The halftime shot was the extent of James' action Thursday night. Relegated to the bench while nursing a sprained right ankle, James was a spectator, watching his rookie friend make key plays in the closing moments to help Seattle avoid blowing a huge lead.
Durant scored 24 points, including four key points late in the fourth quarter to help the SuperSonics hold off a late Cleveland rally and beat the James-less Cavaliers 101-95.
It was Seattle's second successive victory, which completed a sweep of Cleveland. Two nights after snapping their franchise-record 14-game losing streak beating the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs -- without Tony Parker -- the Sonics took out the Eastern Conference champ Cavs.
Of course this victory isn't as impressive since James, the NBA's leading scorer at 30.1 points per game, sat on the bench in a brown blazer and jeans.
"It would have been fun," Durant said of facing James. "I don't know what it is, but he brings something to the game that gives everyone that extra fire."
James sprained his right ankle late in the second quarter Wednesday night during a victory against Portland. The injury didn't keep James on the sideline in that game, as he scored 17 fourth-quarter points, including the winning layup to extend the Cavs' road winning streak to five games, their longest since 1998.
That streak ended in Seattle, but not without a second-half rally that almost atoned for the Cavs listless start.
"It's definitely an adjustment. We basically run everything through him, so when he's not out there, it takes us a while to figure out where we are most effective," Cleveland guard Larry Hughes said of James.
Seattle jumped on the Cavs early, scoring a season-high 40 points in the first quarter. Chris Wilcox scored Seattle's first 10 points. The Sonics had a double-digit lead after less than six minutes and led by 22 in the first half.
It almost wasn't enough.
Down 17 entering the fourth quarter, the Cavs finally awakened, using a 20-6 run to close to 91-88 with 2:51 left on Zydrunas Ilgauskas' two free throws. But Durant, who'd been scoreless in the fourth quarter, scored four in a row and Kurt Thomas' driving left-handed layup pushed the lead back to 97-88 with 1:35 left.
That seemed enough of a cushion, but Daniel Gibson's 3-pointer and Larry Hughes' layup off Earl Watson's bad turnover pulled the Cavs back within 99-95 with 37 seconds left. Luke Ridnour's shot in the lane was blocked by Dwayne Jones, but Gibson was called for an offensive foul at the other end on his driving layup. Ridnour then hit two free throws with 7.8 seconds left.
"The next time we have a 20-point lead, we'll close out better," Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
Hughes scored 28 points and Ilgauskas added 17. The Cavs now return home for four of the next seven games before the All-Star break. Cleveland is 0-6 this season without James.
"Sometimes we do rely on him so much especially at the end of games, that it's hard for the guys to switch that mentality," Ilgauskas said.
James' memorable fourth quarter in Portland likely cost him a chance to play in Seattle, disappointing the large number of fans who showed up in his various No. 23 jerseys.
James tested the ankle about 90 minutes before the game, and after shooting, walked back to the locker room with a slight limp and removed the tape from around his ankle.
Varejao is expected to miss up to four weeks with a left ankle sprain, and Pavlovic is out six weeks with a left mid-foot sprain.
"No matter if LeBron is playing or not, or Sasha is playing or not, or Anderson is playing or not, it doesn't matter who is playing. The one thing you need to do is compete," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "I know we didn't do that."
All three could have helped Cleveland, although Seattle did its best to jump on the weary Cavs, finishing up a brief three-game West Coast swing. Both Wilcox and Durant were in double figures by the end of the first, taking advantage of Cleveland's listless start.
Wilcox finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and rookie Jeff Green made all eight shots and scored 17 points. Seattle won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December.
Damon Jones added 15 points off the bench for Cleveland, all on 3-pointers.
|After hitting the game winner on Wednesday at Portland, LeBron James skips this one in Seattle. (AP)|
|Seattle (11-35) «||40||22||23||16||101|
|CLE:L. Hughes 28 Pts
CLE:Z. Ilgauskas 9 Reb
CLE:D. Gibson 6 Ast
|SEA:K. Durant 24 Pts
SEA:C. Wilcox 13 Reb
SEA:E. Watson 12 Ast
|Players of the Game|
|L. Hughes, SG||37||10-21||4-4||6||5||1||28|
|Z. Ilgauskas, C||36||3-13||11-11||9||5||2||17|
|I. Newble, SF||19||2-4||0-0||3||0||2||4|
|D. Gooden, PF||19||3-8||4-4||3||1||3||10|
|D. Brown, SG||9||0-3||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|D. Gibson, PG||33||5-11||0-0||0||6||4||13|
|D. Jones, PG||28||5-12||0-0||3||1||2||15|
|D. Jones, PF||25||1-1||1-2||7||0||2||3|
|E. Snow, PG||16||1-1||0-2||1||0||1||2|
|D. Marshall, PF||9||0-2||2-2||1||0||1||2|
|S. Brown, PG||8||0-2||1-2||0||0||2||1|
|A. Varejao, C||Did Not Play|
|S. Pavlovic, SG||Did Not Play|
|L. James, SF||Did Not Play|
|C. Simmons, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|J. Green, SF||35||8-8||0-0||3||3||1||17|
|K. Thomas, PF||32||8-10||0-0||6||3||3||16|
|C. Wilcox, PF||31||7-13||4-4||13||1||4||18|
|K. Durant, SF||30||10-16||4-5||3||4||2||24|
|E. Watson, PG||28||2-6||0-0||3||12||1||5|
|L. Ridnour, PG||21||0-2||2-2||0||4||2||2|
|D. West, SG||18||1-3||0-0||5||4||1||2|
|N. Collison, C||16||3-6||0-0||4||0||4||6|
|J. Petro, C||15||3-9||0-3||3||0||3||6|
|D. Wilkins, SG||13||2-5||0-0||0||3||0||5|
|W. Szczerbiak, SF||Did Not Play|
|R. Swift, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Gelabale, SF||Did Not Play|
|M. Sene, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|