CLEVELAND — LeBron James didn't reach his scoring average and it didn't matter as the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled past the Atlanta Hawks 110-96 on Saturday night for their ninth win in 10 games.
James came in as the NBA's top scorer, averaging 29.5 points. He finished with 24 — 19 in the second half — on 8-of-19 shooting. He added eight assists, seven rebounds and a few more highlight-package dunks as the Cavaliers improved to 10-3 and matched their best start since the 1988-89 season.
Playing for the first time since their eight-game winning streak ended in Detroit, the Cavs jumped to an 11-0 lead, pushed their advantage to 18 in the second quarter and 28 in the third while improving to 7-0 at home. Cleveland is the only Eastern Conference team not to lose on its home floor this season.
And if the Cavs play like this, it's going to be tough for anyone to beat them inside Quicken Loans Arena.
James got plenty of help as Mo Williams scored 23 points, Delonte West 19 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas 17 for Cleveland. The Cavs have won 15 of their last 18 games against the Hawks.
Maurice Evans scored 21 points, Acie Law had 20 and Joe Johnson, who came in averaging 25.7, scored just four for the Hawks, who have lost five of seven after starting 6-0.
Trailing 68-40 in the third, Atlanta whittled Cleveland's big lead to 11 when James came up with another of those rim-rattling, head-shaking dunks.
Driving down the lane, James got a step on Al Horford, rose to the basket and dunked left handed over both Horford and Solomon Jones, making the pair of 6-foot-10, 245-pounders look like high schoolers. Later, James blasted to the basket and slammed one through right-handed that caused Evans to duck for cover.
James and the Cavaliers have a busy week upcoming with four games in five days.
On Tuesday, they'll be in New York to face the Knicks where James will almost certainly have to address another round of questions about his future. James can become a free agent after the 2010 and already there is talk that he'll leave Cleveland for the Knicks or another major-market team.
"It doesn't bother me," James said before the game of the endless speculation. "If it bothered me I couldn't go out there and perform the way I do every night. It gets funny, but at the same time people need things to write about. I'm OK with it."
The Knicks cleared out considerable salary-cap space for '10 on Friday by trading Jamal Crawford to Golden State for Al Harrington and dealing Zach Randolph to the Los Angeles Clippers for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas on Friday. That money could be used to sign James, who was amused that he was the player most talked about after the moves.
"I figured that would happen," he said. "They didn't even care about the guys that were coming to the Knicks. 2010 is a really big summer. It's two years away but time goes fast. We'll see what happens."
<B>Notes:<P> Free-agent pitcher CC Sabathia, still mulling a contract offer from the New York Yankees, attended the game. During halftime, Sabathia signed autographs for Cleveland fans, who wish he hadn't been traded and can only hope he would consider coming back. ... Cavaliers F Wally Szczerbiak was back after missing one game to be with his father, Walt, who underwent open heart surgery this week. ... Atlanta F Josh Smith missed his ninth h straight game with a sprained left ankle. ... Hawks coach Mike Woodson played four games for the Cavs during the 1990-91 season and was an assistant coach in Cleveland from 1999-01.