The Associated PressATLANTA (AP) — LeBron James’ unusual midgame defensive switch was the hot topic after he helped Cleveland extend its winning streak.
James took command of a challenging defensive assignment and stuck around to see the end of the Cavaliers’ 10th straight victory, 121-114 over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.
James had 24 points and 12 assists, and Kevin Love finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds to help Cleveland hold off Atlanta to extend the NBA’s longest active winning streak. It was James’ 14th double-double in 22 games.
James had frequent exchanges with the officials but avoided serious confrontations following his first ejection in 1,082 career games Tuesday night in a home victory over Miami.
Dennis Schroder, who led Atlanta with 27 points, blew past Cavaliers guard Jose Calderon to score on three straight layups to give Atlanta a 67-58 lead late in the first half.
James (203 centimeters, 114 kilograms) then took over primary defensive duties on Schroder (185 centimeters, 78 kilograms) to close the half and continued covering the super-quick guard in the second half.
“He was kicking our butts in the first half,” said James of Schroder.
“My teammates asked me to take the challenge. I wanted the challenge.”
James seemed to relish the chance to test his skills against the point guard.
“I can’t give that up,” he said.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said the defensive switch “was big time for us.”
Even though James also guarded Schroder at times in Atlanta’s 117-115 win at Cleveland on Nov. 4, Schroder said the defensive switch was still a shock.
“It’s amazing when the best player in the world tries to stop you and tries to guard you,” Schroder said.
“I still tried to be aggressive. It doesn’t mean that I have to stop playing. He’s a big body and it’s tough to just go past him.”
Schroder was held to 10 points in the second half while being shadowed by James.
“I don’t think anybody understands how tough that is,” Cleveland’s Dwyane Wade said about James’ defensive challenge. “But that’s why LeBron’s one of the greatest players to play the game.”
Irving has 36 as Celts cruise
BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas developed a reputation in Boston for big performances late in games. It’s quickly becoming apparent that the Celtics probably have an even more potent scoring weapon in Kyrie Irving.
The star guard scored 36 points and Boston held off the weary and short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 108-97 to improve the NBA’s best record to 19-4.
It was Irving’s fifth game this season with 30 or more points. Al Horford added 21 points and eight rebounds, and Marcus Morris had 17 points as the Celtics bounced back from Monday night’s home loss to Detroit with their ninth victory in 11 games.