CLEVELAND -- They started the season expecting to be among the NBA's elite teams. And so far, the Cleveland Cavaliers are.
James added nine rebounds and six assists for the Cavs, who improved to an Eastern Conference-best 7-2 and won their first game without guard Larry Hughes. He sprained his right ankle Wednesday against Portland and could miss several games.
It's a significant loss, but the Cavaliers are used to playing without Hughes. He missed 46 games with a broken finger last season, but Cleveland managed to go 27-19 in his absence.
"It shows the caliber of team we are," James said. "We feel we're one of the best teams in the league. We're proving that right now."
Minnesota's Ricky Davis was just 2-of-10 and had four points -- 10 below his average -- and the Timberwolves shot 29 percent (10-of-35) from the floor after halftime.
"Our offense in the second half disappeared," coach Dwayne Casey said. "Thirty-one points? You can't expect to beat teams on the road like that."
Ilgauskas, who has averaged 14.9 points in his career, came in getting just 7.6 per game as the 7-foot-3 center has struggled in Cleveland's new motion offense. But the big man scored his 14 in three quarters before sitting the entire fourth.
He wasn't needed as James -- Cleveland's biggest man -- took over. He scored 13 points and hit one of three 3-pointers in the fourth when the Cavaliers opened an 18-point lead and coasted.
Cleveland was only up by four early in the fourth when Damon Jones, who finished with 11 points, hit a jumper and James fed Sasha Pavlovic for a 3-pointer to trigger a 13-2 spurt that put the Timberwolves away.
After James drained a 3-pointer to make it 81-68, Cleveland's superstar stayed back and watched as his teammates took off up court on a fast break. Pavlovic threaded a crosscourt pass underneath to Anderson Varejao, who left a bounce bass for Donyell Marshall, who dunked to make it 83-68 with 3:23 to go.
James finished one point under his season high and got to enjoy the final 1:10 from the bench.
"I didn't force anything," he said.
Garnett did, and never found his touch.
"I rushed a lot of shots," said Garnett, who had 11 rebounds and five steals. "In the fourth they made their run and we never answered it. It was one of those nights, but that's the beauty of this league, there's tomorrow."
Hughes, who has been injury prone during his pro career, arrived at the arena on crutches and in a walking boot. He doesn't know when he'll be back and said he won't place any weight on his leg until Monday -- at the earliest.
The Cavaliers play at Washington on Saturday and have four games in five days next week.
- The Cavs are 7-2 for the fourth time. Only the 1976-77 squad that started 8-1 got off to a better start.
- It's great to be King. James had no worries about landing a precious PlayStation 3. He already had one. The gaming system went on sale Friday, causing long lines and fights outside stores nationwide. "I didn't wait outside either," James said. "I have a lot of connections."
- Garnett moved past Reggie Theus into 59th place on the career steals list with 1,208.
- Minnesota C Mark Blount needed stitches to close a cut in his head opened by an elbow from James, who was called for his first career flagrant foul.
- James' No. 23 jersey was outnumbered by various Ohio State jerseys dotting the arena. He predicted a 24-21 Buckeyes win and two touchdowns by friend Ted Ginn Jr.