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NBA LeBron's return helps lift Cavaliers

Friday, January 30, 2004

Orlando's Tracy McGrady missed the final 18 minutes with a toe injury.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James came running back onto the court, and Tracy McGrady limped off it.
James' return from an ankle injury sparked the Cleveland Cavaliers, who survived a first-half shooting barrage by McGrady for a 99-98 win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
James, who missed the previous three games with a sprained right ankle, scored 16 points and Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 16 rebounds as the Cavs won for the fourth time in five games.
But it might not have happened if McGrady hadn't aggravated a toe injury in the third quarter and sat for the final 18 minutes.
"Man, I was happy he was out of the game," Cavs coach Paul Silas said. "There was no way to stop him."
McGrady tied an NBA record with eight 3-pointers and scored 34 points in the first half before stubbing his toe after making one basket in the third period.
He decided not to risk hurting his toe worse, and benched himself with 6:32 remaining in the quarter.
"I know myself," McGrady said. "I made the decision myself. It's pretty disappointing. First, you have the LeBron/T-Mac matchup everyone is hyped to see. It was frustrating."
Although they didn't have McGrady down the stretch, the Magic still had a chance to win it after Cavs forward Eric Williams missed two free throws with 7.5 seconds remaining.
But Rod Strickland shot an airball just before the horn sounded.
The Cavaliers, 2-1 while James was out, have 16 victories -- one fewer than they had all last season.
"This win shows how much we have grown up this season," said Boozer, selected the Eastern Conference's Player of the Week on Monday. "The maturity is amazing. This was another confidence builder."
James added five rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes. But he got kicked in the leg in the fourth quarter and sat the final 4:51 after forcing a couple shots.
He didn't decide to test his ankle until just before tipoff.
"I thought I could make an impact by coming back," James said. "I didn't want to chance it and come back too soon. But I was confident I could play."
Dajuan Wagner scored a season-high 21 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who had a season-low three turnovers.
McGrady's eight 3-pointers in the first 24 minutes tied an NBA record for the most 3s in a half. He didn't miss from beyond the arc until he misfired just before the halftime buzzer.
"When I get in a zone like that, I feel like whoever is defending me is really at my mercy," McGrady said. "There's nothing you can do about it, you're probably playing the best 'D' possible, but there's nothing you can do."
McGrady has been bothered by the toe injury since hurting it in a Jan. 21 game in Milwaukee.
"He put on a show," said Boozer, one of four Cavaliers who tried but couldn't slow McGrady. "We tried everything. Everything! It didn't matter. It was an incredible performance."
Juwan Howard had 21 points and Shammond Williams 14 for the Magic, who built an 11-point lead in the third without McGrady.
Strickland's basket with 4:15 remaining put Orlando up 92-89, but Wagner stole the ball from him and Kevin Ollie fed Boozer for a dunk as the Cavs took a 93-92 lead with 3:28 to go.
Howard's two free throws put the Magic back on top, but Eric Williams dropped a floater in the lane and sank two free throws before the Cavs survived a frantic final minute when both teams missed chances.