CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James barely got to play at the Summer
Olympics. On Wednesday night, he showed Larry Brown that may have
been a big mistake.
Perhaps trying to prove Brown was wrong to bench him in Greece,
James scored a career-high 43 points with six rebounds and five
assists to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 92-76 win over the
"He didn't say anything to us," Cavs guard Jeff McInnis said.
"But I think he wanted to stick it to him. I think in the back of
his mind that's what he wanted to do."
McInnis added 16 points as the Cavaliers easily handled the
defending NBA champions and won for the seventh time in eight
The Pistons were shorthanded, playing without center Ben
Wallace, who served the third game of his six-game suspension for
brawling with the Indiana Pacers. But even with Wallace, Detroit
may not have been able to stop James.
This was his night.
"That's as good as I've seen," Cavaliers coach Paul Silas
said. "All I know he was great, not good, he was great. We just
don't have enough superlatives to give this guy."
The NBA's reigning rookie of the year scored 21 points in the
first half and 12 in the third quarter when he assisted on
Cleveland's two other field goals. In the fourth, after Detroit
pulled within 10, James made consecutive 3-pointers, punctuating
the second with a wag of his tongue as the Cavaliers went up by 16.
James was taken out with 2:03 left to a rousing ovation and the
Cavaliers up 87-71. At that point, the rest of the Cavaliers had
scored 44 points to his 43.
"Fantastic," said Cavs forward Robert Traylor. "That's the
only word I can think of to describe it. I don't know if he had
something to prove, but he came to play. He's one of those guys who
sets his mind to it and takes his game to another level."
Brown, who recently had hip surgery, wasn't expected to be at
the game. But he surprised the Pistons by arriving about 1½ hours
before the opening tip after getting permission to travel from
In Athens, Brown was more comfortable playing veterans to run
his system so he sat James, who had never spent so much time on the
bench and didn't enjoy being a cheerleader. James averaged just 5.4
points in 11.4 minutes in eight games as the U.S. team settled for
a bronze medal.
"I just go out and play my game, that's over," James said. "I
don't need motivation from that to play."
"It wasn't that I wasn't happy," James said before the game.
"I wish I had a better opportunity to showcase my talents. That's
all it came down to. There ain't no hard feelings."
Brown doesn't have any, either. In fact, he thinks the time on
the bench may have helped James.
"I'd say he's a better player," Brown said. "I was proud of
him. He took one bad shot. It's as good a performance as I've
James gave Brown a thank you card before the game for sending a
baby gift following the birth of his son. Not much later, James
sent less polite message to Detroit's coach by scoring 14 points in
the first quarter.
He did it by showing his full arsenal of moves. James had a
power dunk underneath, a soaring slam down the lane and tip-in
where he appeared to illegally touch the rim to pull himself in
For good measure, he dropped a 15-foot jumper and spun through
two Pistons on a double-team before flipping in a finger roll.
During one stretch bridging the first and second quarter, James
scored 15 of Cleveland's 17 points.
"He hit some hard shots," said Tayshaun Prince, who was
outscored 43-4 in his matchup with James. "He's the hardest guy in
the league to guard. His speed, quickness and athletic ability are
The Pistons scored the first eight points of the second half,
trimming Cleveland's lead to nine before James scored six in a row
to make it 60-47. James then picked up three assists, hit a jumper
and made two free throws to put the Cavaliers ahead 71-59 entering
the fourth.Game notes
James' 43 are the most in the league this season,
season-high 14 rebounds. ... James, who will turn 20 on Dec. 30, is
the youngest player in league history to reach 500 assists and
rebounds, doing it quicker than Magic Johnson, who was 20 years,
213 days when he hit both plateaus. ... Cavaliers rookie G Luke
Jackson, activated before the game, made a 3-pointer with 54
seconds left for his first points this season.
- Kevin Fehr
- Scott Foster
- Leroy Richardson