CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers weren't about to follow
one big loss with another one.
Anderson Varejao scored a career-high 26 points -- the majority
of them off passes from LeBron James -- and James had a
triple-double as the Cavaliers stayed unbeaten on their floor with
a 117-92 win Friday night over the Chicago Bulls after learning
center Zydrunas Ilgauskas will miss a month with a fractured bone
in his left ankle.
James finished with 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to
help the Cavaliers improve to 17-0 at home.
More importantly, Cleveland, coming off a lackluster loss at
Miami and three straight sub-par efforts, were sharp in their first
game without Ilgauskas.
"It's going to be tough," James said. "Guys have to pick it
up. We've got a veteran ballclub and we've got enough guys who can
come off the bench and really play. We're going to see who can step
Everyone wearing wine and gold stepped up in the first game of
the new year.
Ben Wallace scored a season-high 13, and rookie J.J. Hickson and
reserve Sasha Pavlovic had 13 apiece. Delonte West added 14, and Mo
Williams had 11 as Cleveland placed seven in double figures to
offset the loss of Ilgauskas.
"They're still really good," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said.
"You have to put so much attention on LeBron. There's probably
nothing he hasn't seen. When you double team him, he's such a good
passer, he gets everyone else involved. They have a lot of weapons.
Varejao and Wallace hurt us a lot."
James scored 41 points in each of Cleveland's first two wins
over Chicago this season, but the superstar was content to defer to
others for most of the night. He didn't make his second field goal
-- a 3-pointer - until there was just 5:58 left. He grabbed rebound
seconds later, brought them ball up the floor and drilled his
second 3-pointer in a 16-second span to make it 104-80.
It was James' first triple-double this season and the 18th of
He could get a few more in the coming weeks while Ilgauskas
recovers. January is a rugged month for the Cavs, who will play
some of the league's best teams in the weeks ahead.
"This month will show how good we are and to have our big man
out, it's going to be tough," James said. "We have the West Coast
swing, we have Boston and New Orleans coming in. This was the month
that we were looking forward to see how we stack up against these
Ben Gordon scored 22 points, and Lindsey Hunter 13 for the
Bulls, who shot just 37 percent and have lost five of six. During a
heated timeout in the third quarter, Joakim Noah and Andres Nocioni
exchanged words on the bench.
"When you're losing by 20 points, you're frustrated," Noah
said. "It's the heat of the moment, things are said. But I don't
have any problems with him [Nocioni]. Losing is frustrating."
Ilgauskas first rolled his ankle trying to block a shot during a
Dec. 10 game at Philadelphia. He missed just three games and
medical tests taken at the time showed nothing more than a sprain.
However, the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian whose left foot was surgically
rebuilt eight years ago, continued to have soreness and swelling.
A second round of X-rays and an MRI revealed he fractured a bone
in the back of his ankle.
He'll be in a walking boot for a week.
"One thing we don't want to do is rush it," Ilgauskas said.
"We'll take it weekly and see how it goes -- we really don't
James was able to draw double teams and find Varejao and
Cleveland's other big men underneath for easy layups. Varejao,
Wallace and Hickson combined for 52 points and 23 rebounds, more
than making up for the 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds missing with
Ilgauskas watching from the bench in street clothes.
"For LeBron to take eight shots and for us to score 117 is just
a tribute to LeBron being a special player," Cavs coach Mike Brown
And as has become the norm this season, James made a spectacular
defensive play as impressive as any of his dunks. Early in the
third quarter, James cut across the lane and perfectly timed his
jump to slap a layup by rookie Derek Rose off the backboard glass.
"He's so athletic," Rose said with a smile. "I wasn't
surprised at all."
Cleveland's big men picked up the slack for Ilgauskas from the
Wallace scored eight of the Cavs' first 21 points and finished
the first quarter with five rebounds. Hickson added six points and
Varejao five as the trio combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds in
the period as Cleveland opened a 15-point lead it pushed to 25 in
the third quarter.
In four starts, Varejao is averaging 16.8 points and 8.5
rebounds. ... Gooden remained back in Chicago for treatment on an
ankle injury that has sidelined him for seven games. Del Negro said
Gooden could return for Saturday's home game against Minnesota. ...
Hickson split his lip in the first quarter and needed one stitch to
close the cut. ... Cavs F Wally Szczerbiak played six minutes after
missing two games with a sore knee. ... The Bulls will play five
straight and seven of their next eight at home.
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