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DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer: “LeBron James’ sore right knee didn’t throw off his shot much. James scored 51 Saturday night, becoming the youngest player in NBA history with 5,000 points in his career, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Utah Jazz 108-90 to snap a six-game losing streak. The Cavaliers avoided going winless on a six-game road trip and were assured that James, who had X-rays on his knee earlier Saturday, should be fine.
“I was just fighting through it,” said James, who decided shortly before the game to test the knee by starting. “I didn’t want to be in the position where I wasn’t there for my team tonight.”
James, who turned 21 on Dec. 30, needed 45 points to pass Kobe Bryant as the youngest player to reach 5,000. Bryant was 22 when he reached 5,000. James was one point off his season high and eight from his career high. By the end, he had won over the Utah fans and left to a standing ovation with 1:35 remaining.
“He was terrific. He made his shots and he’s just a wonderful player,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “I think we’re intimidated by him a great deal.”
The Jazz fell to 20-21, the first time it has had a losing record since falling to 16-17 with an 87-65 loss at Memphis on Jan. 6. Mehmet Okur scored 20 and pulled down 13 rebounds and Andrei Kirilenko had 19 points for the Jazz, which struggled against James all night. James apparently wasn’t affected by the knee, on which he expects to have an MRI exam after he returns to Cleveland, or the arrest of his mother, Gloria, on suspicion of drunken driving back in Akron, Ohio.
James, who also had eight assists, was 19 for 35 from the floor and made 9 of 11 free throws, and the Cavs won for the first time since beating Milwaukee 96-88 on Jan. 7. “He just did everything he wants,” Kirilenko said. “He drives, he shoots, he scores, he goes to the line, he rebounds the ball.”