CLEVELAND — LeBron James scored in double digits in his 867th straight game, breaking the record he shared with Michael Jordan, and the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied to beat the New Orleans Hornets 107-102 on Friday night to avoid slipping in the standings.
James finished with 27 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, adding another stellar performance to his MVP-worthy 15th NBA season. He finally put the Pelicans away by scoring eight straight in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
Jordan Clarkson added 23 points and Tristan Thompson had 14 rebounds in 21 minutes for the Cavs, who have won seven of eight. A loss would have dropped the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions from third to fifth with only a handful of games left in the regular season.
Jrue Holiday scored 25 and Nikola Mirotic 20 for New Orleans. Pelicans star Anthony Davis scored just 16 — 12 below his average — on 6-of-19 shooting as he was harassed by Thompson and Larry Nance Jr.
James broke Jordan’s mark midway through the first quarter in fitting fashion, delivering a two-handed dunk that Mirotic and Pelicans forward Solomon Hill didn’t dare try to stop.
During a stoppage in play, James was handed the game ball and received a rousing ovation from Cleveland’s sellout crowd, which included pop superstar Justin Timberlake. James waved to the adoring Cavs fans and even saluted Timberlake in his courtside seat.
Jordan’s mark had stood since 2001, and there’s no telling how long James, who idolized the game’s most famous No. 23 as a kid, can extend his streak before ending a career with no apparent finish line in sight.
As he has done countless times before, James took over when it mattered most.
The Cavs built a 95-88 lead on the strength of three 3-pointers in a span of 1:33 in the fourth. Holiday kept New Orleans close before James made two free throws and three jumpers, the final a fadeaway with 1:59 left.
With All-Star Kevin Love back from a concussion, the Cavaliers, who have dealt with injuries since Day One, were closer to full strength on the court. They’re getting healthier off it, too.
Coach Tyronn Lue, who has taken a medical absence from the team, attended the game but did not sit on the bench. Lue last coached on March 17, when he didn’t return from the locker room at halftime against Chicago. Two days later, he announced he was stepping away after experiencing chest pains and insomnia all season.
The Cavaliers want him to stay away as long as necessary, but interim coach Larry Drew said Lue could be back “real soon.”
Pelicans: G Rajon Rondo returned after missing two games with a sprained right wrist. He scored seven points. … Davis missed his first six shots. He also sat out the first eight minutes of the second quarter when the Pelicans opened a 13-point lead.
Cavaliers: It wouldn’t be a Cavs game without an injury, as G George Hill appeared to roll his left ankle in the third quarter. He stopped several times while limping off the floor and heading to the locker room. He didn’t return. …. G J.R. Smith played despite missing the morning shootaround with an unspecified illness. … James came in averaging 30.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 10.1 assists in his previous 23 games.