CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—LeBron James sat in front of his locker an hour before tipoff and joked that if Zydrunas Ilgauskas was closing in on Cleveland’s career rebounding record against Charlotte he’d “take one from him.”
James added that if he was a steal away from breaking the Cavaliers’ career franchise record he’d “let one go.”
James wanted both marks set at home Tuesday night—and another record-tying rout made it possible.
James scored 25 points before he and Ilgauskas got to sit out the fourth quarter and put their celebrations on hold as the Cavaliers cruised past the Bobcats 94-74 on Saturday night.
The Cavs have won eight straight games—all by at least 12 points—to tie an NBA record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“We take pride on trying to build big leads,” James said.
The Cavaliers were never threatened behind their relentless defense in improving their franchise-best start to 17-3. The blowout meant James was stuck with two steals—tied with Mark Price for the franchise record of 734—while he watched the final 12 minutes from the bench.
Ilgauskas, who had 11 rebounds and five of Cleveland’s 10 blocks, also sat out the final period to remain four rebounds shy of supplanting Brad Daugherty (5,227) as Cleveland’s career leader.
“Teams are having a hard time scoring on us, on the road and at home,” Ilgauskas said. “Get a lot of steals, contest all the shots, limit them to one shot and off to the races. We’ve been playing good basketball.”
James is clearly setting that tone. A night after holding Indiana’s Danny Granger to four points, James helped limit Charlotte’s second-leading scorer, Gerald Wallace, to one point on 0-of-6 shooting.
“I took the challenge once again, like I did last night with Danny,” James said. “My teammates helped me out. It wasn’t just me.”
Daniel Gibson added 22 points for Cleveland, which has won 16 of 17 after a 1-2 start, and held an opponent to 85 points or less for a fourth straight game.
“Every time you drive to the basket, all five guys are there,” said leading scorer Jason Richardson, held to nine points. “We’ve got to play like that. Every time we came down the lane, there were no easy baskets. It was either a block or they put us to the line with a foul that was hard.”
Charlotte fell behind 15-2 and missed 14 of its first 16 shots. Six of those shots were blocked, with the Bobcats’ frontcourt unable to match up with the big and bruising Cavaliers.
James, who had spent the afternoon at the same arena watching buddy Stephen Curry score 44 points for No. 22 Davidson in a win over North Carolina State, bounced back from his lowest scoring output of the season a night earlier.
Held to 11 points in a blowout win over the Pacers, James had 20 points by halftime, while continuing his lockdown defense that has defined Cleveland’s quick start.
It was a setback for the Bobcats, who had won four of six under coach Larry Brown before dropping a close game in Milwaukee Friday. The flaw that Brown has lamented for months—a thin frontcourt—led to a mismatch as the Cavs continued to make a claim as one of the league’s best teams.
“Tonight I don’t even think we competed a lick,” Brown said. That’s difficult for me. … I thought almost every shot we took was just something they were hoping would go in the basket.”
Next up for the Cavaliers: a home game Tuesday with Toronto. James and Ilgauskas will be closing in on records as the Raptors face the task of trying to derail the early season juggernaut.
“We make our statement on the defensive end,” James said. “It leads to us getting out and getting easy buckets.”
Four other teams have won eight straight by 12 or more points, most recently Houston in 2007. … After getting the tip from St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown had his veterans form a committee to police their teammates. The group includes James, Ilgauskas, G Mo Williams and F Ben Wallace. “We take care of on the court, but also off the court—how we act, how we are out in public,” James said.