ATLANTA – LeBron James scored 31 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away from the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth quarter for a 106-95 victory Friday night.

James scored 13 points in the final period, including a trio of three-point plays. He also wowed the crowd with a couple of high-flying blocks on back-to-back possessions to ruin any hope of a comeback for Atlanta.

The Hawks won at Cleveland in the teams’ first meeting of the season, outlasting the Cavaliers 104-95 in overtime. James was criticized after the game for walking toward the locker room in the final seconds while Atlanta dribbled out the clock.

This time, he made sure to hang around until the buzzer sounded. He also had eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

Joe Johnson scored 31 points for Atlanta, which fell behind by 10 points before the game was 3 minutes old and never led.

The Hawks, who trailed by as many as 15 points, rallied for a 79-all tie heading to the fourth quarter.

That’s where James took control, starting the period with a drive to the basket that drew a foul by Lorenzen Wright. The shot went in and James added a free throw, putting the Cavaliers ahead to stay on the way to just their second win in five games.

Cleveland bolted ahead 12-2 on Eric Snow’s fast-break layup off a pass from James, forcing the Hawks to play catchup the rest of the way. They finally pulled even for the first time since the opening tip when Johnson hit a pair of free throws with 27 seconds left to make it 77-all.

After Cleveland went back ahead on Anderson Varejao’s basket, set up by pass from James, the Hawks pulled even again when Tyronn Lue found Wright for a lay-in at the buzzer.

That was the last hurrah for the Hawks. Cleveland put the game away with a 15-6 run, capped off by another three-point play by James. He found himself in a mismatch with Atlanta backup Matt Freije, drove around the defender and put in the shot while getting slapped and grabbed all the way through the lane.

James’ free throw make it 104-92 with 3:17 remaining, and the Hawks were done.

Damon Jones added 15 points for the Cavaliers, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and taunting the crowd after every one.

“I play this game with so much pizazz,” he said.

Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia had 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Lue added 17 points and several dazzling moves to set up open shots for his teammates.

But the Hawks lost Josh Smith in the third quarter. He got scratched in the left eye and didn’t return.

Notes: The clock above one of the goals went out early in the third quarter with the Cavaliers preparing to shoot free throws. While one official went over to the scorer’s table to discuss the situation, Cleveland’s Drew Gooden fixed the malfunctioning clock by simply pulling on the net, slightly jarring the goal and bringing it back on line. … The crowd of 19,650 was Atlanta’s fourth sellout in eight home games. The Hawks had seven all of last season.

AP-ES-12-01-06 2224EST


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