CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers weren't about to follow one big loss with another one.
Anderson Varejao scored a career-high 26 points -- the majority of them off passes from LeBron James -- and James had a triple-double as the Cavaliers stayed unbeaten on their floor with a 117-92 win Friday night over the Chicago Bulls after learning center Zydrunas Ilgauskas will miss a month with a fractured bone in his left ankle.
James finished with 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Cavaliers improve to 17-0 at home.
More importantly, Cleveland, coming off a lackluster loss at Miami and three straight sub-par efforts, were sharp in their first game without Ilgauskas.
"It's going to be tough," James said. "Guys have to pick it up. We've got a veteran ballclub and we've got enough guys who can come off the bench and really play. We're going to see who can step up."
Everyone wearing wine and gold stepped up in the first game of the new year.
Ben Wallace scored a season-high 13, and rookie J.J. Hickson and reserve Sasha Pavlovic had 13 apiece. Delonte West added 14, and Mo Williams had 11 as Cleveland placed seven in double figures to offset the loss of Ilgauskas.
"They're still really good," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "You have to put so much attention on LeBron. There's probably nothing he hasn't seen. When you double team him, he's such a good passer, he gets everyone else involved. They have a lot of weapons. Varejao and Wallace hurt us a lot."
James scored 41 points in each of Cleveland's first two wins over Chicago this season, but the superstar was content to defer to others for most of the night. He didn't make his second field goal -- a 3-pointer -- until there was just 5:58 left. He grabbed rebound seconds later, brought them ball up the floor and drilled his second 3-pointer in a 16-second span to make it 104-80.
It was James' first triple-double this season and the 18th of his career.
He could get a few more in the coming weeks while Ilgauskas recovers. January is a rugged month for the Cavs, who will play some of the league's best teams in the weeks ahead.
"This month will show how good we are and to have our big man out, it's going to be tough," James said. "We have the West Coast swing, we have Boston and New Orleans coming in. This was the month that we were looking forward to see how we stack up against these teams."
Ben Gordon scored 22 points, and Lindsey Hunter 13 for the Bulls, who shot just 37 percent and have lost five of six. During a heated timeout in the third quarter, Joakim Noah and Andres Nocioni exchanged words on the bench.
"When you're losing by 20 points, you're frustrated," Noah said. "It's the heat of the moment, things are said. But I don't have any problems with him (Nocioni). Losing is frustrating."
Ilgauskas first rolled his ankle trying to block a shot during a Dec. 10 game at Philadelphia. He missed just three games and medical tests taken at the time showed nothing more than a sprain. However, the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian whose left foot was surgically rebuilt eight years ago, continued to have soreness and swelling.
A second round of X-rays and an MRI revealed he fractured a bone in the back of his ankle.
He'll be in a walking boot for a week.
"One thing we don't want to do is rush it," Ilgauskas said. "We'll take it weekly and see how it goes -- we really don't know."
James was able to draw double teams and find Varejao and Cleveland's other big men underneath for easy layups. Varejao, Wallace and Hickson combined for 52 points and 23 rebounds, more than making up for the 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds missing with Ilgauskas watching from the bench in street clothes.
"For LeBron to take eight shots and for us to score 117 is just a tribute to LeBron being a special player," Cavs coach Mike Brown said.
And as has become the norm this season, James made a spectacular defensive play as impressive as any of his dunks. Early in the third quarter, James cut across the lane and perfectly timed his jump to slap a layup by rookie Derek Rose off the backboard glass.
"He's so athletic," Rose said with a smile. "I wasn't surprised at all."
Cleveland's big men picked up the slack for Ilgauskas from the outset.
Wallace scored eight of the Cavs' first 21 points and finished the first quarter with five rebounds. Hickson added six points and Varejao five as the trio combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds in the period as Cleveland opened a 15-point lead it pushed to 25 in the third quarter.
- In four starts, Varejao is averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds.
- Gooden remained back in Chicago for treatment on an ankle injury that has sidelined him for seven games. Del Negro said Gooden could return for Saturday's home game against Minnesota.
- Hickson split his lip in the first quarter and needed one stitch to close the cut.
- Cavs F Wally Szczerbiak played six minutes after missing two games with a sore knee.
- The Bulls will play five straight and seven of their next eight at home.