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Cavaliers win eighth straight behind LeBron's 35

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- LeBron James is counting the days to his
first playoff appearance.

James scored 35 points, including five free throws down the
stretch, to help the Cavaliers hold off the Charlotte Bobcats
101-97 on Sunday for their eighth straight win.

James, who was 13-for-24 from the field, added 12 rebounds and
eight assists despite playing the final 6 minutes with five fouls.
The Cavaliers matched their longest winning streak of the season.
Cleveland also won eight straight from Nov. 7-22.

"It's playoff time and we're finding ways to win," James said.
"It's great to see."

The win reduced Cleveland's magic number to clinch the fourth
seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs to four. The Cavaliers lead
Washington by 6½ games with nine games remaining.

And it appears the Cavaliers could get starting shooting guard
Larry Hughes back in time for Tuesday's game against Philadelphia.
Even though coach Mike Brown downplayed talk he could return this
week from a broken right middle finger, James was more confident.

"He's probably going to play Tuesday," James said. "To play
at the level we're playing and to get Larry back, wow. That's all I
can say about that."

The Bobcats made Cleveland work for the victory, going on an 8-0
run to cut a 10-point deficit to 94-92 on Gerald Wallace's 3-point
play with 1:52 left.

On the next possession, James took it strong to the basket, was
fouled, and hit two free throws with 1:21 left.

Trailing by three, Wallace missed a contested shot in the lane.
James was then fouled, and hit two free throws with 26 seconds left
to seal the game.

"For us to get a win off a back-to-back, especially on the
road, I don't care the opponent is, this is a good win," said
Brown, as the Cleveland played a day after an emotional home win
over Miami.

Ronald Murray and Drew Gooden each had 16 points for the Cavs,
who overcame 20 turnovers to improve to 7-0 all-time against
Charlotte.

Raymond Felton had 20 points, Jumaine Jones added 17 and Wallace
scored 16 for the Bobcats, who shot 40 percent and were
outrebounded 49-34 in losing their second straight game.

"Sometimes the ball just doesn't fall in the basket. It was one
of those nights," said Felton, who was 8-of-22 from the field with
six turnovers. "We just have to make sure we keep our competitive
intensity and keep playing hard every night.

James, coming off a 47-point, 12-rebound 10-assist performance
in a win Saturday against Miami, left the crowd buzzing with a
high-flying, one-handed dunk off an over-the-shoulder feed from
Murray early in the second quarter to put Cleveland ahead 36-28.
The Cavaliers built an 11-point lead in the period, but Charlotte
cut it to 53-49 on Bernard Robinson's floater in the lane in the
final second of the first half.

The Bobcats stuck around, cutting the lead to 69-68 late in the
third quarter and to 87-84 on Wallace's dunk with 6:05 left,
seconds after James picked up his fifth foul.

Despite being out of the playoff race for some time, coach
Bernie Bickerstaff is happy with how the team continues to push
playoff-bound teams.

"You've seen guys when it gets to this point of the season, the
wagon has already been backed up to the door," Bickerstaff said.
"We're going to close it out like professionals."

Game notes
Bickerstaff defended his decision Saturday to waive guard
Kareem Rush with nine games left. "When we come to a decision, we
make that move regardless of when it is," he said. "Some team
could pick Kareem up at a nominal cost and still have the right (to
pick up the option on his contract for next season)." ...
Bickerstaff, who is also the general manager, said he still hasn't
decided if he'll return as coach next season. ... It was James'
21st double-double of the season.