James leads Cavs past short-handed Jazz, 105-93

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James calls the fourth quarter "winning time."

The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar proved that yet again Saturday night.

James scored 16 of his 38 points in the final period, leading a second-half rally that gave the Cavaliers their seventh straight victory, 105-93 over the short-handed Utah Jazz.

"That's when games are decided," said James, who was 6-of-10 from the field in the final 12 minutes. "Especially when it's a close game and tonight was a close game."

From the Cavaliers' standpoint, it was a lot closer than expected. The Jazz, in the finale of a five-game Eastern trip, were without starters Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur, and top reserves Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring.

Despite those obstacles, Utah shot 53 percent in the first half and built a 62-52 lead early in the third quarter.

Cleveland, which is 8-2 overall and 6-0 at home, tied the game at 69 later in the quarter on Delonte West's 3-pointer and finally took the lead for good, 76-74, on James' two free throws with 30 seconds left in the period. That marked the Cavaliers' first lead since they were up 25-23 with 10:59 left in the second period.

Carlos Boozer, who led Utah with 17 points, is familiar with James' ability. He played his first two seasons with the Cavaliers before signing with the Jazz in 2004.

"In the fourth quarter, he just hit shot after shot," Boozer said. "He made his free throws and every jump shot he took stuck."

James' two free throws with 30 seconds left in the third put Cleveland ahead 76-74. He scored 21 points in the second half and was 13-of-21 from the field. James had five rebounds and seven assists.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan refused to use the fact his team was so short-handed as an excuse. In fact, he admitted his younger players were intimidated by James' presence.

"We didn't even get close enough to guard him at times," Sloan said. "You have to compete against the guy. If you say, 'I'm not going to touch him,' you'll be saying that 20 years from now. You might as well get an autograph and go home."

Asked if his players backed down a little bit in guarding James, Sloan said, "A little bit? It was like we were afraid to even touch him. I think we fouled him once going to the basket."

Williams (sprained left ankle), Kirilenko (dislocated right finger) and Harpring (rehabilitation from right ankle surgery) missed the game with injuries. Okur has missed the last four games after returning to his native Turkey to be with his father, who is ill.

"We can't worry about this guy being hurt and that guy being hurt," Sloan said. "I feel bad for them, but we still have to compete. You have to learn how to play in those tough games."

James didn't think the Cavaliers took the Jazz lightly.

"I think we are growing up and us knowing now the game matters and it doesn't matter who is on the court," he said.

Mo Williams added 20 points for the Cavaliers, including a 3-pointer and a layup midway through the fourth quarter that pushed Cleveland's lead to 95-84, its biggest since the first quarter.

When James went out of the game with 44 seconds left in the first quarter, the Cavaliers were up 23-14. When he re-entered the game with 7:12 left in the second period, Cleveland trailed 34-27.

Paul Millsap led Utah in the first half with 11 points and finished with 15. The Jazz made 20 of 38 shots in the first two quarters but were 13-of-34 in the second half.

Notes:@ Boozer, who left Cleveland to sign with Utah as a free agent, was booed throughout the game. ... The first three quarters ended with buzzer-beating shots that were reviewed and upheld. Jazz guard Ronnie Price ended the first with a 42-footer and ended the second period with a 3-pointer from 25 feet. Cleveland's Daniel Gibson ended the third quarter with a jumper. ... Gibson took a hard fall on his back in the first half, but said after the game he was fine. ... Jazz rookie center Kosta Koufos, who went to high school in Canton and played one season at Ohio State, started in place of Okur and scored five points.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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