- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Cavaliers returned home and returned to form.

LeBron James scored 38 points, Mo Williams and Delonte West added 22 apiece and the NBA’s best home team avoided its first three-game losing streak by beating the San Antonio Spurs 101-81 on Sunday.

Embarrassed in a 29-point loss in Orlando, a humbling defeat that came one day after a humiliating loss at lowly Washington, Cleveland played with purpose at both ends and improved to 37-1 at home. If they can win their final three home games, the Cavs would match the 1985-86 Boston Celtics (40-1) for the best home record in NBA history.

Tony Parker scored 24 but got no help from Manu Ginobili (four points) or Tim Duncan, who had just six and didn’t score after the 2:56 mark of the first quarter.

Home-court advantage in the playoffs is huge for the Cavs, who are 0-2 at Boston and Orlando this season.

Down by 13 at halftime, the Spurs came out strong and pulled within 62-57 midway through the third period. Former Cavs forward Drew Gooden scored eight points in a three-minute stretch to pick up the slack for Duncan, who went 2-for-7 and was taken out of his game by Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Williams slowed the Spurs by hitting a 3-pointer and jumper, and Cleveland quickly opened it back up to 10. James then got loose on a runout and went in for one of those jaw-dropping dunks only he can deliver to make it 71-60. Later, James dropped a 3-pointer as the lead swelled to 17.

The Spurs made one final push, closing within 84-75 on Parker’s basket.

That’s when you-know-who responded for Cleveland.

With the 24-second shot clock down to one tick, James made a 22-foot fadeaway and West followed with consecutive 3-pointers, double daggers that did in the Spurs. James added a 3-pointer of his own for good measure.

It was Cleveland’s last game against a Western Conference team during the regular season. The Cavaliers went 26-4 against the West.

Once again, Cavs coach Mike Brown, who has had to juggle his lineup all season because of injuries, was forced to make a lineup change. Starting forward Anderson Varejao sat out with what the team is calling a bruised wrist. It’s unclear when the valuable Varejao got hurt.

The Cavs had their legs back after playing so lethargically against the Magic on Friday night. Cleveland attacked at both ends and put a defensive stranglehold on the Spurs, who shot just 39 percent from the field.

James seemed intent on ending Cleveland’s mini-slide by himself. He arrived at the arena more than three hours before tipoff, his routine before a big game.

He scored 14 straight points and finished the first quarter with 18 _ 12 on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor and 6-of-6 from the line. Parker was just as good, shredding Daniel Gibson and West for 14 points in the quarter as the Spurs shot 56 percent.

It was when James sat to start the second that the Cavaliers took off.

Williams and West scored four points apiece as they opened the second quarter with a 12-2 spurt while James was on the bench resting. Cleveland’s defense held the Spurs without a field goal for the first 5:44, and when James checked back in, the Cavs led 40-29.

Notes:@ Red Hot Chili Peppers’ blue-haired bassist Flea, who presented Metallica at Saturday night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, sat in a baseline seat. A big Lakers fan, Flea sat a few seats from Browns quarterback Brady Quinn. … The Cavaliers made a “medically necessary release” of guard Eric Snow, whose career has been ended by a knee injury. The NBA approved the team’s medical insurance claim on Snow and will not have to pay his entire $7 million contract for this season. … Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, whose eye-popping stats are often cited in reference to James’ numbers, attended the game.

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