CLEVELAND (AP)—LeBron James’ corner locker looked like an igloo.
Soaking his aching feet and ankles in a tub filled with crushed ice, Cleveland’s superstar had ice packs strapped to both knees and another wrapped around his back.
He was spent—and for good reason.
James scored 33 points, eclipsed 12,000 for his career, blocked Chris Bosh’s dunk attempt during a crucial stretch in the fourth quarter and guarded almost every one of Toronto’s starters as the Cleveland Cavaliers remained flawless on their floor by winning their 23rd straight home game, 101-83 over the Raptors on Tuesday night.
James became the fastest player in NBA history to reach the 12,000-point plateau. At 24 years, 35 days, he did it quicker than Los Angeles superstar Kobe Bryant, who was 25 years, 220 days.
“He’s still going to get better,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “That’s the scary thing.”
Daniel Gibson scored 18 and Mo Williams 16 as the Cavaliers broke the club record for consecutive home wins set during the 1988-89 season. Cleveland, which built a 23-point lead in the first quarter, also became the first team since the 1949-50 Rochester Royals to win their first 23 home games by at least four points.
“It’s another great thing in this season,” James said. “It’s great to put another record in the book. Every player and coach should be proud of it.”
Bosh scored 29 and Jermaine O’Neal 20 to pace Toronto.
Trailing by 19 at halftime and showing little fight, the Raptors regrouped and outscored the Cavaliers 26-15 in the third quarter to close to 74-66 entering the fourth.
Cleveland shot just 4-of-18 from the field in the third, and too often settled for outside jumpers instead of attacking the basket.
But that changed midway through the fourth when James, who did not make a field goal in the second half, decided it was time to put Toronto away.
First, he was fouled on a drive and made both free throws. On the Raptors’ next trip, James challenged a soaring Bosh on a dunk attempt and got just enough of the ball to alter its course. James was again fouled while powering inside and made his free throws—he finished 13-of-13 at the line—to make it 87-75.
Gibson’s 3-pointer made it 90-75 and the Raptors were unable to get any closer.
The block on Bosh awed Brown, who has seen more than his share of did-he-really-do-that? moments from James.
“That caught me off guard,” Brown said. “When he came from the weak side and got that block, I was floored. I didn’t think there was any way whatsoever that any human being could come from the weak side and contest a shot the way he did. Wow! Wow! Wow!”
James, the Eastern Conference’s player of the month in January, scored 16 in the first quarter and had 25 in the first half on an array of shots. Nearly everything dropped for Cleveland’s All-Star, who will now head to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday and possibly take aim at Bryant’s scoring record in the “world’s most famous arena.”
Bryant scored 61 on Monday night against the Knicks, and New York coach Mike D’Antoni is well aware that James could rewrite the record book quickly.
“We set the bar up high for him. He’d have to play really well,” D’Antoni said.
It’s rare that he doesn’t. James scored 50 at the Garden last season, leaving the court to chants of “M-V-P!” just as Bryant did.
But James isn’t going to New York intent on breaking records.
“I just go out and play my game,” he said. “I’m not a video game where you can just expect me to go out there and score 60 or 70.”
James outscored the Raptors 16-15 in the first quarter as the Cavaliers, moving the ball around the perimeter, had one of their best offensive periods this season. They made 7-of-10 3-pointers, committed just one turnover and blasted to a 37-15 lead after 12 minutes.
James made his first six shots and set the tone as the Cavaliers beat the Raptors for the ninth straight time at home.
“There’s not much you can say,” Bosh said. “It’s not the first time he (James) has done it. It won’t be the last. He was very aggressive. I guess he really started feeling it. He fired up a couple of 3s and those went in. He was really rolling to start the game.”
Williams, snubbed as an All-Star reserve by coaches, may get another shot at going to Phoenix for the league’s showcase of stars. With Orlando’s Jameer Nelson likely to miss several weeks—at least—with a shoulder injury, Williams could be selected by commissioner David Stern.
“You don’t wish injury on anybody, it is unfortunate Jameer got hurt,” said Brown, who will coach the East. “But if they have to select somebody, you hope it’s Mo. We believe our team should still be represented.”
The Cavaliers were at less than full speed because of the flu. Starting swingman Sasha Pavlovic, reserve center Lorenzen Wright and longtime play-by-play announcer Joe Tait were all sick and missed the game. Wally Szczerbiak made his first start this season in place of Pavlovic, who moved into the starting lineup on Jan. 16 after guard Delonte West broke his wrist. Szczerbiak made two 3-pointers in the first few minutes and finished with 15 points.
Tait, who is in his 37th season calling Cleveland games, had not missed a broadcast since Dec. 6, 2000. … Cavs G Trey Johnson, signed by the club to a 10-day contract on Tuesday, was a teammate of Williams at Jackson (Miss.) Murrah High School. Johnson was averaging 20.1 points for Bakersfield in the NBA D-League when the Cavs called. As Johnson was detailing his background, Williams walked into the locker room and hollered, “Jackson Murrah, baby.” … Toronto G Jose Calderon scored just 2 points on 1-of-9 shooting.