CLEVELAND (AP)—At least LeBron James has an All-Star coach.
Disappointed that teammate Mo Williams was not named a reserve for next month’s All-Star game in Phoenix, James learned following Cleveland’s 112-95 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night that Cavaliers coach Mike Brown will coach the Eastern Conference squad on Feb. 15.
“How’d that happen?” James said.
He was then informed that the honor goes to the coach of the team with the highest winning percentage on Feb. 1. And although Cleveland (.800) trails Boston (.813), Brown got the nod over Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who is ineligible because he coached in last season’s game in New Orleans.
“OK, so they had no choice but to give it to him,” James said sarcastically. “They had no choice. I’ll leave it at that.”
Brown is the second Cleveland coach to lead an All-Star team, joining Lenny Wilkens in 1989.
“It’s the ultimate team award,” Brown said. “It’s a nice honor to go down to Phoenix and be with LeBron.”
With their big man back, the Cavs looked much more like one of the NBA’s Eastern giants Friday night.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 20 points with 11 rebounds in his first game in exactly one month because of a broken left ankle and James added 25 points as the Cavaliers, frustrated in a loss at Orlando on Thursday, improved to 22-0 at home this season and tied the franchise record for the most consecutive home wins, set in the 1988-89 season.
Mo Williams made 5-of-6 3-pointers and added 23 points for Cleveland, now 9-0 after a loss. The Cavaliers made a season-high 14 3s.
Rookie Eric Gordon scored 27 for the Clippers, who stayed close for nearly three quarters before dropping their eighth straight road game as they began a seven-game trip. Los Angeles has lost 18 of 20.
Ilgauskas had hoped to return to the lineup on Thursday against the Magic. But although Ilgauskas traveled with the Cavaliers to Florida expecting to play, Brown sat his 7-foot-3 center against Orlando All-Star Dwight Howard, explaining that he didn’t want to subject Ilgauskas to playing on consecutive nights so soon.
The Cavs managed to go 9-4 while Ilgauskas was sidelined, but their offense wasn’t nearly as efficient without one of its better outside shooters and main inside threats.
Ilgauskas’s presence alone opened the floor for James and Williams. He also finished 10-of-16 in 28 minutes.
“We were a little unfortunate to catch them on a night they got Ilgauskas back,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “He certainly paid the rent tonight. His ability to make shots from the outside stretches your big guys out. “He’s got really good range and gives them something they’ve been missing.”
The Clippers, who made eight 3s in the first half, were within 89-83 in the fourth when Williams hit a 3-pointer and the Cavs scored a few easy baskets inside to pull away and finally put away one of the league’s weaklings.
James was openly frustrated by what he felt was a lack of favorable calls in Orlando. There are times when James feels the officials allow more contact against him on drives to the basket simply because of his physical prowess and power.
He got two calls on drives in the first two minutes and completed a pair of three-point plays as the Cavs jumped to an 18-2 lead and looked to be ready to put the Clippers away quickly. But Gordon made two 3-pointers, and after James went out with his second foul, the Clippers went on a 17-4 run to pull even at 26 apiece after one.
The Cavaliers, though, tightened up their defense in the second half, holding the Clippers to 35 percent shooting—3-of-13 on 3s.
That made the defensive-minded Brown smile afterward, but James noted his coach may have a tougher time selling his All-Stars on getting stops.
“I don’t know if Mike is going to like all that high-powered scoring offense going on,” James said. “He will enjoy the fourth quarter, though, that’s when we start to play defense. I don’t know what he’s going to do. He might go crazy over there.”
James is averaging 28 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists in his last 10 games. … Clippers F-C Zach Randolph, who hasn’t played since Dec. 22 with a bruised left knee, is expected to return during the Clippers’ trip. … Cavs reserve G Tarence Kinsey is expected to miss 3-to-5 weeks with a severely sprained ankle sustained Thursday. … Brown had to be restrained when he was given a technical by referee Bob Delaney in Orlando. Brown joked that he may have been arguing with the wrong guy. Delaney is a former undercover agent who infiltrated the New Jersey mob, and wrote a book about the experience. “He’s an ex-cop and knows people in the mob so, no, I wasn’t really going after him,” Brown said. “I don’t mess with that.”