CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Cavaliers clinched their second outright Central Division championship last night - and Mo Williams went home disappointed.
LeBron James had 32 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists in Cleveland's 99-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers. With the win, Cleveland (54-15) became the first team this season to clinch a division title.
Williams spent last summer and the early part of this season trying to cherish the little things along Cleveland's bid to win an NBA championship. The first milestone passed by yesterday without him realizing it.
"We have to cherish these moments and celebrate these moments," Williams said. "Our goal [last year] was so focused on a championship, we looked past clinching the division, clinching the playoffs, and clinching home-court advantage.
All that makes the main goal that much sweeter.
"That's kind of funny that we didn't come in here and acknowledge it. I'm kind of disappointed in that."
James made sure that was the only reason to go home disappointed, taking over late after Indiana cut an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter to one. James had six points, two blocks, two steals, and an assist in the final 4 minutes, including a nifty dunk behind his head after catching an alley-oop pass from Anderson Varejao. James fell a rebound and an assist shy of his second triple-double in two nights.
"That's all phases of my game in a couple possessions," James said. "That solidifies who I am on both sides of the floor."
Troy Murphy had 19 points and 15 rebounds, but just four points and five rebounds in the second half for the last-place Pacers, who were trying to win consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 2-5. Roy Hibbert added 20 points for Indiana, which was without leading scorer Danny Granger.
Granger, averaging 23.1 points a game, did not make the trip after spending the night in an Indianapolis hospital Tuesday. He took an inadvertent elbow to his upper right cheek in the final minute against Charlotte. CT scans on his head and neck found no problems.
Coach Jim O'Brien is hopeful Granger can return quickly, particularly because Indiana's injury list is growing. T.J. Ford has missed the last three games with a sore groin, Tyler Hansbrough has missed two months with an inner ear infection and Jeff Foster is out for the season following back surgery.
The Pacers have lost 13 of their last 17, including nine straight on the road. They have played Cleveland and Milwaukee, the top two teams in the division, down to the final minutes this week before falling.