CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James shook off a blow to the face and scored 23 points in the fourth quarter — including 18 straight for Cleveland — as the Cavaliers won their sixth straight, 119-109 over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.
James needed stitches in the third quarter to close a gash above his lip that drew blood. He punched back at the Nets in the fourth and finished with 33 points.
With the Cavs up 100-99, James began his one-man show with a pair of free throws. He dropped in a couple left-handed shots and then drained two 3-pointers — the last a step-back with 55 seconds left to give Cleveland a 118-107 lead.
James’ solo performance enabled the Cavs to avenge a 112-107 loss in Brooklyn last month.
Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade added 18 points apiece for Cleveland.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 20 and Joe Harris 18 for the Nets, who could do nothing in the final 12 minutes to stop James.
James went to the locker room with the laceration to his face in the third after he appeared to take an elbow from Tyler Zeller in the lane. While James was off the floor, the Nets extended their lead to six on a 3-pointer by Allen Crabbe.
But shortly after James returned with some stiches and puffiness around his mouth, Cleveland went on an 8-0 run and headed to the fourth quarter tied at 77-all.
James took over from there, delivering another tour de force performance that didn’t seem likely when he was being treated by the medical staff and the Cavs playing sluggishly.
Cleveland built a nine-point lead in the first quarter and seemed ready to build on it when James made a surprising mistake.
Alone in the frontcourt for an uncontested dunk, James tried to showboat and rocketed the ball off the back of the rim, a miss that stunned the three-time champion and the crowd of 20,000-plus fans. James then forced a long 3-pointer on Cleveland’s next possession and before long the Nets were even at 20-all when Zeller made his first 3 of the season.
Nets: C Trevor Booker (sprained left ankle) worked out before the game, but did not play. The eighth-year pro was injured Sunday against Golden State. … G Spencer Dinwiddie started his fourth straight game in place of injured G D’Angelo Russell (left knee surgery). He scored a career-high 25 points Friday against Utah. “Game by game, he’s getting better and more comfortable and more aggressive,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. . Brooklyn hasn’t beaten Cleveland in consecutive matchups since Jan. 4-March 28, 2014.
Cavaliers: When he left to get stitched up, James only had eight points and his streak of double-digit games appeared in jeopardy. But he scored on a layup in the third, giving him 809 straight regular-season games with at least 10 points. Michael Jordan has the record with 866. … Coach Tyronn Lue said the team is targeting Monday’s game in Philadelphia for G Iman Shumpert (sore left knee) to return.
He’s missed the last two games. … F Tristan Thompson (strained left calf) remains sidelined and Lue said there is no specific timetable for him to play. The Cavs estimated he could be out for up to a month when he got hurt on Nov. 1.
The Isaiah Thomas comeback is getting closer.
The All-Star point guard took some contact during a rigorous workout at the team’s morning shootaround. Thomas has been ramping up his activity, running harder and appears to be ahead of schedule to make his debut with Cleveland. Originally, the Cavs forecast he would be playing in games by the end of December but there’s a sense it could be sooner.
“We know he’s making progress every day, which is good for us,” Lue said. “We’re excited about that. We want to make sure we do what’s best for him health-wise, not coming back too soon.”
Nets: Host Portland on Friday.
Cavaliers: Host Charlotte on Friday. Cleveland has won seven straight over the Hornets.
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