CLEVELAND—LeBron James reached another statistical milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers overpowered the Orlando Magic 117-103 on Monday.
James joined Oscar Robertson as the only other player in NBA history to rank in the top 25 for both scoring and assists after helping team-mate Kevin Love to a three-pointer with five minutes left in the second quarter.
The assist pushed James’ career total to 6,837, nudging him ahead of Norm Nixon into 25th place. James is also 19th on the all-time points scoring list and is expected to pass Reggie Miller in 18th place when the Cavs visit Toronto on Wednesday night.
Cleveland were made to work for the victory however, with Orlando fighting back from 12 points down to lead by eight points in the second quarter at 42-34.
But just as Magic fans began dreaming of an upset, the Cavaliers clicked into gear with Love pouring on the points as Cleveland took a grip on the contest.
Love reeled off 17 straight during a five-minute burst of scoring in the second quarter that included a trio of three-pointers. Love finally finished with 34 points.
Cavs coach David Blatt meanwhile was left reflecting on another landmark night for James, who only recently became the youngest player in NBA history to score 25,000 points.
– ‘Amazing, amazing achievement’
“That gives me chills to even hear that,” Blatt said. “That’s an amazing, amazing accomplishment.
“You’re speaking about such rarified air… All the credit and respect to him for that.”
Magic coach Scott Skiles was left in no doubt about James’ place in the pantheon of legends following his latest showing.
“Every time there’s a young great player everybody talks about Michael (Jordan), but to me he’s always been more like a Magic (Johnson) or an Oscar type player because of his vision,” Skiles said.
“That’s what makes him so difficult. If you think you’re going to give him a steady diet of running and double teaming him, he’s going to carve you up.”
James however was unwilling to enter into a debate about where he stood in the pecking order of greatness.
“I think we get caught up in, in our league too much in trying to compare greats to greats instead of just accepting and acknowledging and saying, ‘Wow, these are just great players,’” James said.
“When it comes to our sport we’re so eager to say who is better – Oscar or Jordan or LeBron or Kobe (Bryant) or these guys instead of just accepting greatness.”
James finally finished with 15 points and six rebounds, as well as 13 assists while guard J.R. Smith chipped in with 26 points, his highest tally of the season.
It marked a welcome return to normality for James, who was forced to apologize to teammates on Saturday after bizarrely storming off the court during the Cavaliers victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
The Cavaliers victory saw them improve to 11-3 for the season, the best record in the Eastern Conference this year.
LOS ANGELES (AFP)–Kevin Durant scored 27 points on his return from a six-game injury layoff as the Oklahoma City Thunder routed Utah Jazz 111-89 on Monday.
Durant set the tone for a dominant performance in the opening two minutes with a superb floater as the Thunder blew away Utah at the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“It felt good,” said Durant, who hit 10 of 13 shots from the field and three of six from three-point range.
“It’s just like he never left,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook added. “Obviously, he is one of the best scorers in the world and he can get a bucket.”
Westbrook had 20 points with nine assists and seven rebounds as the Thunder improved to 9-6 overall.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan was relieved to see Durant return to form, insisting he had not been rushed back.
“I think our medical team does a great job. No one is going to put Kevin Durant out there when he’s not 100 percent ready to go,” Donovan said.
“He’s worked hard to get himself back. I give Kevin a lot of credit for that. He really gets himself prepared to play every game.”
Utah forward Gordon Hayward meanwhile hit out at the one-sided manner of the loss.
“We got outplayed in every way tonight,” Hayward said. “It’s unacceptable. It’s embarrassing.”
– No end in sight for 76ers –
But while the Cavaliers marched on, it was another dismal night for the Philadelphia 76ers, who slumped to their 15th straight defeat since the start of the season in a 100-95 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Combined with ten straight losses at the tail end of last season, the 76ers are 0-25 — just one defeat away from equalling the worst losing streak in NBA history (26). The 76ers class of 2013-14 currently share that infamous record with the Cleveland Cavaliers of 2010-11.
Three more defeats would take the 76ers to 0-18, equalling the worst ever start to an NBA campaign, set by the New Jersey Nets in 2009-10.
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