- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CLEVELAND (AP) - On a night LeBron James matched his career-low in minutes played, the Cleveland Cavaliers made history.

Even with James playing just 17 minutes, Cleveland rolled to an 117-82 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night as the Cavaliers raised their record to 12-3, their best start in franchise history.

“Right now, we’re playing the best basketball we’ve played in a long time,” James said.

The Cavaliers are playing so well they can roll to an easy win when James, who scored 14 points, spends most of the game on the bench.

“It’s always good to get rest,” James said. “You know how long the season is. It’s always a positive.”

Oklahoma City (1-15) has the worst record in the NBA and lost its 13th straight game. The Thunder are 0-3 under interim coach Scott Brooks, who took over when P.J. Carlesimo was fired Nov. 22.

Chris Wilcox led Oklahoma City with 14 points.

James also played 17 minutes in a game against Houston on Dec. 29, 2004, his second season in the league, a game in which he sustained a bone bruise near his left eye after being elbowed by Dikembe Mutombo.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas led Cleveland with 17 points. All 12 players on the roster scored for the second straight night.

The Cavaliers remained undefeated at home in eight games.

Cleveland raced to a 13-0 lead during which Brooks called a 20-second timeout and a full timeout. The Thunder finally scored on a jumper by Joe Smith, who played with the Cavaliers last season, with 7:37 remaining in the first quarter.

“One of the lessons our young team has to learn is when you play a good team like Cleveland, you have to be prepared to take the first hit,” Brooks said. “They put us on our heels early tonight.”

While Brooks can only admire the Cavaliers from afar, it’s easy to see why Cleveland coach Mike Brown is happy with the way his team, which has won 11 of 12, is playing.

“These guys are intelligent, they play hard and they want to win,” Brown said. “It makes my job real easy.”

Cleveland hasn’t trailed at any point in its past three games. The Cavaliers scored 66 first-half points Wednesday after scoring 67 in the first two quarters Tuesday night in New York.

“I thought our guys entered the game with the right focus,” Brown said. “That’s good to see because one of the things we’ve been preaching is developing good habits.”

“That’s a talented team playing their some of their best basketball right now,” Brooks said

One night after dealing with numerous questions about his plans for free agency in 2010 when the Cavs played in New York, James found the surroundings much less chaotic Wednesday. He scored 10 points in nine first-quarter minutes and sat out the rest of the half. Cleveland led 27-8 when James left the game.

James wasted little time bringing the fans to their feet when he caught a lob pass from Delonte West with one hand and dunked on the Cavaliers’ first possession of the second half. He left the game for good with the Cavaliers leading 84-43 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

James played 30 minutes in Cleveland’s 119-101 win over the Knicks, a game which the Cavaliers led handily most of the way.

Daniel Gibson scored 15 points for Cleveland. Rookie forward J.J. Hickson, the Cavaliers’ No. 1 draft pick, scored a career-high 14.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 13 points apiece for Oklahoma City.

The Thunder are in the midst of their longest losing streak since Seattle dropped a franchise-worst 14 straight games last season from Dec. 31, 2007-Jan. 27, 2008. Unlike Tuesday night, when the Thunder led Phoenix by 16 points late in the third quarter only to lose down the stretch, they were never in the game.

Notes:@ The Cavaliers’ 34-point halftime lead is the biggest lead at the half in franchise history. … Cleveland is off to its third-best home start in franchise history. The Cavaliers were 9-0 at home in both 1991-92 and 1976-77. Cleveland can match that mark when it hosts Golden State on Friday. … Brooks played 43 games with Cleveland in the 1997-98 season. … Oklahoma City hosts Minnesota on Friday.

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