Cavs inch closer to East's top-seeded Pistons with victory

INDIANAPOLIS -- LeBron James led with words, then he led by

After kicking coach Mike Brown out of a team meeting Tuesday
morning, James had 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists as the
Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Indiana Pacers 105-94 to clinch a
playoff berth.

Cleveland had lost three of four after an eight-game winning
streak, but pulled within 2{ games of Detroit in the race for the
top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It was the opener of a
five-game road trip for the Cavaliers, who won the season series
with Indiana 3-1.

The Cavaliers came out focused after the meeting that James led
on Tuesday.

"This is my team, that's my responsibility to make sure
everyone's on course," James said. "There can be a lot of
distractions on a five-game road trip."

Brown didn't mind his star player becoming more vocal.

"We can help them and put them in spots, coach them, continue
to show them where they're wrong, where they're right and so
forth," Brown said, "but really, when it gets down to it, they're
the ones on the floor playing. If you have a team that decides to
take ownership of what they're doing, then the sky's the limit."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 23 points for the Cavaliers, who shot
52 percent from the field. Cleveland outrebounded the Pacers 43-33
and outscored the Pacers 27-19 from the free throw line.

Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal did just about everything but scrub
the floor at Conseco Fieldhouse the past two games, but the Pacers
didn't reward him with a win.

O'Neal scored 32 points, his second straight game with more than
30. He was coming off a 39-point game, the second-best scoring
effort of his career, in a 92-90 loss to Chicago on Sunday. He
followed it up Tuesday by shooting 11-for-18 from the field and
10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

"He's been a horse and a warrior," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle
said. "He's played through a lot and he had a mammoth game

Still, the Pacers lost for the 15th time in 17 games and
remained outside of the top eight slots in the Eastern Conference
with 12 games to go. The Pacers now are in danger of missing the
playoffs for the first time since 1996-97.

Indiana plays at New Jersey on Wednesday and at Orlando on
Friday, two of the teams the Pacers are competing with for the
seventh and eighth spots in the East.

"We've got to fight it out," O'Neal said. "We're right there,
so hopefully we can handle our business. If we have a hard time
getting up for these games, we don't deserve to be in the

O'Neal tweaked his left ankle in the fourth quarter, which
bothered his already sore knee. He missed three games earlier this
month with a sprained left knee. He wasn't focused on the pain
after the game.

"I'm probably more hurt that we lost this game emotionally than
anything physically," he said.

Danny Granger scored 22 points and Jamaal Tinsley had 15 points
and 12 assists for the Pacers.

Indiana trailed 75-72 at the end of the third quarter and cut
its deficit to 79-78 on a jumper by Granger with 8:51 left.

Cleveland regrouped, and a three-point play by Eric Snow put the
Cavaliers ahead 96-87 with 3:03 left. The Pacers never mounted
another charge.

"It's not really offensive part of the floor where we're having
problems, we're having problems on the defensive end of the
floor," O'Neal said. "I think we cut it to one and we couldn't
get a stop."

The Pacers shot 51 percent in the first half, yet trailed 52-45
because they allowed the Cavaliers to shoot 54 percent.

Cleveland extended its lead to 69-58 before James picked up his
fourth foul and sat out the rest of the quarter. The Pacers
outscored the Cavaliers 14-6 with James on the bench to cut their
deficit to three at the end of the period.

The Cavaliers outscored the Pacers 30-22 in the fourth quarter.
James played all 12 minutes and had eight points and six rebounds
in the final period.

"We executed down the stretch," Brown said. "We got enough
stops defensively, but offensively, we made our shots."

Game Notes
Indiana G Darrell Armstrong was called for a technical foul
with 8:20 left in the second quarter after he disagreed with a
three-second call. ... Cleveland C Scot Pollard, a former Pacer,
did not play. ... The Pacers had no offensive rebounds in the first
half. ... Cleveland improved to 13-4 with G Sasha Pavlovic in the
starting lineup. ... Granger fouled out for the third time this
season, and Indiana G Mike Dunleavy fouled out for the first time
this season.