LeBron James now has a clear understanding of why the New Orleans Hornets signed James Posey in the off season, dpa reported.
Posey sparked a fourth-quarter surge with a strip of James and a dunk Saturday night as the New Orleans Hornets pulled away from the Cleveland Cavaliers for a 104-92 victory in an early season match-up of championship contenders.
David West scored 25 points, and Chris Paul added 24 and 15 assists for the Hornets (3-0), who limited James to 15 points and captured their home opener after road wins over Golden State and Phoenix.
"I never really got into a comfortable zone all night tonight," said James, who played unselfishly and had 13 assists. "We still were in the game going into the fourth quarter, but late in the game, I never got into it."
Both teams reached game seven of their conference semifinals last season and added key players in the off season. Cleveland traded for point guard Mo Williams, and New Orleans added Posey, who won titles with Miami in 2006 and Boston in 2008. He has been coming off the bench, providing his trademark tough defence and clutch shooting.
"Posey has been great since day one," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "I told him I'm going to use him more [offensively] than some of his other coaches have as far as allowing him to run the offence and post up."
Wally Szczerbiak opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer that gave Cleveland a 75-73 lead. The Cavaliers still held an 83-81 edge after a James free throw with 6:13 left before the Hornets surged.
Paul answered with a jumper and found Rasual Butler for a 3-pointer. On the ensuing possession, Posey poked the ball away from a driving James and went in for an uncontested dunk and an 88-83 lead with 5:08 left.
"Defence was the key," Scott noted. "We were very aggressive against LeBron and just didn't give him the alleys he's accustomed to seeing."
West made a jumper, Posey added a free throw and Paul drained two more to push the lead to double digits. James finally answered with a drive, but Posey clinched it, taking a pass from Paul and burying a 3-pointer for a 96-85 lead with 2:25 to go.
"We have very unselfish guys," said Posey, who had 15 points, six rebounds and four steals. "You have Chris making plays for himself and everybody else. You move the ball and you get wide-open shots."
Rasual Butler started and scored 14 points for the Hornets, who were without injured starters Peja Stojakovic of Serbia and Tyson Chandler.
Lithuania's Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 18 points, and Daniel Gibson added 14 for the Cavaliers, who had six players in double figures but fell to 1-2.
Indiana 95, Boston 79:
Danny Granger scored 20 points despite losing two teeth diving for a loose ball as the host Pacers surprised the defending champion Celtics. Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 14 rebounds for Boston, which started 12-0 last season.
LA Lakers 104, Denver 97:
Kobe Bryant scored 14 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, and Spanish star Pau Gasol added 16 and had 16 rebounds as the visiting Lakers improved to 3-0. Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony scored 13 points in his first contest after a two-game suspension.
Dallas 95, Minnesota 85:
German juggernaut Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points to lead a balanced attack as the visiting Mavericks beat the Timberwolves for the ninth-straight time.
Orlando 121, Sacramento 103:
The host Magic finally broke through for their first win of the season as Dwight Howard had 29 points and 14 rebounds. Kevin Martin scored 31 points for Sacramento (0-3).
Houston 89, Oklahoma City 77:
Tracy McGrady scored 22 points to lead six players in double figures as the Rockets improved to 3-0. Chinese superstar Yao Ming added 16 points and 11 rebounds. Kevin Durant scored 26 points for the visiting Thunder (0-3).
Toronto 91, Milwaukee 87:
Spain's Jose Calderson scored 25 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer and two clutch free throws in the final 21 seconds, as the visiting Raptors improved to 3-0.
Chicago 96, Memphis 86:
Top overall draft pick Derrick Rose continued his strong play with 26 points to help the host Bulls turn back the Grizzlies.
Charlotte 100, Miami 87:
Gerald Wallace scored 34 points, and Jason Richardson added 23 as the Bobcats won their home opener, giving Hall of Famer Larry Brown his first coaching victory with his ninth team. Rookie Michael Beasley scored 25 points for Miami.
Golden State 105, New Jersey 97:
The Warriors ended a 10-game slide in New Jersey with their first win of the season as Latvia's Andris Biedrins had 23 points and 11 rebounds, spoiling the Nets' home opener.
Phoenix 107, Portland 96:
Amare Stoudemire scored 16 of his 23 points in the pivotal third quarter as the host Suns defeated the Trail Blazers for the 10th-straight time. Spain's Rudy Fernandez and Brandon Roy scored 20 points each for Portland.
Detroit 117, Washington 109:
Argentina's Walter Herrmann led a huge bench effort with 16 points to help the host Pistons outgun the Wizards.
Utah 101, LA Clippers 79:
Carlos Boozer had 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Russia's Andrei Kirilenko added 11 and nine to help the host Jazz overwhelm the winless Clippers (0-3).
Atlanta 95, Philadelphia 88:
Joe Johnson scored 35 points as the Hawks (2-0) rallied from a 23-point second-quarter deficit and won their home opener. Elton Brand had 17 points and 16 rebounds for the 76ers.