 for the first time this season. … James thinks Miami star Dwyane Wade made the right decision to sit out the rest of the season because of a recurring knee injury. “With the situation they’re in, they’re not going to make the playoffs, so I think he should shut it down,” James said. … Greg Oden, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft who played one season at Ohio State, watched the game in street clothes. He’s out for the season because of knee surgery.