By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James struggled before extending his record double-digit scoring streak to 868 games and the Cleveland Cavaliers had a rough time with Dallas before putting away the lottery-bound Mavericks 98-87 on Sunday night.
James, who broke Michael Jordan’s NBA mark for consecutive games with at least 10 points on Friday night, didn’t reach 10 until 7:59 remained. He finished just 5 of 21 from the field but made a pair of 3-pointers as the Cavs finally pulled away with a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter.
James had 16 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, his 17th triple-double this season and No. 72 of his career.
Cleveland has withstood numerous injuries and won eight of nine, and the Cavs continue to hold onto the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference with five games left.
Harrison Barnes scored 30 points to lead Dallas, which has dropped eight of nine. Dirk Nowitzki scored nine points in possibly the 39-year-old’s final career game in Cleveland.
The Cavs were in danger of sliding into fifth place behind Philadelphia and Indiana before waking up in the fourth quarter. They trailed 81-79 before going on an 11-0 run that was capped by a 3 from James, who spent part of Saturday night on stage with pop superstar Justin Timberlake.
With guard George Hill sidelined with a sprained ankle, Jose Calderon started at point for the Cavaliers, whose players have missed 188 games due to injury and illness this season.
Cleveland came in 21-9 in Calderon’s starts, but the Cavs were sluggish for most of the night before their late burst.
Mavericks: Nowitzki was questionable with an ankle issue but started his 76th game this season, a credit to his durability and dedication. “He’s another guy that’s just so extremely meticulous with his approach,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He changed his diet about 12 years ago or 13 years ago and went to very specific kinds of foods. Drinking a lot of water. There’s a level of consistency there that is amazing.” … Signed G Aaron Harrison for the remainder of the season. He originally signed a 10-day contract on March 22. … G J.J. Barea (personal reasons) missed his fourth straight game.
Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue attended the game but again stayed behind the scenes during his medical absence. … F Kyle Korver remains sidelined with a sore right foot. Korver recently rejoined the team after attending his younger brother’s funeral, but he’s still not completely healthy and the Cavs want him to be as close to 100 percent as possible for the playoffs. … Associate coach Larry Drew acknowledged the Cavs are “a different team” when Tristan Thompson is playing “with a pit bull mentality.” Thompson, who missed several easy chances inside, appears to be as healthy as he’s been all season. He missed time with a severe calf injury and sprained ankle.
DIRK & LEBRON
Nowitzki and James are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, on the NBA’s career scoring list. And while they’re among the greatest players of this generation, Carlisle says they resemble players of yesteryear.
“The thing you love to see is a guy like LeBron James and a guy like Dirk that are new-age athletes from the standpoint of just an amazing level of skill, commitment, all kind of stuff, but old school in their approach and particularly old school in their appreciation for the Oscars and the Russells and the Chamberlains and the Wests and those kind of guys. That’s extremely special.”
Mavericks: Host Portland on Tuesday.
Cavaliers: Host Toronto on Tuesday.
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