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Cavaliers pound Pacers 97-73

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[December 06, 2008]  CLEVELAND (AP) -- The wigs were fake. Everything else about the Cleveland Cavaliers was very real.

With thousands of Cleveland fans wearing curly, red-headed hair pieces in his honor, Anderson Varejao didn't miss a shot and scored 17 points in the first half as the Cavaliers, despite getting a season-low 11 points from LeBron James, won their seventh straight, 97-73 over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

DonutsUnbeaten after 11 home games, Cleveland has won 15 of 16 since starting this season 1-2. The Cavaliers, who have won by an average of 22 points during their streak, have beaten Indiana nine times in a row.

Even when James isn't scoring as usual, Cleveland has plenty of other offensive options and the Cavs are playing with a nasty attitude on defense. Indiana's point total was a season-low for the Pacers and the fewest allowed by Cleveland this season.

Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 17 apiece and Delonte West and Daniel Gibson had 14 each. The 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas also knocked down his fourth 3-pointer of the season.

James was just 4-of-12 from the field but didn't hit double digits in points until 3:45 remained. He added 11 assists and eight rebounds in 38 minutes. For the first time in five home games, James had to play in the fourth quarter and with 4:26 left he got into a brief exchange with Pacers swingman Danny Granger.

Beaten by James on a drive, Granger reached out from behind and grabbed the right arm of Cleveland's superstar, who didn't appreciate the rough treatment. The two exchanged a shove before Ilgauskas and Indiana's Troy Murphy got involved in some pushing. James, Granger, Ilgauskas and Murphy were all given technicals.


Murphy scored 15 points, and Stephen Graham added 14 for the Pacers, who earlier this week handed the Los Angeles Lakers just their second loss, beating them 118-117 when Murphy tipped in a miss at the buzzer. Last month, Indiana beat the Boston Celtics, one of only two losses by the defending NBA champions.

But the Pacers, who gave Cleveland its closest home game - a four-point loss on Nov. 7 - couldn't stay with the Cavs.

Varejao scored 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting - all jumpers - in the second quarter when Cleveland outscored the Pacers 31-18 to open a 14-point halftime lead.

The Cavs only led 35-33 before closing the first half with a 17-5 spurt over the final 5:32. Varejao, who can opt out of his contract after the season, scored six in the burst, which was highlighted by James making a steal near mid-court and going in for a reverse dunk. The only hiccup in Cleveland's dominant stretch was when Ben Wallace shot an air ball on the second of two free throws.

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Varejao came to the Cavaliers in a 2004 trade, and the Brazilian big man made an immediate impact with his energy off the bench. Cleveland fans quickly embraced him, tagging the frizzy-topped forward with a "Wild Thing" nickname while living with his on-court lapses and limited offensive skills.

But the 25-year-old, who never got untracked after missing training camp last season in a contract holdout, has refined his game.

"His work ethic is very rare," James said before the game. "He's has definitely developed his game. He's doing more than taking charges. He has worked on his free throws. He has worked on his touch. He has worked on his passing. He's a complete basketball player right now."

Notes:@ Ilgauskas is just 15 rebounds of passing Brad Daugherty (5.227) as the franchise rebounds leader. Ilgauskas has been with the Cavs since 1996 and has seen the franchise through its best and worst times. He has been a special player and James feels the Cavs will retire "Z's" number one day. "It's going to happen," James said. "No. 11 will hang in the rafters." ... Pacers F/G Mike Dunleavy, who hasn't played this season because of a sore right knee, is traveling with the team but coach Jim O'Brien isn't sure when he will return.

[Associated Press; By TOM WITHERS]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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