Cavs, Boozer finish strong

While LeBron rests, Cleveland rolls past Philly

Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2004

CLEVELAND - While LeBron James has rested his ankle, his team has gotten a whole lot better.

Eric Williams scored 20 points, Dajuan Wagner added 17 and the Cleveland Cavaliers again played well without James, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 95-87 on Saturday night.

Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Carlos Boozer had 15 points and 15 rebounds - his fourth consecutive double-double and 17th of the season - as the Cavs improved to 2-1 without James, their rookie star and leading scorer who missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle.

James is expected to return to the lineup Monday against Orlando, and when he comes back, Cavaliers coach Paul Silas expects his team to take off.

"Once we get 'Bron back," Silas said, "I can now see a bright future. All's well right now."

Cleveland (15-28), which went 17-65 a year ago, didn't get its 15th win last season until April 5.

"We're gaining a lot of confidence," guard Kevin Ollie said. "Earlier this season, we had some tough defeats. But tonight we made some big shots and made some big plays when we had to."

Allen Iverson scored 32 points - 21 in the third quarter - for Philadelphia, which slashed a 19-point deficit to six late in the period. However, Iverson, the NBA's leading scorer didn't get his first points of the fourth until there was just 33.8 seconds left.

Before that basket, Iverson missed his three attempts of the quarter as he was hounded by both Wagner and Jeff McInnis, who played his first game for Cleveland.

Iverson played with a badly bruised left hand and a sore finger on his right hand.

"I've been struggling with my rhythm," said Iverson, who went 12-for-29 from the field. "I finally caught fire there in the third quarter. I had it going."

But the Cavs made it tough on him in the fourth, especially McInnis, who was brought to Cleveland for his defense as much as for his playmaking.

"Once we put Jeff on A.I., he slowed him down a bit," Silas said. "That was big."

McInnis only had practiced once with the Cavs, who acquired him Wednesday in a trade with Portland for Darius Miles. But he started and finished with nine points and six assists in 35 minutes.

"It feels good to get that first win," McInnis said.

Glenn Robinson had 20 points for the injury-riddled Sixers, who have lost six of eight. Philadelphia played without starters Derrick Coleman and Kenny Thomas, who were both hurt in a loss to Orlando on Friday.

"It's wearing on us somewhat," said Sixers coach Randy Ayers, who expects Thomas (scratched cornea) to be back on Tuesday. "We have to keep working."

Cleveland's bench outscored Philly's 32-14.

The Cavs led by 18 in the third but appeared to be on their way to blowing another big lead when they missed their first 10 shots of the fourth quarter.

But Wagner, who sat out Cleveland's first 33 games with a knee injury, buried a 3-pointer to make it 82-72. Then, following a steal, he drove past Robinson on the baseline to drop in a high floater.

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