J.J. Hickson scored a career-high 23, LeBron James added 11 assists and the Cleveland Cavaliers finally won comfortably after a string of nail-biters, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 109-95 on Wednesday night for their sixth straight victory.
Emerging as an interior option for Cleveland, Hickson went 8 of 10 from the field and made all 7 free throws in 25 minutes. The Cavs were able to rest their starters _ James and Hickson sat out the entire fourth _ after the club's previous seven games were decided by a combined 21 points.
The Cavaliers were again without injured point guards Mo Williams and Delonte West, but it hardly mattered against the Timberwolves, who dropped to 3-21 outside Minnesota.
James added 12 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes.
Corey Brewer scored 22 and Kevin Love 20 for the Timberwolves.
Most of Hickson's points came on dunks or layups as James found him slashing to the basket. With Hickson part of their offensive package, the Cavs can go down low to Shaquille O'Neal, Anderson Varejao or Zydrunas Ilgauskas and take pressure off James on the perimeter.
O'Neal added 13 points and four assists in just 19 minutes and Jamario Moon added 14 points.
The rare blowout gave the Cavs, who have won 21 of 25, a chance to relax and fool around more than they have at almost any point this season.
During the third quarter, Daniel Gibson drew a charging foul and as he was laying on the court, James, O'Neal and Anthony Parker rushed over to tend to their fallen teammate. But once they saw he was OK, the trio began tickling Gibson and Parker even pretended to revive him with chest compressions.
Moments later, James playfully knocked the microphone away from the arena's p.a. announcer as he was promoting an upcoming event. During a timeout late in the fourth, James engaged in a dance-off with one of the arena's ushers.
The Timberwolves played much better after being blown out by 33 and 27 points in their previous games, but lost their fifth in a row.
James recorded another of his signature chase-down blocks in the first quarter. The latest victim was Brewer, who appeared to be on his way to an easy breakaway bucket when James raced down the floor, caught the unsuspecting swingman from behind and swatted his shot out of bounds.
Brewer's only reaction was a wide, what-can-you-do smile.
The Cavaliers came out disinterested, a common theme for them when playing a lesser team, and found themselves in a four-point hole after a thunderous dunk by T-Wolves center Ryan Hollins.
James finished the first quarter in a huff. Angered by a non-call on a drive, James was slapped with a technical by referee Derrick Stafford, prompting Cavs coach Mike Brown to pull his superstar to calm him down. James kicked his chair before taking a seat on the bench.
By the time he checked back in, James was in a playful mood. He pulled off his sweat pants and threw them in the face Williams, who was seated at the scorer's table and being interviewed on the TV broadcast.
The Cavs showed more collective fire in the second quarter, outscoring the Timberwolves 33-22 to open a 60-48 halftime lead.
NOTES: North Carolina coach Roy Williams had a courtside seat to watch some of his former Tar Heels _ Cleveland's Jawad Williams and Danny Green and Minnesota's Wayne Ellington. Green and Ellington played on last year's NCAA championship team. ... Mo Williams will not be surprised if the Cavs, despite having the league's best record, don't place anyone else on the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the reserves are named on Thursday. "Let's just say I've been there before," said Williams, who was named an alternate last season but only after several injuries sidelined other stars.
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