LeBron scores 44; Cavs end Spurs' win streak at 9

CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James and the Cavaliers play like title contenders at home against the NBA's best.

Monday night was the perfect example.

James dominated with 44 points and Cleveland defeated defending champion San Antonio 101-87 to end the Spurs' nine-game winning streak.

Now, if the Cavs could just be as good against the bad teams.

Cleveland is 14-2 at home against teams over .500, and 5-5 against teams under .500. The win over the Spurs came two days after a lackluster home loss to Golden State.

"We have to grow up," James said. "We can't keep beating Phoenix, Detroit and San Antonio and then lose to sub-par teams."

James led Cleveland with his sixth game over 40 points this season. He went 19-for-33 and added five assists, three rebounds and four steals. James scored 18 in the third quarter, tying his career high for points in a period, and had 36 through three quarters.

"He willed himself to the rim and he willed this win for us," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.

The win ended a two-game slide for the Cavaliers and stopped another streak for the Spurs -- a franchise-record nine straight road victories.

James got plenty of help from Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Drew Gooden, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Cleveland has reached the 30-win mark before the All-Star break for the second straight season.

At 30-21, the Cavaliers have the same record as last season after 51 games. They collapsed in the second half last year, going 12-19 and missing the playoffs by a game.

"We know the feeling of having 30 wins at the All-Star break and not making the playoffs," Gooden said. "We don't want that to happen again."

Down 51-50 early in the third, the Cavaliers patiently built a lead on a 21-10 run fueled by James.

His nightly highlight came when he drove around Nazr Mohammed under the rim for a reverse slam. He followed with a running jumper and a free throw to give the Cavaliers a 71-61 with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.

With James spending some rare minutes on the bench, the Cavaliers extended their lead to 81-64 early in the fourth quarter behind Ilgauskas and Eric Snow.

The Spurs began settling for jump shots and never recovered.

James capped his night with a steal and a soaring dunk. He drew a standing ovation moments later when he took the bench for the final two minutes, the crowd chanting "M-V-P."

Tim Duncan scored just three of his 19 points in the second half. He led San Antonio with 10 rebounds and five assists.

"In the second half, our guys stepped up and tried to play him more physical," Brown said. "We also kept him guessing in the post with our double teams."

James covered Tony Parker, the Western Conference player of the week, for most of the night and Parker struggled, shooting 2-for-7 for four points with four assists and seven turnovers.

"A lot of teams like to put a bigger player on me," Parker said. "A lot of times, I backed him off but didn't hit the shot. I've got to hit the shots."

Manu Ginobili, who got into foul trouble, finished with 12.

The Spurs committed 18 turnovers, resulting in 20 points and allowed 18 offensive rebounds.

"It was a bad combination for LeBron to be great and us giving up all those turnovers and offensive rebounds," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

It was the first loss for the Spurs on their eight-game "Rodeo Road Trip," an annual jaunt away from home when the rodeo comes to the AT&T Center each February.

They looked sloppy at times after beating Indiana on Sunday afternoon.

"We were not aggressive and we made a lot of turnovers," Ginobili said. "LeBron made us pay for that."

Beno Udrih tried to get the Spurs back into it, scoring 12 points in four minutes, hitting all four of his shots, including three 3-pointers.

The Cavaliers fell behind by nine in the first quarter, then took their first lead on Donyell Marshall's 3-pointer at the 10:13 mark in the second quarter. They led 45-44 at the half behind James' 18 points.

The Cavaliers are 20-2 when they hold opponents to 45 points or less in the first half.

Game notes
The Cavaliers are 4-2 this season when James scores 40 or more. ... Spurs F Robert Horry was placed back on the inactive list with a lower abdominal strain. He was 0-for-9 shooting in his last two games. ... San Antonio is 20-5 against Cleveland since 1993. ... The Spurs end their eight-game trip Wednesday in Philadelphia.