The power of LeBron ultimately produced more wattage than the power of Cam Friday night, as the Cleveland Cavaliers edged the Charlotte Hornets, 95-90, in Time Warner Cable Arena.
With Panthers quarterback Cam Newton watching from a front-row seat, the Cavaliers held the cold-shooting Hornets to 14 points in the decisive fourth quarter. It was the 23rd straight time that a team with LeBron on the roster had beaten the Charlotte NBA franchise, extending an “0-for-LeBron” streak that dates back to Feb. 19, 2010.
LeBron and Cam exchanged a postgame hug at midcourt, and LeBron had high praise for Carolina’s quarterback afterward.
“We’ve had a relationship all the way since he’s been in college,” James said of Newton. “It’s great to see the success he has now.... He’s doing some unbelievable stuff on and off the field.... I hope he keeps doing what he’s doing. I think it’s magnificent. He’s a role model in this city, and their franchise should be happy to have them.”
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While LeBron was magnanimous talking about Newton, he and the Cavaliers didn’t give an inch on the court. The Hornets came into the game 7-1 at home and averaging 110 points per game at home. But the Hornets shot 6-for-23 in the fourth quarter this time, getting good shots and missing them time and again against a smaller, quicker Cleveland lineup that didn’t include Kevin Love for a single second of the fourth quarter.
“I thought we got decent shots against a good defensive team and the ball just didn’t go in the basket,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.
Although LeBron has led a number of blowouts in Charlotte over the years, this one was close all the way. Charlotte led by two points at halftime and by four going into the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker and Nic Batum, who combined for 35 points, were playing well.
And Newton – who was one of at least a half-dozen Panthers in attendance the day after the city’s NFL team improved to 11-0 with a Thanksgiving Day win over Dallas – got some of the biggest cheers of the night in the third quarter.
Wearing a vintage Larry Johnson No. 2 jersey and a purple Hornets cap, Cam waited until the in-house cameras focused on him and then did a little dab and a few other dance moves from his seat while the music played. It was fun stuff.
But then the night gradually went sour for the Hornets. In the fourth quarter, they looked a lot like the Hornets team from a season ago, which had dozens of nasty offensive quarters because it rarely had enough offensive firepower on the court.
This one does have the fourth-quarter firepower, but in this case it didn’t ignite. James (25 points, 13 rebounds, five assists) and the Cavaliers finished off the Hornets (9-7) because Charlotte forgot in the fourth quarter how to perform the game’s most elemental task – putting the ball in the basket. Charlotte went 5-for-25 from three-point range in the game and 0-for-6 in the fourth.
LeBron said he didn’t know why he has had so much success against the Bobcats and the Hornets over the years. “I don’t have an answer for it,” James said. He was more focused on the present, especially the fact that Cleveland showed better effort and played well defensively.
“They answered the call,” LeBron said of his teammates. “It was big-time. We got timely stops and made timely shots.”
The Hornets had a lot of both of those in the first three quarters, but they just couldn’t sustain it in the fourth against the defending Eastern Conference champions. For this new team, it was an old story – LeBron and his supporting cast were again too much.