CLEVELAND – LeBron James scored 16 points, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Cleveland Cavaliers clamped down defensively on Memphis in an 89-70 rout of the Grizzlies on Friday night.

The Cavs, improving each time out under first-year coach Mike Brown, contested every shot, outhustled the Grizzlies to every loose ball and dominated the boards, outrebounding Memphis 49-29 while holding them to a season low in points.

Cleveland’s swarming defense – even the defensively challenged Ilgauskas drew two charges – held Memphis to just 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting in third quarter when the Cavs opened a 27-point lead.

The Grizzlies came in averaging 95 points on 47.3 percent shooting – the NBA’s fourth-best mark.

James added six rebounds and two assists in 26 foul-plagued minutes for Cleveland. He needs 10 points to become the youngest player in NBA history to reach 4,000 career points. James (20 years, 316 days) will likely hit the mark and pass Kobe Bryant (21 years, 216 days) when the Cavaliers play at Orlando on Sunday.

Eddie Jones scored 15 points and Pau Gasol 13, but only three after halftime as the Cavs shut down Memphis’ leading scorer.

After Memphis pulled within 11 in the third, the Cavs reeled off 13 straight points to put it away, coasting to their third straight blowout win at home. Cleveland’s three home victories have been by an average of 23 points.

Ilgauskas scored eight points in a row, but James provided the most memorable basket during the spurt.

He missed a 3-pointer from up top but grabbed the long rebound near the foul line. James used a head shake to dribble past Bobby Jackson and then got around center Jake Tsakalidis by faking a behind-the-back pass and laying with his right hand to make it 66-43.

The Cavs pushed their lead to 71-44 late in the third.

Strapped with three fouls, James scored eight points and played only 11 minutes in the first half.

But after he picked up foul No. 3 and went out, the Cavs ripped off seven straight points as Damon Jones hit a 3-pointer and another jumper before Eric Snow’s basket made it 41-21.

Gasol, averaging 21.8 points coming in, didn’t get his first bucket until 5:54 remained in the second quarter when the Grizzlies were down by 20.

But the 7-footer scored Memphis’ next 10 and Eddie Jones drilled a 3-pointer in the final second as the Grizzlies closed the half with a 15-6 spurt to pull within 47-36 at the break.

Notes: The game was telecast live in China, where James’ new sneaker, Nike’s Zoom LeBron III, goes on sale this weekend. James visited China during the summer, and said he might go back for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. … The Cavs came in leading the NBA in free-throw percentage (83.0), but their highest ranked player was Larry Hughes (87.0), who entered at No. 33. … Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello said he saw the gigantic billboard of James, which in just a few days has become a downtown tourist site. “It looks good,” said Fratello, who coached the Cavs from 1993-99. “It’s nice that Cleveland has a player like that to hang its hat on.” … Damon Jones is boycotting the media. He hasn’t spoken to reporters since Brown selected Snow as the club’s starting point guard.

AP-ES-11-11-05 2202EST


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