“It was borderline dirty,” James said after scoring 25 points in Cleveland’s 107-85 victory, the Cavaliers’ 11th straight win.
The play in question occurred in the third quarter when James broke through a double team at the top of the key and drove into the lane. As James was heading toward the basket, Collins struck him in the face with his upper arm. James went to the floor and Collins was charged with a flagrant foul.
“That’s not part of the game,” James said. “Hard fouls are a part of the game. That was a little bit overboard.”
Collins is listed at 7-foot and 255 pounds, while the 6-8 James is listed at 250 pounds, but is probably about 15 pounds more than that.
“Was he going for the ball? No,” James said. “Was he trying to get in a position to take a charge? No. He was making sure I had nothing to do with a basketball play.”
Collins had a different point of view.
“He was a little off balance when he was driving to the basket and I was just trying to wrap him up so he wasn’t going to explode to the rim like he normally does for a dunk or a layup or an and one,” he said. “He just fell awkwardly.”
Added Minnesota coach Kevin McHale: “Most flagrant fouls, usually the fall determines kind of whether or not (a flagrant foul is called). It looked like he crumbled pretty hard.”
Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas shoved Collins and was assessed a technical foul.
Mo Williams scored 22 points for the Cavaliers, but sprained the pinkie on his right hand early in the fourth quarter and did not return. X-rays were negative.
“I could’ve come back, but the game was out of reach,” Williams said. “It’s sore and everything is all right. I’ll be ready to play Sunday.”
Cleveland’s victory tied the franchise record for consecutive wins in a season. The Cavaliers (59-13) also won 11 straight from Nov. 22-Dec. 12 this season and have accomplished the feat four other times.
Cleveland, which set a franchise mark for victories in a season Wednesday, will go for its 60th win Sunday against Dallas at home, where the Cavaliers are 34-1. Cleveland leads Boston and Orlando by five games for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
James scored 18 points in the first quarter, shooting 6-of-9 from the field, including two 3-pointers. He made all four of his free-throw attempts and had five rebounds in the period.
James, who’ll be profiled on CBS’ “60 Minutes” this Sunday in an interview he did a few months ago, was 8-of-14 from the field, grabbed 12 rebounds and had seven assists in 34 minutes.
“LeBron was too tough for us to handle,” McHale said. “You’ve got to be pretty darn good to beat them.”
The Cavaliers led by double digits in the first half, but Minnesota cut the lead to 45-39 with 4:39 left in the second quarter on Brian Cardinal’s 3-pointer. Cleveland ended the half on an 11-0 run—and none of the points came from James. Delonte West scored five points, including a 3-point play, while Anderson Varejao scored two baskets and Ilgauskas made two free throws.
The Cavaliers built a 22-point lead in the third period, but the Timberwolves rallied within 12 at 86-74 with 7:13 to play. Daniel Gibson hit three 3-pointers, Ilgauskas added a 3 and James made a basket and a free throw to push the lead to 101-79.
During his “60 Minutes” profile, James sank an underhand shot from 50 feet. And, yes, he did it on the first try. “One take,” he said with a laugh. “That’s me.” … James hopes to see Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, his high school alma mater, play in the Division II state championship game Saturday in Columbus. James led the Irish to three straight state titles, beginning with his sophomore year. … Cavaliers G Wally Szczerbiak was on the active list after missing four games, but didn’t play. … Minnesota is 3-20 since Al Jefferson suffered a season-ending knee injury Feb. 8. … The Timberwolves host New Jersey on Sunday.