NEW ORLEANS -- Even after he twisted his ankle, LeBron James seemed a step ahead of whatever the New Orleans Hornets tried to do to stop him.
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"They had resistance. I'd seen a guy in front of me but I made a lot of shots," James said. "I got comfortable. I took some difficult shots and made them, and once I get into a flow I feel like I can make any shot on the court."
James turned his left ankle when he landed on James Posey's foot in the final seconds of the first half, then limped off the court. He returned to start the second half and showed no ill effects, making an array of tough fades and running floaters, or setting up easy inside baskets with no-look passes.
"LeBron's 6-8, and if you double team him, he's going to throw over the defense. He can definitely see over the defense," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "He can burn you either way. LeBron had an outstanding game but the guys around him played extremely well feeding off of the double teams ... and the attention that he drew."
J.J. Hickson scored 20 for the Cavs, who led by as many as 17 and never trailed after James' floater tied it at 10 in the first quarter. Delonte West added 15 points and Antawn Jamison had 11 points and 11 rebounds as Cleveland won its 27th straight over a team with a losing record.
"They just picked us apart defensively," Hornets forward David West said. "LeBron was able to get himself going and get other guys [involved]. When they're doing that, it's tough to beat them."
Marcus Thornton scored 20 points and Darren Collison added 17 for the Hornets, who will be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose to Portland on Saturday. West added 16 points, while Chris Paul struggled in his second game back from a left knee injury, finishing with five points and seven assists in 32 minutes.
"I have to get back into the flow and understand what we're doing," Paul said. "Hopefully that will come sooner than later. ... The biggest thing is that my knee feels fine."
Cleveland opened up a 17-point lead with a dominant third quarter, a stretch during which James assumed the role of play-maker, scoring only five of his points but dishing out five assists.
"I take what the defense gives me," James said. "If they take away my scoring I find my teammates and vice-versa. I do whatever it takes for out team to win."
Hickson scored 11 points in the quarter on five layups, one of which he converted into a three-point play. Jamison scored nine points during the period and Mo Williams' tough fade over Collison made it 81-64 with 2:32 left in the quarter.
The Hornets got the lead down to 96-86 with 4:22 left, then James quickly squashed any notion of a comeback.
He hit a difficult left-handed driving floater off the glass, and after Paul's missed 3, James drew a foul and hit both free throws.
The Cavs shot 57.1 percent, helped by James' good shooting as well as Hickson going 9 for 11 and Delonte West 7 for 11. Cleveland outscored New Orleans 58-36 inside and also outrebounded New Orleans 40-37.
Cleveland (57-15), which currently holds the best overall record in the NBA, also improved to a league-best 26-11 away from home with another road game coming up at San Antonio on Friday night.
James scored 12 points in the first quarter on an array of jumpers and acrobatic driving floaters, including one while his momentum was angling away from the basket. He set up two jams by Anderson Varejao, one on a no-look pass and another after he intercepted Paul's pass and led a fast break the other way.
New Orleans came back to tie it at 44 when Paul found West for a dunk, but then Cleveland surged ahead for good, starting when James hit a short jumper and dunked an alley-oop feed from Williams. Later, he hit a tough driving floater over Posey and off the glass after beating Thornton on the dribble, giving the Cavs a 52-48 lead at halftime.
- Zydrunas Ilguaskas, traded from Cleveland in February, but later waived by Washington after the Wizards bought out his contract, made his return to the Cavaliers in the first half. He played 9:41 and had one point, two assists and three rebounds.
- Although Shaquille O'Neal remained out of the lineup because of his thumb injury, he ran the stairs in the New Orleans Arena during the morning shootaround.
- Announced attendance was 18,008, an overflow sellout and the largest crowd of the season.