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James roaring as Cavaliers again face Hornets

CLEVELAND -- As the Charlotte Hornets were preparing to play the Cleveland Cavaliers last week, Hornets coach Steve Clifford said his team would try to take away LeBron James' "garbage baskets."

"His big, big nights, which he's had against us, it's going to be the fast-break baskets, the second-chance baskets and the cuts," Clifford said prior to Cleveland's 115-107 win over the Hornets on Nov. 15. "That's how he gets from, he's averaging 28, that's how he's going to get to 38. You know, if you do a good job on those, then you hope he gets 28. You control what you can control but again, the great, great ones, you've got to take those other easy ones away."

James scored 31 that night, and on Wednesday against Brooklyn poured in 23 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter. He scored 18 in a row.

Obviously, no one's been taking away James' buckets this season, garbage or otherwise.

The Hornets and the Cavaliers meet again at Friday in Cleveland. James enters as the NBA's third-leading scorer (28.6 points per game) and fourth in assists (8.3 assists per game). He's the league's top scorer with an average of 10.0 points in the fourth quarter.

"My team looks at me to be that scorer now," James said. "The last couple years, Kyrie (Irving) obviously being as great as he was in the fourth quarter, we kind of pick our games. There was games half the time that he had it going and, 'hey, go get it.' There was games half the time where I had it going and I'd go get it. But right now my teammates look at me and they're like, OK, like this is your quarter, you've done this your whole career.

"Let's try to make some things happen and it's very important that I try to come through for them."

The Cavs have won six straight and seven of their last eight. The Hornets, who are in a stretch of six games in nine days, have won three in a row, but they encountered a potential problem during their 129-124 overtime win over Washington on Wednesday.

Guard Nicolas Batum re-injured the left elbow that caused him to miss the first 12 games of the season. The Hornets called the injury a contusion, and there were no further details after the game. Like the Cavs, Charlotte was off on Thanksgiving.

Batum made his season debut against the Cavs last week and scored 16 points. Jeremy Lamb started in Batum's place for the second half Wednesday and finished with 24 points.

Hornets center Dwight Howard struggled mightily against the Cavs, scoring eight points with five rebounds in a heap of foul trouble. He's on a roll now, though, following up his 20-point, 25-rebound game Monday against Minnesota with 26 points and 13 rebounds against the Wizards.

The Hornets trailed Washington by nine points in the fourth quarter in picking up the home win. They're just 1-7 on the road this season.

"We love playing at home," Howard said. "Thank you, Charlotte. That energy in the building is what keeps us going. But now we need that same energy on the road."