AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — LeBron James was shaky early and spectacular late.
James had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season, lifting the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 113-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night.
“Every point, rebound and assist was needed,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said.
The final score was relatively lopsided, but the game wasn’t. There were 10 lead changes and 21 ties, the last one with 4:44 left.
The Cavs closed the game by outscoring Detroit 19-7, thanks in large part to James.
He set up Mo Williams for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with a sharp pass from the top of the key to the right corner, then grabbed a rebound, charged up the court and made a drop pass to Anderson Varejao for a five-point cushion.
The Pistons wouldn’t go away, pulling within three points three times, before James blocked a shot and made consecutive jumpers to seal the win.
“The guy’s not human,” said Detroit’s Will Bynum, adding he thought James got away with goaltending on his layup with 1 minutes left. “When he gets rolling, you just want to try to stop his teammates and hope that’s enough.”
Those teammates led the way when the superstar had as many turnovers (three) as points late in the first quarter and just five points at halftime.
Williams finished with 20 points, Antawn Jamison had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and reserve Jawad Williams added 10 points.
James missed 10-of-15 shots over the first three quarters and was 5 for 7 in the final one as he added four assists and three rebounds to his total for his 28th career triple-double.
“In the fourth quarter, we made our mark,” he said. “That’s closeout time for me.”
He said triple-doubles are “absolutely” his favorite accomplishment other than winning.
“That means you’re doing everything your team needs to win basketball games,” James said. “That is one of the best things you can have as an individual.”
Adding to his highlight reel, James had a three-point play that ended with a layup after Tayshaun Prince’s foul just inside the 3-point line.
“I’m not surprised by any call in the NBA any more, but you also have to give him some credit,” Bynum said. “There’s probably no one else on Earth who could have even gotten a shot off like that.”
Cleveland has won four in a row and lost only one of its last 11 games, improving to an NBA-best 53-15.
Richard Hamilton had 24 points and was one of six Pistons who scored in double figures.
Detroit has dropped lost three straight and 10 of 12.
The Pistons, unlike recent games, were very competitive until James took over in the fourth quarter.
“We were trying to redeem ourselves, so this is very frustrating,” said Charlie Villanueva, who scored 16 points. “It’s encouraging to see us compete like this, but it is still another loss.”
Prince had 15 points and matched a season high with eight assists, Bynum had 12 points, rookie Jonas Jerebko scored 10 points and Jason Maxiell had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
The score was tied after the first quarter, the Pistons led by two at halftime and by one entering the final period.
“We know we can play with any team in the league, and tonight proved that again,” Bynum said. “We just have to play like this and finish the games.”
NOTES: The Pistons hope Rodney Stuckey can practice Thursday and play the next day, two weeks after he collapsed on the bench at Cleveland. Doctors cleared Stuckey for exercise last week after extensive cardiac tests. ... Cavs G Delonte West out of the lineup as a precaution because of a sprained knee. ... Shaquille O’Neal had the cast removed from his severely sprained his thumb on Monday, but the Cavs will not rush him back onto the court. ... Pistons C Ben Wallace did not play because of an injured right knee and is day to day. .. The Cavs, 27-7 in 2010, have a chance to be the first team to have the best regular-season records in consecutive seasons since Chicago did it during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons. ... The Cavs have won 23 in a row against teams with losing records since a loss on Nov. 18 against Washington.