Cavs beat Nets to win 9th straight

March 22, 2009 5:51:32 PM PDT
LeBron James had 30 points and 11 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers won their ninth straight game, beating the New Jersey Nets 96-88 on Sunday night to tie a franchise record with their 57th victory. Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 18 points and became the career leader in blocked shots for the Cavaliers, who improved the NBA's best record to 57-13. They weren't especially sharp while playing their second game in two days, but now get some time off before they host the Nets on Wednesday in the back end of a home-and-home series. A victory in that one gives Cleveland its second double-digit winning streak this season.

It would also make the Cavs the winningest team in their history. Cleveland went 57-25 in both 1988-89 and 1991-92.

Vince Carter had 25 points and nine rebounds, but without injured All-Star point guard Devin Harris the Nets simply lacked the firepower to hang with the NBA's toughest defensive team. New Jersey had its two-game winning streak snapped and fell two games behind Chicago for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

James finished two assists shy of a fifth triple-double during the winning streak on a night where he was content to let his big men handle the scoring load early. Anderson Varejao finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, helping Cleveland outrebound New Jersey 46-37.

New Jersey, which never led, cut a 19-point deficit to eight early in the fourth quarter. James then made consecutive buckets to restore the double-digit cushion that Cleveland enjoyed most of the game. The Nets got it down to eight again with under 2½ minutes left, but Carter - who had earlier banked in a shot from inside the foul line while being tripped - missed on a layup on a baseline drive and the Cavs went on to win for the 26th time in 31 games.

Ilgauskas had four blacks and passed John "Hot Rod" Williams (1,200) as the Cavs' career leader in blocks with 1,202. He already became Cleveland's top rebounder earlier this season.

James took only two shots in the first quarter while the Cavs wore down the Nets inside. Varejao and Ilgauskas each scored eight points as Cleveland took a 27-21 lead. The Nets were within two points late in the second period before James made a pair of free throws, then finally made a field goal on a play that showed off his unmatched combination of power and athleticism.

He grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled the ball up the right side of the floor before suddenly cutting into the lane near the free throw line, driving left and dunking it with his right hand while being fouled.

His other first-half field goal pushed the lead back into double digits with 2:12 remaining, and the Cavaliers led 48-38 at the break.

The Cavs scored seven straight to open a 59-40 lead on a jumper by Ilgauskas with 7:45 remaining in the third and led 71-55 after three.

Notes: The Cavaliers won 11 straight in November and December...Nets rookie Chris Douglas-Roberts sat out the second half with a stomach virus. ... Nets C Sean Williams was active after completing his two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, but coach Lawrence Frank opted to keep Josh Boone as the backup. Williams was suspended after he was arrested Monday at a cell phone store in a mall in suburban Denver on suspicion of disorderly conduct and felony criminal mischief.