Cavs edge Pacers for sixth consecutive win

Cleveland solidifies hold on playoff spot

Posted: Monday, March 15, 2004

CLEVELAND - LeBron James slipped on an orange No. 23 Cavaliers' throwback jersey - his own.

The rookie's retro look wasn't the only fashion statement in Gund Arena on Sunday. At long last, even the Cavaliers are back in style.

James scored 26 points and forced Ron Artest to take a tough 3-pointer as the final horn sounded, leading the Cavaliers to their sixth straight win, 107-104 Sunday over the Indiana Pacers.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas made two free throws with 36 seconds left and forced a big turnover seconds later for the Cavs, who improved to 10-3 since the All-Star break.

Many of those wins had come against some of the league's weaker teams, but by beating the NBA-leading Pacers, Cleveland strengthened its hold on a playoff spot and legitimized an improbable turnaround season.

"We feel like we're one of the best teams in the East," James said, "and we're proving ourselves."

Sure enough. The Cavs (30-36), who won just 17 games last season, have won six in a row for the first time since Dec. 5-16, 2000. And suddenly, talk of making the playoffs has given way to speculation about who they'll play.

"I think this win shows that we're a team to be reckoned with," point guard Jeff McInnis said. "We know we can play with anybody that puts an NBA uniform on. But we're not going to get cocky or overconfident, though. We'll just keep going out and doing our thing."

Jermaine O'Neal had 32 points for the Pacers, who had their seven-game winning streak stopped. Indiana lost in Gund Arena for the first time since 1998 after winning 12 in a row.

Both teams played with a playoff-like intensity and performed as if there was something bigger on the line. And only the 20,562 fans were lucky enough to see it as the matchup wasn't shown on TV in either Indianapolis or Cleveland because of a network blackout.

"That's too bad," James said.

Fittingly, the see-saw game came down to Indiana's final possession.

After Ilgauskas' two free throws made it 107-104, the 7-foot-3 center - benched earlier this season for his weak defense - stopped O'Neal on the baseline and forced him to dribble the ball off his knee and out of bounds.

McInnis made the second of two free throws with 18 seconds left, setting up a wild sequence. Indiana's Jamaal Tinsley missed a 3-pointer, Al Harrington came up with the rebound after a scramble in the lane and James accidentally bowled over referee Luis Grillo.

Indiana then set up for a final play with 4 seconds left, but Artest never got a good look with James in his face and misfired on his 3-pointer as time expired.

"I just fell short," Artest said. "I'm glad I got that shot out of the way now so when the playoffs come and I'm in that situation, I'm sure it will go down."

The Cavs didn't score a field goal in the final 3:24 and Indiana had just one over the last 4:15 as both teams buckled down defensively.

Juneau-Douglas High School alum Carlos Boozer scored 19 points, McInnis had 16 and 10 assists and Lee Nailon had 15 off the bench for Cleveland, which currently owns the No. 6 playoff spot and will play its next four at home.

Raptors 101, Hawks 84

TORONTO - Jalen Rose scored 23 points in his first game in over a month to help Toronto beat Atlanta.

Rose missed 16 games with four broken bones in his left hand. He had not played since undergoing surgery Feb. 10.

After going 3-for-12 from the field in the first three quarters, Rose scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the fourth.

Pistons 85, 76ers 69

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Detroit held Philadelphia scoreless for the final two minutes, extending its NBA record for holding opponents under 70 points to five straight games.

Lindsey Hunter's steal on Philadelphia's last possession ensured the 76ers would not reach 70. The Pistons are the first team since the shot clock was implemented in 1954-55 to have a streak of more than two games.

Philadelphia was hampered without leading scorer Allen Iverson, out for the fourth straight game because of a swollen right knee.

Kings 101, Spurs 87

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Mike Bibby scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half, and the Kings got nasty to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in Sacramento for the first time in more than two years.

Brad Miller had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings, who had a 23-7 run early in the fourth quarter. Sacramento also abandoned its finesse game to bully and outwork the Spurs, who were without the injured Tim Duncan.

Trail Blazers 92, Timberwolves 83

MINNEAPOLIS - Zach Randolph had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Derek Anderson scored 21 points to lead Portland to its third straight victory.

Darius Miles scored 19 points and Damon Stoudamire added 17 points and eight assists for Portland, which beat Minnesota for the second time in five days.

Kevin Garnett had 20 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists for the Timberwolves, who have lost five of their last eight games.

Knicks 103, Bucks 100

MILWAUKEE - Tim Thomas scored 20 points against his former team, all but two in the second half, and Stephon Marbury had 21 points and 16 assists as New York rallied from a 26-point deficit.

After Tim Thomas tied it at 93 on a lob from Kurt Thomas, Marbury's 3-pointer with 2:01 left gave the Knicks their first lead and started a 9-0 run.

Tim Thomas scored the game's final two points on free throws with 13 seconds left, and Milwaukee's final try came up short as Toni Kukoc's 3-pointer bounced off the front rim with 3 seconds left.

Heat 104, Nets 95

MIAMI - Lamar Odom's three field goals all came in the final five minutes to help end the Nets' 15-game winning streak against Eastern Conference teams.

Miami won for the fifth time in six games and remained tied with New York for seventh place in the East. Eddie Jones led the Heat with 23 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Odom missed his first six shots but still finished with 15 points.

Nuggets 102, Jazz 75

DENVER - Andre Miller had 24 points and 11 assists, and the Denver Nuggets defeated Utah to extend their lead over the Jazz for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs to 1 1/2 games.

Carmelo Anthony added 23 points and Nene had 20 for the Nuggets, who had lost nine of 12 and saw their six-game lead over the Jazz shrink to a half game entering Sunday. Marcus Camby had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Denver.

Mavericks 101, Clippers 88

LOS ANGELES - Dirk Nowitzki had 34 points and 15 rebounds, and Steve Nash scored seven of his 16 points in the final 4:02 to lead Dallas over the Clippers.

Nash also had 11 assists for the Mavericks, who trail the fourth-place Lakers by one game in the Western Conference standings.

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