Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets rally blocked by LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers’ ‘best game’

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, is fouled by Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller, left, during the second half of Friday’s game at the Spectrum Center . The Cavaliers defeated the Hornets 112-105.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, is fouled by Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller, left, during the second half of Friday’s game at the Spectrum Center . The Cavaliers defeated the Hornets 112-105. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Cleveland Cavaliers had just enough LeBron James in the fourth quarter to subdue the Charlotte Hornets 112-105 Friday at Spectrum Center.

James scored 10 of his 32 points in the final quarter and made a key block of a layup by the Hornets’ Marvin Williams that might have cut a tenuous Cavs lead to four points with three minutes left.

The Cavs were coming off a 126-113 defeat against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, one of Cleveland’s worst performances of the season. James challenged his teammates afterward to be better down the stretch.

“We got their best game,” said Hornets coach Steve Clifford. “LeBron called his teammates out afterward and that made a difference.”

The Cavs (47-24), who shot 55.4 percent from the floor, also got 26 points from point guard Kyrie Irving, who added seven assists. James also had 11 assists and nine rebounds.

The Hornets (32-40), who trailed by as many as 12, cut the deficit to 100-99 on a Kemba Walker free throw with 4 minutes, 20 seconds left. But J.R. Smith hit a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to four. A minute later, Williams looked to be free under the basket for a layup, but James blocked it.

Three who mattered

LeBron James: Was there when the Cavs needed him, putting the game away by taking over offensively and defensively.

Kemba Walker: Scored 28 for the Hornets, including a hot first quarter that helped his team keep it close early.

Marco Belinelli: Another strong game off the bench, scoring 22.

Observations

▪ Hornets center Miles Plumlee and point guard Ramon Sessions were cleared to play after lengthy absences. Plumlee, who dressed for the game but didn’t play, missed 16 games with a strained right calf. Sessions remained in street clothes, had surgery for torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, was out for 21 games.

▪ The Cavs’ 59-53 lead at halftime was mostly thanks to their 57.5 percent shooting. It was as high as 71.4 percent early in the second quarter.

Worth mentioning

▪  Hornets coach Steve Clifford said his team needed to come out with lots of energy to stay with the Cavs early. The Hornets did that, and their 8-3 edge on the offensive boards reflected that.

▪ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist picked up two fouls early. The Cavs tried to take advantage of that by going to LeBron James, who backed Kidd-Gilchrist down on consecutive occasions. James didn’t score either time and Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t foul him.

▪ The Hornets have a rare Sunday game scheduled against the Phoenix Suns at Spectrum Center. There’s a rare 1 p.m. tip-off, too.

▪ Hornets forward Frank Kaminsky had a game to forget, missing all nine of his shots and going scoreless. He did have eight rebounds.

They said it

“We’ve got to be smarter with the basic stuff.” – Hornets coach Steve Clifford.

“They missed a lot of shots, for one.” – Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, explaining Charlotte’s 14-3 edge in offensive rebounding (the Hornets were 38-of-90 from the field).

“This is a fun time of year.” – Hornets center Cody Zeller, on the challenge of making the playoffs.

Report card

B+ OFFENSE: Scoring 105 might usually be enough to win, but not against a team that can score like the Cavs.

C- DEFENSE: Holding the Cavs’ offense down is a tall order and the Hornets weren’t up to it.

B- COACHING: Got the team to come out focused and aggressive, which helped make the game competitive from the beginning.

David Scott: 704-358-5889, @davidscott14

Cavaliers 112, Hornets 105

CLEVELAND (112)—James 9-14 14-16 32, Love 6-12 3-4 15, Thompson 3-4 2-2 8, Irving 11-22 2-2 26, Smith 3-5 0-0 9, Jefferson 2-2 0-0 5, Derr.Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Dero.Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Korver 3-5 0-0 8, Shumpert 3-8 0-0 7. Totals 41-74 21-24 112.

CHARLOTTE (105)—Kidd-Gilchrist 2-4 0-0 4, M.Williams 3-11 5-5 11, Zeller 6-6 3-7 15, Walker 10-20 3-4 28, Batum 7-18 3-3 19, Kaminsky 0-9 0-0 0, Weber 1-4 0-0 2, Lamb 2-6 0-0 4, Belinelli 7-12 5-5 22. Totals 38-90 19-24 105.

Cleveland

33

26

31

22

112

Charlotte

31

22

32

20

105

3-Point Goals—Cleveland 9-25 (Smith 3-5, Korver 2-4, Irving 2-6, Jefferson 1-1, Shumpert 1-5, James 0-1, Love 0-3), Charlotte 10-38 (Walker 5-10, Belinelli 3-7, Batum 2-9, Weber 0-2, Lamb 0-2, M.Williams 0-3, Kaminsky 0-5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Cleveland 38 (Love 12), Charlotte 42 (Zeller, M.Williams 11). Assists—Cleveland 26 (James 11), Charlotte 18 (Walker 5). Total Fouls—Cleveland 22, Charlotte 17. A—19,511 (19,077).

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