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James, Cavaliers brush aside Jazz

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CLEVELAND — With one powerful dunk and one menacing glare Wednesday, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James appeared to be bullying the Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward again.

It was illustrative of an entire evening the Cavs spent pushing around the Jazz in a 106-92 victory.

James had 26 points and nine assists while battling the flu, forward Kevin Love added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and the Cavaliers made the record books in winning their fourth straight. All five starters scored at least 15 points in consecutive games for the first time in team history.

When the Cavs did it to the Chicago Bulls on Monday, it was the first time they accomplished the feat in nearly 22 years. Now it’s the first time a team did so back to back since the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

“We’re moving the ball, guys are playing together,” Cavs coach David Blatt said.

James and Love combined for 14 of the Cavs’ 29 points in the third quarter when Cleveland opened an 82-62 lead in a 12-minute flurry of highlights.

Guard Kyrie Irving deflected a pass while the Jazz were running in transition, and guard J.R. Smith kept the ball from sailing out of bounds by batting it backward over his head with two hands. Forward Tristan Thompson caught the pass and handed it back to Irving, who tossed a lob to Love for the dunk and a 74-48 lead with four minutes left.

“Best play of the night,” James said.

That was preceded a few minutes earlier by Love zipping a full-court chest pass to James, who powered down a dunk and finished by glaring at Hayward.

Hayward beat the Cavs at the buzzer in early November when James slipped at the start of an inbounds play and Hayward hit a tough shot over Thompson’s outstretched hand. Hayward wrote on his blog after that game that James can’t “bully” Hayward now as he did before.

“If it made him feel better by saying that,” James said Wednesday morning, “then good for him.”

Hayward downplayed his blog entry after the game and said James never mentioned it to him.

“I think LeBron can pretty much bully anybody if he wants,” Hayward said. “The point of what I said is that he can’t bully me as much anymore. I’ve just gotten a little stronger. LeBron’s one of the stronger players in the league. You can take that for whatever you want.”

James dismissed the glare he shot Hayward after the dunk.

“It didn’t matter who it was, could’ve been you,” James joked. “You’d have got that same look.”

Center Timofey Mozgov had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Irving scored 18 points and Smith had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Cavs.

Center Enes Kanter had 24 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, and Hayward contributed 14 points for the Jazz.

The Jazz (14-28) lost for the fifth time in six games. They shot 42 percent Wednesday after scoring just 69 points Sunday in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs. However, Utah coach Quin Snyder isn’t panicking.

“We just played the world champions and the team that’s the hottest team in the league,” Snyder said. “We have to be honest with ourselves. We didn’t play very well and we’re having a tough time scoring. I’m going to object to the idea that losing to San Antonio and Cleveland on the road is like the sky is falling. We’re not on the level of those teams, and if we make mistakes and LeBron James is having a good night, it’s hard.”

NOTES: Entering Wednesday, the Jazz were averaging 15.1 turnovers per game, eighth most in the league. They gave the ball away 20 times at Cleveland. “We’re a willing passing team, but we’re not very precise,” coach Quin Snyder said. “We’re not as good a passing team as I’d like us to be.” … The Jazz were coming off a 69-point effort Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, their lowest scoring output in nearly 10 years. “When you struggle scoring and struggle making shots, it can build in your mind,” Snyder said. “I think that was part of it.” … Cavs F Shawn Marion confirmed before the game he will retire at the end of the season. Marion, in his 16th season, is the only player in history with at least 15,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 1,000 blocks and 500 3-pointers. … Cleveland G Joe Harris was recalled and he played briefly Wednesday night after he played 39 minutes in a double-overtime game Wednesday morning for the Cavs’ NBA Development League affiliate an hour south in Canton.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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