CLEVELAND -- So much for LeBron James' aching back.
James' back problems have been headline news all over town this week. He didn't practice Monday and Tuesday to rest the back and a decision whether he would play against the Nets wasn't made until Wednesday morning.
While the NBA's leading scorer moved stiffly at times during his 35 minutes on the floor, the results were vintage James. He was 11-of-21 from the field, made 10-of-13 from the line, grabbed seven rebounds and had eight assists.
In James' mind, there was no doubt he was going to play and play well.
"I'm going to do what I have to do to help us win," he said. "I didn't feel 100 percent, but I felt I could do everything in my arsenal that needs to be done for us to win."
Teammate Wally Szczerbiak, who scored 14 points, was succinct in his analysis of James.
"He's unbelievable," Szczerbiak said.
The win came at an opportune time for the Cavaliers, who had lost six of eight coming in -- including two straight at home. Cleveland maintained it two-game lead over Washington for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
"We needed this win," James said.
For much of the game it looked like Cleveland's troubles would continue. The Nets led 67-53 midway through the third period before the Cavaliers went on a 23-7 run, which saw James score eight points.
Cleveland led 76-74 lead going into the fourth quarter. Bostjan Nachbar's 3-pointer to begin the period gave New Jersey a a one-point lead, but that would be the Nets' last field goal of the game.
By the time James returned with 6:24 to play, the Cavaliers were up 87-77. New Jersey went scoreless on 10 straight possessions and didn't score again until Vince Carter's two free throws with 4:36 left. The Cavaliers took a 90-79 lead on James' three-point play with 4:23 to play. The Nets were 1-of-20 from the field and scored nine points in the fourth.
"Defensively, I know it made Coach Brown happy," James said. "It makes us happy. The offense is easy when you can defend like that."
The turn of events didn't make Nets coach Lawrence Frank very happy.
"We couldn't buy a field goal and we couldn't get a stop," he said. "That was a 35-point swing."
"It's tough when you're not hitting shots, not making layups and calls we felt we should have gotten, we weren't getting," said Carter. "It was a triple-threat negative."
Carter scored 19 points and Richard Jefferson added 15 to lead New Jersey, which won the first three meetings this season against Cleveland.
The Nets lead 53-49 at halftime and scored the first seven points of the third quarter.
- Pavlovic, who had been benched the previous four games, scored four points in 12 minutes.
- Nachbar scored 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
- Middleweight boxing champion Kelly Pavlik, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, attended the game.
- The Webby Awards, the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet, has recognized the "LeBron James on MSN" website as an Official Honoree for the "Best Visual Design Function" category.