Cavaliers rally from 25-point deficit to beat Hornets

Boozer scores 24 points as Cleveland posts one of the largest comebacks in team history

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2004

CLEVELAND - In four days, they've beaten the defending NBA champions, won at Madison Square Garden and rallied from 25 points down for a victory.

Suddenly, there seems to be nothing these Cleveland Cavaliers can't do.

"This is sweet," guard Jeff McInnis said. "I've never come back from so far down before."

LeBron James scored 21 points, fellow rookie Jason Kapono added a season-high 19 and the Cavaliers rallied from a 25-point deficit Monday night for a 104-100 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

Juneau-Douglas High School alum Carlos Boozer had 24 points and nine rebounds, and McInnis added 14 and nine assists for the Cavs, who have won three straight - at home against San Antonio and New Orleans and at New York - since last Friday.

After starting the season 6-19, enduring turmoil and two major trades, Cleveland is within 1 1/2 games of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I've never been around a group that has jelled," first-year coach Paul Silas said. "This was sweet. We want to keep this thing going."

James also had a basket, steal and rebound in the final 1:19 as Cleveland completed one of the biggest comebacks in its 35-year history.

Neither the Cavs nor the Elias Sports Bureau could determine if it was the Cavs' largest comeback, but there's no disputing it was one of their most improbable.

"When we were behind by 25, no one in their right mind thought we would come back," said Kapono, who went 5-for-5 on 3-pointers after not playing in Sunday's win at New York.

Only once before had the Hornets blown a 25-point lead. They also did it on March 1, 1996, at Minnesota.

The Cavaliers were down 49-24 with 6:34 left in the second quarter, but trimmed it to 14 by halftime and four by the end of the third before finally taking the lead at 83-82 on McInnis' short jumper with 7:42 to play.

But as has been the case with most of their games this season, this one went to the final horn as Baron Davis hit a 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left to get the Hornets to 102-100.

However, Boozer made two free throws with 5.1 seconds left, and with the lead seemingly safe, Silas raised his right fist in the air to celebrate a win over the team that fired him after last season.

Davis led the Hornets with 34 points and Jamal Mashburn had 23, but after a strong start, the two stars struggled from the field. They opened a combined 13-for-13 from the floor but went 7-for-32 the rest of the way.

"They just kept on playing," Mashburn said. "They kept attacking and we didn't. That's the bottom line."

Kapono sparked the Cavs' comeback, draining all his 3-pointers and adding five rebounds and three steals in 28 minutes. The second-round draft pick from UCLA had played just 19 minutes in his previous five games.

"I'm not the most talented guy in here," he said looking around the Cavs' locker room. "I'm probably No. 14 on the roster, but I can play a little."

McInnis was also huge, scoring nine points in a crucial stretch of the final period when the teams were trading baskets.

Before re-entering the game with 8:24 left and the Cavs within one, McInnis pounded his hand on the scorer's table and yelled, "It's crunch time!"

He promptly hit his 10-footer to give the Cavs their first lead.

"I knew it was time to be aggressive," he said. "I wanted to go for it."

Elias said it was the first time in Cavs history they won after trailing by 21 at the end of the first quarter. They had been 0-9 in such games.

Pistons 76, 76ers 66

PHILADELPHIA - Richard Hamilton scored 15 points and Tayshaun Prince added 14, leading Detroit over Philadelphia.

Ben Wallace had 12 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks, and Rasheed Wallace added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons, who had lost eight of nine and four straight on the road.

Kenny Thomas had 10 points and 18 rebounds for Philadelphia, which was without Allen Iverson because of a shoulder injury. Iverson, tied for the NBA's scoring lead, was replaced by Aaron McKie, who had two points.

Pistons coach Larry Brown again was booed in his second return to Philadelphia since leaving the Sixers to coach Detroit last spring.

Trail Blazers 89, Heat 81

MIAMI - Zach Randolph had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Derek Anderson added 20 points to lead Portland past Miami.

The Trail Blazers opened the fourth quarter with a 14-0 run and won their fourth straight, snapping Miami's four-game winning streak. Damon Stoudamire added 18 points to help Portland even its record at 28-28.

Lamar Odom led the Heat with 25 points.

Grizzlies 109, Nuggets 106

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - James Posey scored 20 points, including 13 during a fourth-quarter rally, and Memphis defeated Denver in a matchup of two of the NBA's most improved teams.

Shane Battier's block of Carmelo Anthony's putback attempt with 7 seconds left prevented Denver from taking the lead. Posey grabbed the blocked shot, was fouled and converted the free throws to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Denver took a 106-102 lead with 1:22 left. But the Grizzlies scored the game's final seven points - five by Posey - to send the Nuggets to their third straight loss.

Pau Gasol led Memphis with 25 points. Anthony scored 26 on 9-of-25 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds.

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